Meatballs are probably one of the most widely eaten and adored foods in the world. Easy to make, affordable and ubiquitous, meatballs are a classic Italian food. Or are they? We collected a few fun facts about meatballs for you.
And if thinking about meatballs makes you crave them (we could use a bowl right now!) choose one of our many ground meat options: ground turkey, ground buffalo, ground lamb, and two tasty ground beef choices, Angus and Wagyu, to make meatballs at home.
Explore the facts about meatballs below and get to know this popular pasta and sandwich topper a little better.
1. Nobody Knows Where the First Meatball Was Made
Recipes go back to the Romans – the classic cookbook by Apicius includes a section on minces, mixtures of meat (peacock, pheasant, and rabbit were their favorites) with other ingredients. Some historians believe the first meatballs were made in Persia and are still around today as kofta.
2. Every Culture Has a Meatball
You may be most familiar with the Italian-American version of the dish, but there are also Swedish köttbullar, Spanish albondigas, Dutch bitterballen, Greek keftedes, South African skilpedjies, and from India through the Middle East, kofta. These are just a few examples of the widespread popularity of meatballs, which are often made with lamb, pork and other meats.
3. Italians Do It Differently
Italian meatballs aren’t what you think. Polpettes are smaller than their American cousins, made with equal parts bread and meat (sometimes even fish), and very much a simple peasant dish. Almost always made at home, polpettes are the main course and sometimes served in a light broth. No marinara or pasta to be seen! Spaghetti and meatballs with tomato sauce is a purely American invention, the result of a surge of Italian immigration to the U.S. and the adaptations they made to available ingredients.
4. Meatballs Were Born of Necessity
The truth about meatballs is that they are a clever way to dress up tough, cheaper cuts of meat. Meatballs also use stale bread, extending the meat portion of the recipe. And so, the meatball was traditionally a great way to stretch ingredients and serve a hungry family. Waste not, want not.
5. The World’s Largest Meatball Was Made in South Carolina
Thanks for reading about meatballs with us! Now it’s time to make your own at home. We love to see what’s cooking, so feel free to share photos with us on social media.
Top photo: Our recipe for Lamb Meatballs with Harissa-Yogurt Sauce.