My Grandmother’s Meatballs and Other Heirloom Recipes

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Elise Johnson offers some of her grandmother’s classic Italian recipes. Read more about Elise.

my grandmothers meatballs recipe

My Grandmother’s Meatballs

On certain evenings the phone would ring in our apartment upstairs from my grandmother. My grandmother would say, “Come downstairs and eat, sweetheart!” She was serving one of my favorite meals…Spaghetti and Meatballs! I’d look up at my Mom with a huge smile across my face and say, “Mom, I’ll be back!”


  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • Handful of fresh chopped parsley
  • About 1 cup of fresh bread soaked in a little milk (squeeze out excess milk)


  1. Combine all of the ingredients and roll into balls.
  2. Bake the meatballs in a 350 degree oven until the meatballs have browned a bit. The meatballs will continue cooking in the sauce, so I never cook them all the way through in the oven. Cooking them the rest of the way in the sauce adds an immense amount of flavor! I bake the meatballs only until they are browned enough on the outside so that they do not fall apart when simmering in the sauce or gravy.

My Grandmother’s Spaghetti Sauce


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14 oz) can stewed tomatoes, broken up with your fingers
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Garlic and onion powder (my grandmother would put it in so that it looks like she’d dusted the top of the sauce with it)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasonings (crushed between your fingers to release the flavors)
  • 1 teaspoon dried red crushed pepper
  • A pinch of sugar to round out the flavors


  1. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, saute the onion, green pepper in olive oil until softened. Add garlic and cook a minute more.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer on low.
  3. Add the meatballs and let simmer for one hour making sure the sauce and meatballs do not burn on the bottom of the pan.

Garlic Knots


  • 1 ½ tablespoons dry active yeast
  • 1 ¾ cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Sea salt as a finishing touch


  1. In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast, sugar and oil. Let proof for about five minutes until the mixture is nice and foamy.
  2. Begin adding flour, one cup at a time, and the salt. Stir just a bit after each addition of flour. When all of the flour has been added, turn onto a board or counter using a little flour. Begin kneading the dough and add only a little extra flour when needed. Only add extra flour when the dough gets too sticky to handle.
  3. Wash out your bowl with warm water, dry and place dough inside.
  4. Cover with a clean dishtowel and set in a draft-free place.
  5. Allow the dough to double in size, which could take between one and two hours.
  6. When your dough has doubled in size, lightly grease two baking stones or sheets and have them ready for use.
  7. Cut your beautiful dough in half to make it easier to work with. Place a little flour on the counter and roll out the dough to a rectangular shape approximately 10 x 6-inches. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1-inch x 6-inch strips. You should have about 10 bread sticks at this point. This recipe makes approximately 20 Garlic Knots.
  8. Working one piece at a time, roll the dough back and forth until you have a piece of rope. Pick up the rope and make a knot by turning one side over the other and then placing one end through the hole. Some folks like to tuck the ends underneath, but my oldest son Nathaniel and I like the rustic look of the knot and simply leave them that way.
  9. Place each knot on your two greased baking stones or sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 13 to 14 minutes or until golden brown. You may have to begin baking your bread in the middle of your oven and then move your stones or sheets to the bottom rack during the last couple of minutes to insure proper browning on the bottom of each roll.

While baking, make your garlic butter.

Garlic Butter


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup freshly chopped parsley


  1. Simmer all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for five minutes.
  2. As soon as your knots come out of the oven, brush them with your delicious garlic butter. Finish with a grind of sea salt over top and enjoy!

1 Comment

  1. Elayne Kincaid

    March 19, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I cant wait to try this delicious sounding recipe!

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