Grandfather Marino’s Traditional Italian Meatballs over Braised Fennel (FLOUR FREE)

It breaks my heart to eat a bad meatball.

It breaks my heart even more to see people go through life never eating a good one.

If you think a meatball is simply, meat rolled into a ball with minimal seasonings, parmesan and bread crumbs, try these and become enlightened!

I could eat these everyday. I like to make LOT and put a bunch in the freezer for quick meal.  Paired over braised, sliced fennel changes things up a bit and feel so classy even though the real reason is to avoid simple starches and flour products.

Why avoid simple starches? Go {HERE}


All this is missing is a little parsley…

YES, these are pan fried. But you can bake them too. Fried in a little EVOO is the true Italian way, though, so I would recommend sticking to the traditional version.

**Tip:   This makes a lot so throw extra in a freezer bag for a quick snack or meal another day!

Pop-pop-sir Marino’s Traditional Italian Meatballs

“Pop-pop-sir is my Italian grandfather who taught me how to make REAL meatballs. The original recipe calls for lightly frying in olive oil, using 100% ground beef and veal while simmering them in homemade marinara for hours”

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 pound ground beef 95% lean (organic if possible. Cheapest frozen!)
  • 1/4 green pepper, finely minced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, finely minced
  • 1 tsp rosemary crushed in your hand (this is the secret ingredient!)
  • 2 TBS Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ or wheat bran
  • 1 egg
  • 2 fennel bulbs, sliced  Julienne
  • Olive Oil
  • White Wine
  • Parsley, chopped

(I like to use my mini crock pot and put a bunch of frozen meatballs in it and pour a jar of Newman’s Own or Trader Joe’s Marinara over top, on low for 6-8 hours. This is a super quick and amazing meal!!!)

 Marinara di Marino

Toast 3 garlic cloves and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes in olive oil. Add ONE 24oz can crushed tomatoes and 1 24 ounce can of drained and hand crushed whole Roma tomatoes. (Make sure you drain or you will have to simmer the sauce for a LONG time) Add 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper. Simmer on low for 1 hour while you make the meatballs. 


  1. Fill a large pan with olive oil about 1/2 inch high. Turn up the heat to medium-high.
  2. Meanwhile, combine first 11 ingredients in a large bowl and mix with hands. Mixture should adhere to itself so that you can form balls. If mixture is too wet add a couple even sprinkles of breadcrumbs to get it to hold together. Roll into meatballs (slightly bigger than a golf ball).
  3. Test the oil by sprinkling a little water in the pan. If it pops, it’s ready! Add meatballs as you form them and cook in 2 batches. Put meatballs on a paper towel lined plate and cover so they don’t dry out.
  4. Add as many meatballs to the sauce as you want and simmer on low for at least 1 hour. If you want to, you can add a few seared Italian sausage links (my grandfather always did)
  5. 20 minutes before serving, slice fennel and add to a hot pan that has been sprayed with cooking oil or a drizzle of EVOO. Saute for 5 minutes until browned and add a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan. Add 1/4 cup of water and turn the heat to med- low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes until soft.
  6. Top with shave parm or mozzarella and some chopped parsley. ENJOY!

This meal sounds complicated but mostly it’s just preparing the meatballs that take time. The meatballs can be made hours or days ahead and make enough for more than just one meal so it is worth it!! Buon Appetito!



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