Sicilian Meatballs? This Sicilian Meatballs for Two recipe with dried currants and pesto make these meatballs distinctly Sicilian. Intensely flavored we bake these meatballs in a bright, garlicky, 5-minute, no-fuss tomato sauce. For a next-level finish, top the meatballs with creamy melted fontina and sprinkle with fresh basil.
Serve with a side of penne pasta and our favorite shallot dressing over a simple green salad for a delicious date night dinner that is sure to impress.
While traveling in Sicily, Mark and I discovered the secret to a Sicilian-style meat ball.
It’s a mix of ground beef and Italian sausage, and the addition of dried currants and pine nuts make them truly Sicilian.
Sicilian cuisine, like its Italian cousin, is influenced by many cultures and regional flavors. Initially settled by the Phoenicians and Carthginians, followed by Greek, then Roman and then Arab rule and later in the 10th and early 11th centuries by strong Norman influence and later Spanish. Each culture leaving its mark on Sicilian cuisine.
Arab influences is displayed by the common use of Passoli e pinoli (currants and pine nuts).
What exactly are Currants? They are black Corinth grapes, cultivated in Sicily, that have been sun-dried like raisins; the key difference being, they are much smaller (not to be confused with fresh, red currants, related to the gooseberry).
In recipes, currants and raisins are generally interchangeable. However, the smaller size of the currants makes them preferable in recipes (like this one) where a more even distribution of tiny bursts of sweetness is desired. That said, if you don’t have currants, you can always chop an equal amount of raisins to achieve that sweetness.
Our version of a Sicilian meatballs includes dried currants along with a traditional basil and pine nut pesto. To keep it simple, just pick up a store-bought pesto - my favorite is Trader Joe’s basil pesto.
Adding the currants and a basil pine nut pesto is an infallible combination for making intensely flavorful meatballs.
You can’t go wrong serving your dinner guests these Sicilian Meatballs, trust me!
Greg, a friend of ours, declares, “These are the best meatballs, I have ever had”. Another friend tells me she has dreams about these meatballs – they are that good!
JUMP TO THE SECTION TO LEARN:
- INGREDIENTS TO MAKE SICILIAN MEATBALLS
- COOKING FOR TWO? HOW TO MAKE SICILIAN MEATBALLS FOR TWO
- DATE NIGHT DINNER TIPS
- FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SICILIAN MEATBALLS
- RECIPE VIDEO
- RATE THE RECIPE
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INGREDIENTS TO MAKE SICILIAN MEATBALLS
Here’s what you will need for this recipe.
FOR THE SAUCE
- extra-virgin olive oil
- garlic cloves
- crushed tomatoes
- tomato sauce – buy a can of tomato sauce
- red wine – use a full-bodied red wine like a cabernet sauvignon
- Balsamic vinegar
- red pepper flakes
- table salt
FOR THE MEATBALLS
- panko bread crumbs – No panko? Use saltines. Place about 15 saltines in a zip-lock bag, seal, and crush saltines into fine crumbs with a rolling pin.
- whole milk
- sweet Italian sausage
- ground beef
- parmesan cheese using a rasp-style grater to freshly grate the cheese. Fresh grated parmesan does not contain preservatives, meant to keep the shreds from clumping together in the bag. Freshly grated cheese will melt easier when cooking.
- basil pesto – you can also substitute 1 Tablespoon toasted pine nuts and 1.5 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil for 2 Tablespoons of basil pesto. If you are up to making your own pesto try the pesto recipe found in the grilled chicken pesto cobb salad.
- dried currents
- granulated garlic – mincing one fresh garlic clove works great if you don’t have any granulated garlic.
- Dried oregano
- salt & pepper
- red pepper flakes
- fontina – use a box grater to grate the fontina.
COOKING FOR TWO? HOW TO MAKE SICILIAN MEATBALLS FOR TWO
We start by making a no-fuss tomato-garlic sauce on the stovetop. While the sauce simmers we will turn to making the meatball mixture. To finish off the dish, slowly bake the meatballs in the sauce achieving a full-of-flavor, fork-tender meatball smothered in a rich tomato-garlic sauce.
Here's some tips on making meatballs for two people.
1. First, whip together a bright, garlicky 5-minute sauce by heating the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of oregano, a pinch of sugar, pepper flakes, salt, and wine. Now, simmer long enough to let the flavors meld.
2. For the meatballs, we will make a paste of panko, milk, and eggs. This ensures the meatballs hold their shape,baking up tender and moist.
3. In a large bowl, combine panko mixture with Parmesan, pesto, onion, granulated garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes,. Add beef ,sausage and currants; mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.
4. Shape the meatballs: With wet hands, form mixture into 1 ¼-inch balls. Place on the baking dish in a single layer. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and bake the two together, elevating and enriching both the meatballs and the sauce.
5. For a next-level finish, top the meatballs with creamy melted fontina and a sprinkling of fresh basil. Buon appetito!
DATE NIGHT DINNER TIPS
This recipe makes a great date-night in dinner. To help you plan and stay organized, read my article with 7 tips for a cooking together date night.
Consider this menu for your next date night:
- Sicilian Meatballs served over penne or rigatoni pasta
- our favorite shallot dressing served over a simple green salad.
- For Dessert, serve your favorite flavor of gelato!
Now for the wine. I like to pair this with Italian Chianti.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SICILIAN MEATBALLS
Yes, Italy also has its own version of meatballs called polpettes. They are primarily eaten as a meal itself (plain) or in soups and are made with any meat from turkey to fish.
While Italian and Sicilian meatballs are both made from a mix of ground beef and Italian sausage. Sicilian meatballs add dried currants and pine nuts to the mix. Arab dominion over Sicily in the 10th and early 11th centuries influenced the use of currants and pine nuts in Sicilian dishes.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?
Sicilian Meatballs for Two (Date Night Dinner!)
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For the sauce
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves ,sliced thin
- 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
- 15 ounce canned tomato sauce
- ½ teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- Pinch of sugar
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup red wine full bodied cabernet sauvignon
For the meatballs
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs or crushed saltines
- 6 Tablespoons whole milk
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup parmesan cheese freshly grated (use a rasp-style grater)
- 2 Tablespoons basil pesto - you can substitute 1 Tablespoon toasted pine nuts and 1.5 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil for 2 Tablespoons of basil pesto. Try making your own pesto using the pesto recipe found in the grilled pesto chicken cobb salad
- 2 Tablespoons onion finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic – mincing one fresh garlic clove is works great if you don’t have any granulated garlic.
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ lb sweet Italian sausage casings removed
- ½ lb ground beef
- 2 Tablespoons dried currants
- 2 ounces fontina cheese ,shredded (½ cup)
- ½ lb penne pasta
For the sauce
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat your oven to 400 degrees. Now, whip together the no-fuss sauce by heating the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of oregano, a pinch of sugar, pepper flakes, salt, and wine. Now, let it simmer long enough to let the flavors meld, about 5-minutes. Cover and keep warm while you make the meatball mix.
For the meatballs
- Spray a broiler-safe 8 by 8-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Whisk panko, milk, and the egg together in a large bowl. Let sit until the panko is softened, about 5 minutes. Whisk the panko mixture until a smooth paste forms.
- Combine panko mixture with Parmesan, pesto, onion, granulated garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes, add beef and sausage and currants and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.
- Shape the meatballs: Using wet hands, form mixture into 1 ¼-inch balls. Place in the prepared baking dish in a single layer. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake until meatballs register 160 degrees - 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- For a next-level finishing touch, remove from oven, uncover dish and sprinkle meatballs evenly with fontina. Heat broiler. Broil meatballs until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes. Serve over a bed of pasta, garnish with parmesan and sprinkle with basil. Pass remaining sauce.
If serving with Pasta, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Do this after you remove the meatballs from the oven. Start your pasta and then preheat the broiler, uncover the dish, sprinkle the meatballs evenly with fontina. While the pasta is cooking broil the meatballs until the cheese is melted.
Your Notes, Tips and Tricks
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.