These are the best Italian fried meatballs and in Calabria they’re called vrasciole. Italians love meatballs including them in soups, pasta al forno, and more. In south Italy, they usually boil meatballs in soup or fry them in olive oil.
What Are Italian Meatballs?
Italian meatballs are usually made with lean ground beef, parmigiano reggiano, eggs, breadcrumbs, herbs, salt, and pepper. However, each region of Italy has a different take on meatballs including different spices or herbs.
Originally from Calabria, vrasciole are log or disk-shaped. They’re especially popular in mountain towns. The mountains are full of healthy cows that roam freely through the countryside. They occasionally cross the road alone or in small groups, it’s the most traffic you’ll see for miles. The beef in Calabria primarily comes from these cows.
We often eat these in the fall or winter but they’re so delicious we crave them year-round. Calabria is famous for its coast and seafood but it also has a large mountainous region.
Vrasciole Shape and Size
In log shape vrasciole are approximately 2 1/2″ long x 1″ wide x 1″ tall. They’re basically a very long and narrow meatball but fried and way better than regular old round meatballs. You can also find them in the shape of a disk approximately 2 1/2″ around x 1/2″ tall. Shape them in the method you prefer. However, make sure they are not too dense or long because they can take longer to cook or get cakey.
When to Make & Eat Italian Fried Meatballs (Vrasciole)
We make Italian fried meatballs (vrasciole) on Sundays for lunch because it’s the biggest meal of the week. In Italy, Sundays are reserved for family and eating. So you better be at the table at 1 pm sharp because nonna is making her famous fried meatballs. Also, it takes time to make vrasciole and on Sunday there is no rush.
How to Make Italian Meatballs (Vrasciole)
Mix all of the ground beef, garlic, pecorino romano, egg, salt, pepper, and parsley. Make sure to keep the bread crumbs separate. Mix the breadcrumbs with water and then add to the meat and mix for 10 minutes. It’s extremely important to let the meat rest for at least 45 minutes. Don’t skip this step because it helps the meat to truly stick together. Finally shape the meatballs into the shape of vrasciole or your preferred shape. Fry them up. However, if you feel impartial to frying you can bake them, see below.
Giuseppe’s mom often makes ‘Vrasciole’ that are round and flat (sort of disc-like). This is how she always makes them. In other parts of Calabria, you’ll find different shapes or sizes, but the log shape is most typical in Calabria.
When Giuseppe or his mom makes these they don’t measure. They add everything to a bowl and more of one ingredient or another based on the texture of the meat mixture. This dish takes time, practice, and most importantly, love.
How to Cook Italian Fried Meatballs
Traditional Italian meatballs like vrasciole are always fried. *Shocking*. Italians in general, but especially Calabrians love fried food. So it’s no surprise they fry their signature meatballs as well. We break from tradition in this recipe because we prefer to bake these meatballs. It’s less work and the house doesn’t smell like fried food. But it does smell like delicious roasting meatballs!
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If you make vrasciole, please leave a comment and give this recipe a rating! We love to hear from you and do respond to comments. And if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag us on Instagram and Facebook and use #EXAUoliveoil so we can repost!
Best Italian Fried Meatballs (Vrasciole)
Appetizer, Side Dish
EXAU Olive Oil
- 3 cloves finely chopped garlic or 3/4 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp freshly grated black pepper
- 1 medium egg
- 1/3 cup water (80 ml)
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino romano
½ cup of parmigiano reggiano
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
7 ounces stale bread (2 days old)
- 10 sprigs finely chopped parsley
- 1 lb ground beef (90%)
In a large bowl add ground beef, garlic, pecorino romano, parmigiano reggiano, egg, salt, pepper, and parsley.
Cut the bread in smaller pieces and then put in a blender. Blend until roughly the bread is about the consistency of thick panko. They should look like really big breadcrumbs.
Note: The consistency of store bought breadcrumbs is a bit too small for this recipe.
- In a small bowl or cup mix breadcrumbs and water together.
- Add wet breadcrumbs to meat and mix everything together for approx. 10 minutes or until everything is fully incorporated.
- Cover and let sit for 45 mins - 2 hours.
- Traditional Vrasciole are always fried. However, we love to bake them. Shape meat into long meatballs (2 1/2" long x 1" wide x 1" tall).
Heat a wide pan with approx. 1/2" - 3/4" of Evoo on medium-low or medium heat. Do not heat on high, the oil will burn. Test oil is hot with a sprinkle of flour. Add meatballs to oil and cook until brown.
- Preheat oven to 425F. Prepare a large baking sheet, add oil and ensure entire entire tray is covered by spreading the olive oil with your fingers or a brush.
- Add meatballs to tray and cook in oven for approx. 40 minutes or until brown.
- Serve immediately!