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Fabio’s Mom’s Meatballs, made Light

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One of my most special family times ever was making meatballs and sauce (from scratch!) with my hubby and little one. These are super-easy and fun to make, and mouthwateringly delicious!

Fabio's Mom's Meatballs made Light


Sam—who only makes Kraft Mac & Cheese—threatened to make them after accompanying me to Fabio Viviani’s Cooking Demo, but I didn’t think he’d actually follow through.

Aja and Sam holding meatballs


Look what I got Mr. Clean to do! (If he can do it, so can you.)

Sam mixing the meatballs

He actually rubbed olive oil into his hands before rolling the balls!!! Needless to say it was a computer-free evening. (Oh! Now I get why he washed the dishes for an hour.)


Fabio insists that the secret to moist meatballs is to cook them right in the sauce, and after trying his, we agree.

Meatballs cooking in the sauce

Do you sear your meatballs, or cook them right in the sauce?


At the risk of upsetting a feisty Italian, I used Laura’s Lean Beef (92% lean) instead of 80/20, recommended by Fabio.

Laura's Lean Beef


Ricotta cheese keeps them moist, and they were just as tasty with low fat ricotta and lean beef.

Ricotta Cheese


You could, of course, make them with turkey, but then they would be turkey meatballs! I eat SO much turkey and chicken, that sometimes I crave that yummy, beefy taste. And these are healthier than many of the turkey meatballs out there. (Especially the pre-cooked ones.)

Warning: Very more-ish!

This was my third time making them (finally got down to posting the recipe), and once again I couldn’t stop thinking about them all night long, and went back in at 10pm!

What is it about them that keeps you going back for more?


Serve with crusty Ciabatta Bread and/or Trader Joe’s Vegetable Radiatore. (5 Weight Watchers PointsPlus for 3/4 cup.)

Meatball and Vegetable Radiattore


Baby Broccoli sautéed in olive oil and garlic makes a great side dish—I don’t even need the pasta.

Tips for Success

Mince the garlic and the shallots quite finely, because they’re not getting cooked before going into the meatballs. Shallots are a little milder and sweeter than onions.

How to Mince a Shallot

Keep the root end intact, and make one slice through the middle, horizontally, and then tiny slices almost all the way to the root, but not through it. That way all the pieces don’t separate and go all over the board.

How to Mince a Shallot 1 How to Mince a Shallot 2


I learned a great tip from Alex Guarnaschelli, to spread the meat around and up the sides of the bowl, so you can season it properly.

Spread the meat around the bowl


Oops! Not quite sure how much salt went into that batch.

Aja and Sam seasoning the meat


The meatballs can be rolled the day before; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Meatballs on Dinner Plate


You’ll need two cups of Fabio’s Tomato Sauce—this can also be prepared the day before.

Fabio's Tomato Sauce

Click here for the Tomato Sauce recipe

Fabio's Mom's Meatballs

Makes 12 meatballs. 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus for 1 meatball.
Servings 4


  • 1 pound 92% lean ground beef
  • 4 oz low fat ricotta cheese recommended: Precious
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs plus extra if needed
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten with a fork, plus one extra if needed
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil ready in a small bowl, for coating your hands
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh Italian flat parsley chopped, for garnish (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon high quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling


  • Spread the meat on the bottom of a large bowl and up the sides a little, so you can distribute the seasoning evenly. Sprinkle quite generously with kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon) and freshly ground black pepper (about 8 turns).
  • Add the ricotta, 3/4 cup Parmesan, garlic, shallots, 3/4 cup breadcrumbs and one egg.
  • Mix thoroughly with your hands until completely combined and the mixture is firm. Do not over mix! If too dry and not sticking together, add a little more beaten egg. If too soft, add 1/4 cup more breadcrumbs.
  • Coat your hands in a little olive oil, and form 10 - 12 balls, about the size of a large golf ball, a heaping quarter cup. (I make one a bit smaller, so I can taste for seasoning and doneness, before serving the rest.) Set them on a dinner plate.
  • Heat 2 cups of Fabio's Tomato Sauce in a large saucepan (I love using my dutch oven) over medium heat; drop the meatballs into the sauce and add enough water around the meatballs to allow the sauce to reduce and simmer, but not so much that the sauce is totally liquid. (Start with 1/4 cup and add more as needed.)
  • Reduce the heat to low; cook for about 10 minutes on one side. Gently turn them over, add a little more water and cook for about another 10 - 15 minutes, depending on how big they are, and if you like them medium-rare (like Fabio), or medium (like us). Carefully use a spoon to cover them with sauce as they simmer. Make sure they aren't sticking to the bottom.
  • Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
  • To serve: Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and chopped parsley, if desired (I did it the first time, but didn't miss it the second time), more salt and pepper (if necessary), and a drizzle of high quality olive oil.


You can use Parmigiano Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese—which is the cheaper, American version.
The meatballs can be rolled the day before; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Adapted from Fabio's Italian Kitchen by Fabio Viviani

*This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links whereby I earn a tiny commission at no additional cost to you.

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2 Responses

  1. I love these meatballs. They’re the only ones I make anymore. I always cooked my meatballs in my sauce since that’s how my mom did it. But I have found these ones crumble apart on me a bit when I tried so I always sear them first then add to the sauce. They’re amazing.

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