Broccoli meatballs

Meatballs: they are a mom’s life saver when it comes to picky eaters. It’s difficult to find a kid that doesn’t like meatballs, and you can really hide everything in meatballs, as long as they are tasty and with a nice golden surface. I particularly love this recipe because even if it is loaded with broccoli (they have tons of health benefits!!) you can barely taste them. The meatballs are incredibly soft and tender, but still with a nice golden crust. My kids loved them and ate them all without even asking what was inside 😉

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You can substitute the broccoli with other vegetables like cauliflowers, zucchini, sweet peas, but I strongly suggest the broccoli considering their incredible health benefits for you and for your kids: they do have cancer fighting and immune boosting properties, they are a powerful antioxidant and they help reducing cholesterol. They are also known for reducing allergy reaction and inflammation…not bad for a single green vegetable!!

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Here you are the ingredients to prepare 60 small broccoli meatballs. I really like small size meatballs (one bite size) as they are more kids friendly and also they keep a good balance between the soft part inside and the crust outside.

broccoli meatballs ingred

And here you are how to prepare them:

– brake the dry bread in small pieces and place them in a small bowl. Soak the bread with the milk and set it apart.

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– wash the broccoli, cut the florets and steam them for 8/10 minutes.

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– in a food processor add 1/2 clove of garlic, the bread with the milk, the steamed broccoli and the ricotta cheese. Mix everything in order to obtain a smooth cream.

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– Place the green broccoli mix in a big bowl altogether with the ground beef (you can use any other kind of ground meet that you like), the parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt and one egg. Mix. You will obtain a very creamy and soft mix, not too dense.

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– It’s time for our hands to do some work. Place 1/2 tablespoon of mix in your hand and with the help of some flour start rolling the mix in order to create a nice small meatball. Keep going with the rolling, dusting with flour, shaping work and you will obtain 60 cute meatballs.

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Now you have two options: bake in the oven or pan fry on the stove.

Option #1 BAKING

– Grease a baking pan with two tablespoons of grape seeds oil. Grape seeds oil is currently very popular in Italy 😉 It’s a delicate flavor oil, perfect for frying or sautéing food as it has a very high flash point.

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– place the meatballs in the pan one next to the other and drizzle two other tablespoons of grape seeds oil on top. Bake in the preheated oven at 400F/200C for 30 minutes. At 15 minutes (half time) remove the pan from the oven and flip the meatballs on the other side so that they will form a nice crust on every side. Place them back in the oven for the remaining 15 minutes.

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Option #2 PAN FRYING

– add few tablespoons of grape seeds oil in a pan. Turn the heat on at medium and add the meatballs. Cook the meatballs for 10/15 minutes, turn them few times so that they will cook evenly forming a nice golden crust.

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broccoli meatballs

broccoli meatballs


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Did you make this recipe? Share the love, tag @buonapappa on Instagram and hashtag it #buonapappa I would love to see your creations!

  • Reply
    May 7, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Can’t wait to try this! And I love your cheerful presentation, you made me smile!

    • Reply
      Barbara Lamperti
      May 19, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      🙂 Thank you! That’s very kind of you, ciao! b

  • Reply
    July 14, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Hello Barbara,

    Can you show us how to make Parmesan cheese. I want to make in healthy way.



    • Reply
      Barbara Lamperti
      July 15, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Hi Staci!
      I would love to but unfortunately Parmesan cheese is something that you cannot replicate at home. It’s a very long (at least 12 months) process and requires a very specific equipment that you only have in a food artisan lab or in a big factory. What I can suggest you is to buy only high quality parmesan cheese. I only use Italian Parmesan Cheese. You can easily recognize it by the “Consorzio del Parmigiano Reggiano” logo. Consorzio is a cooperative of Parmesan Cheese makers in the PARMA area in Italy. They have been doing Parmesan Cheese for centuries and the quality of their cheese is guaranteed. Let me know if you have any question and thank you for watching!!! b

  • Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    Is this recipie suitable for freezing?

    • Reply
      Barbara Lamperti
      February 17, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      Sure! My suggestion is to freeze the meatballs prior baking them in the oven. Place them in an air tight container or freezer bag. When you decide that you want to enjoy them, just bake them directly from frozen adding 5 more minutes to the cooking time. I’ve done it tons of times and they are great! It’s always convenient to have a batch of homemade meatballs in the freezer for crazy busy times 🙂 Ciao! b

  • Reply
    April 19, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Ciao buona pappa!!
    I tried this recipe yesterday. Due to time limitation to dinner, i made half batch in the oven and half in the pan. The ones cooked in the oven are somehow not so “nice looking” as those cooked on the pan.

    I used olive oil instead and glass baking pan for the oven. They attached a little and did not get nice brown/golden crust.

    Any tips?

    Oh and i made the italian meatballs (with tomato sauce) the other day. Both this brocolli meatballs and the italian meatballs got my son eat meat!!! I would definitely try your other recipes.

    • Reply
      Barbara Lamperti
      April 22, 2016 at 9:43 pm

      Hi Tika! In order to get the “golden crust” effect in the oven I would suggest few things. Maybe drizzle some more Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the meatballs (with the oil they should not attach). Also, 5 minutes before the end of the baking time, switch the oven from “baking” mode to “grill/broil” mode for 5/8 minutes. If you want to obtain the golden crust effect on more than one side, grill/broil the meatballs 4 minutes, flip them and keep grilling/broiling for another 4 minutes. The grilling/broiling phase is very fast. I usually check the oven every 2/3 minutes as you can easily go from “golden brown” to “dark brown” eh, eh!! I’m so happy your son liked the recipes, thank you for following BuonaPappa!!! ciao, b

      • Reply
        June 24, 2020 at 1:11 am

        This recipe was an absolute success! I added an apple and pureed the ingredients to make it easier for bub to eat. She absolutely loved them! Thank you!

        • Reply
          Barbara Lamperti
          October 19, 2020 at 9:01 pm

          That’s simply great! I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you so much for sharing. Ciao, b

  • Reply
    February 1, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    Hi Barbara, thank you for the recipe..
    so delicious.. our family love it..
    the meatballs turn out slightly wet..
    because we use 73% lean and 27% fat.. any advice so they can turn out perfect like your meatballs.. thank you again for the recipe.. God bless you and all your family

    • Reply
      Barbara Lamperti
      February 23, 2018 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Meidy! it might not be the quality of the meat but the water in the broccoli or the bread with too much milk. Suggestion: try to use less milk to soften the bread and squeeze it very well. You can always add a bit of milk later if you see that it needs more moist. Also, if you see that the final mix is too soft, add one handful of breadcrumbs to thicken it. Let me know how it goes!!! Thank you so much and God bless you and your lovely family too!!!

  • Reply
    Carmelina Carbone
    March 20, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    My baby can not have cheese or milk product. I can use almond milk to soften the bread, but will the recipe work if I omit the added cheese?

    • Reply
      Barbara Lamperti
      March 22, 2018 at 10:31 pm

      Hi Carmelina! Allergies are not fun, I know 🙁 You can substitute regular milk with either almond or coconut milk. And you can substitute ricotta with breadcrumbs and parmesan with 4 anchovies or sardines fillets. In this way you will also add some Omega3 to the nutritional value of the recipe! Let me know if he likes them 😉 ciao, b

  • Reply
    Ravin kumar
    March 24, 2020 at 7:16 am

    This is so amazing article. I tried this recipe yesterday. This looks so delicious. Our family love this recipe. Thank you again for the recipe.. God bless you and all your family.

  • Reply
    Melinda C
    May 25, 2021 at 5:09 pm

    I made this yesterday for my 15 months old and he loved it. I forgot the egg (oops), brushed the meatballs with olive oil before I oven baked it and it was delicious. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Barbara Lamperti
      May 26, 2021 at 6:37 pm

      Yeah! So happy to hear that. Broccoli or zucchini meatballs are a kids’ favorite here too! Thank you so much for sharing. B

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