At one point or another, you’ve probably indulged in a large plate of spaghetti and meatballs. When most Americans think of this dish, they most likely envision a dense, round ball made out of ground beef, breadcrumbs, herbs and cheese that is served with mounds of pasta and smothered in marinara sauce.
While many major cultures have their own version of a meatball, this dish is still commonly believed to be traditionally Italian. However, you may be surprised to learn that the meatball’s origin is actually quite hard to pinpoint.
Who Invented Meatballs?
Believe it or not, the meatballs we know and love today didn’t originate in Italy. In fact, if you travel to Italy and stop by an authentic restaurant, it will be hard to find spaghetti and meatballs on the menu.
So, if meatballs didn’t originate in Italy, where exactly did they come from? Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly who invented meatballs. Even though the history of meatballs is largely unknown, this dish is believed to have originated from kofta, a Persian dish containing a mixture of meats and either rice, bulger or mashed lentils. Over time, this dish eventually spread to other countries and cultures.
Once it reached Italy, the people there created their own version called polpette. Polpette contains meats ranging from beef to veal as well as ingredients like eggs, garlic, parsley and cheese. This simple food was mixed and then formed into small balls — sometimes even marble-sized. The meatballs were then consumed as a main course or with a light soup broth.
What’s the History of the “Italian” Meatball in America?
When Italian immigrants came to America in the 19th and 20th centuries, they continued cooking up their scrumptious balls of meat. While they still continued to use the cheapest cuts of meat, people eventually started to experiment. They added more ingredients to complement the dish, such as canned tomatoes.
As Italian immigrants began earning higher paychecks, they were able to refine their meatballs even further. Since affordability was not as much of a concern, they eventually started mixing more meat into their recipes, creating a much larger and denser meatball than their traditional polpette.
Before long, they started combining it with marinara sauce and pasta, thus creating the beloved dish of spaghetti and meatballs. Today, this dish continues to be a popular choice for those seeking a flavorful, filling and affordable meal.
Savor the Flavors of Italy at Allora Italian Restaurant
Situated in midtown Atlanta, Allora Italian Restaurant takes pride in combining classic Italian dishes with seasonal ingredients and modern techniques. We invite you to stop by and discover Executive Chef Robert Anello’s menu filled with house-made pasta, meatballs and other favorites. With plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available, everyone will be able to indulge in Italian classics in our inviting environment filled with chef’s tables, booths and a covered outdoor patio.
Ready to savor the flavors of Italy? Reach out to reserve your table today!