Festoni Con Polpette Di Mamma

Another meatball recipe?? Why not, there are so many variations that it doesn’t make culinary sense to prepare the same old/same old each time. Take a walk on the wild side and break out of your solitary meatball confines. Although to be brutally honest, Mamma Gina’s Meatballs really aren’t all that novel.

But they’re definitely very good. The Hubs made them for a men’s group retreat a few weeks ago along with Sunday Sauce and the guys loved ’em! So with time on our hands, and the necessary ingredients in the house, we were good to go. In fact, I upped the fun factor by using Festoni pasta instead of the ho-hum penne or spaghetti.


Festoni is a long, wide noodle, sort of like pappardelle only with curly edges, and it is swirled into little bunches that get dropped into boiling salted water. As they boil though, the nests unfurl into long strands. But of course, if you have a different shape of pasta on hand, just use that.

The sauce for this dish provides a lovely topping to pasta and the ‘bath’ for the meatballs to simmer in. No precooking or browning the meatballs beforehand. Once the meatballs are removed, the sauce carries the aroma of the meat and tastes wonderful on your pasta. Of course, we had to tweak it a bit by increasing the amount of crushed tomatoes, include additional garlic and a parmesan rind. Adjust the amount of crushed red pepper to suit your own preferences (we like it spicy).

The meatballs should be served along side the pasta, NOT on top, as that is the true Italian way.


Festoni Con Polpette Di Mamma

  • Servings: about 22 meatballs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • ½ lb. ground veal
  • ½ lb. ground beef 85/15 blend
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, preferably Italian seasoned
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup brodo di mamma, cooled (see recipe below)


  1. In a large bowl, hand mix all the ingredients. The mixture will be very soft but resist the urge to add more bread crumbs, this makes a tender, melt in your mouth meatball!
  2. Once all the ingredients are just combined, wet your hands and pinch ¼ cup of the mixture and roll into balls. (Ours weighed about 2.2 ounces.) Place on a baking sheet.
  3. Carefully drop the meatballs into the sauce. If the pot seems to be full, simply shimmy the pot back and forth to make more room. (If you stick a spoon in the pot you will break the meatballs apart.)
  4. Allow to simmer in the sauce for 45 minutes or up to 2 hours.

*Mamma Gina’s meatballs freeze exceptionally well.  Freeze on the baking sheet and then transfer to freezer bags.  Will keep up to a month.  When ready to cook, make Mamma’s brodo and drop frozen meatballs right into the sauce.  And don’t forget to shimmy!  Cook for 1 hour or up to two.


Brodo Di Mamma (Italian Red Sauce)

Brodo Di Mamma

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Makes about 8 cups of sauce


  • ½ cup Italian extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh basil leaves; 5 whole, 1 Tbsp. chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional and more to taste)
  • 3 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2″ parmesan rind, optional to throw into sauce


  1. In a small saucepan, combine olive oil with basil and garlic (crushed red pepper flakes for a spicy brodo). On very low heat, allow the basil and garlic to simmer in the olive oil for 10 to 15 minutes. This steeping process will allow olive oil to become fragrant. Careful that garlic gets toasted brown but not black.  Remove from heat and strain aromatics. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, pour in the tomato sauce and the water. Add tomato paste and salt and pepper.
  3. Pour reserved olive oil into the sauce and mix to combine. Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce to a simmer. If also making meatballs, remove ½ cup of the brodo and set aside to cool.
  4. Add parmesan rind to sauce. Partially cover the pot and allow sauce to simmer for at least 45 minutes or up to 2 hours. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes.
  5. Mix to combine in olive oil that has separated to the top and add chopped basil.
  6. Serve with your pasta of choice, in this case, festoni.


Adapted from Mamma Gina’s Meatballs and Sunday Sauce found on annasheirloomkitchen.com

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