Pan-Fried Meatballs

The juicy meatball is a versatile recipe, with many ingredients that can be added and substituted. We list our variations below. This is an excellent way to use old bread, and leftover milk or wine.

When we were young children, we called our grandmother a “meatball cannon”. During Sunday lunch when all the cousins were gathered, after the first servings (never in small portions, of course) she would go around the children’s table with a huge bowl of meatballs, asking who would like to have seconds. If you lowered your head and avoided eye contact, she would give you 2 or 3. If you made the mistake of making eye contact… she would raise her eyebrows and with a nod of her head, shot 5-7 meatballs with her spatula (and the quickest hand movement) onto your dish. Needless to say, the meatballs were heavenly, but still…! She made all kinds of meatballs, pan-fried like these ones, and others which were deep-fried, with or without sauces… those recipes for next time!


5-10 minutes of preparation
10-15 minutes of cooking


This recipe was prepared for a dinner of 3 persons.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 300g of old bread
  • Enough milk to soak bread
  • 500g minced pork, preferably fatty
  • 150g minced pancetta (optional). We minced leftover pancetta in a food processor.
  • 300g mix of grated cheese: pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano
  • 2-3 cloves of grated garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 500g bread crumbs
  1. Remove the crusts of the old bread. In a bowl, soak the soft inner part with milk until soft. A soft white bread will take half a minute to soften, and sourdough bread about 5 minutes. We used sourdough.
  1. In a large metal bowl, use your hands to combine into a mixture:
    • minced pancetta
    • minced pork
    • bread white (squeeze excessive milk with your hands before adding)
    • grated cheese
    • grated garlic
    • black pepper
    • salt. Be careful that the pancetta is already salty.
  1. Have a feel of how your mixture sticks together. If the mixture feels very firm on its own, skip this step. Otherwise, crack an egg and combine it into the mixture with your hands. If you feel the mixture is too “runny” and breaks apart easily, add another egg.
  1. On medium-high flame, heat a generous amount of oil in your pan.
  1. As the oil is heating up, fill a tray with bread crumbs. Either with your hands, or with spoons, shape a handful of meatball mixture into a ¾” (2cm)-thick, 1½” (3-4cm)-wide disk, and cover it with bread crumbs on all sides. Add your disks to the pan of heated oil.
  1. Allow each side to cook until golden for 4-5 minutes. Cut a piece to check if the meat has cooked thoroughly (without any pinkness).
  1. Remove from the pan, allow to cool slightly, and serve. We ate this with a very simple side dish of sliced potatoes baked with roughly chopped onions and tomatoes, capers and olives. It baked in the oven while we were making the meatballs.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Pancetta – Huber’s. We did not buy it specially for this recipe, as we had leftovers after making Ragù alla Bolognese and Pasta e Fagioli.
  • Cage-free eggs (Farmer Brown, New Zealand Free Range Eggs) – Cold Storage


Our typical variations for this recipe:


  • Meat: Any other fatty meat, really. Beef, mutton, you name it.
  • Milk to soak bread: Red wine. This is an excellent way to use that extra bit of wine from last night’s dinner. My wife prefers red wine to milk in the meatballs.
  • Cheese: Pick a grated cheese of your choice.


Remember that any additional ingredient should be added before the egg. The egg should be the last thing you add to the mix, as it determines the consistency of your mixture. My grandmother, for one, never had the need to add any egg to her mixture and she made the juiciest meatballs.

  • Flavours: Chopped spring onions. My wife loves the extra kick of flavour.

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