Neapolitan Meatballs

Neapolitan Meatballs

6 Reviews
From: EatingWell Magazine March/April 2008

A touch of cinnamon distinguishes these delicious tomato-sauced meatballs. Adding whole-grain bulgur allows you to use less meat, resulting in meatballs with less than half the total fat and saturated fat of the original. Plus a vibrant-tasting combination of fresh and canned tomatoes in the sauce helps reduce the sodium by two-thirds. Serve with pasta, polenta or even on a whole-grain roll with a bit of melted part-skim mozzarella for a meatball sub.

Ingredients 8 servings

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Original recipe yields 8 servings
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  • 1/2 cup bulgur, (see Ingredient Note)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups diced plum tomatoes, (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 cups cubed whole-wheat country bread
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 pound 93%-lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar, (optional)


  • Active

  • Ready In

  1. Place bulgur in a medium bowl and cover generously with hot water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain in a fine sieve, pressing to remove excess liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 1 minute. Stir in canned tomatoes and plum tomatoes; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Partially cover and let simmer while you prepare meatballs.
  3. Place bread in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak for a few minutes. Drain and squeeze out moisture.
  4. Whisk egg and egg white in a large bowl. Add the bulgur, the bread, beef, Parmesan, cinnamon, pepper and salt. Gently combine with a potato masher and/or your hands. Form into 20 oval meatballs about 2 inches long.
  5. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; blot with paper towels. Brown the remaining meatballs.
  6. Mash the simmering tomato sauce with a potato masher to break down any large chunks of tomato. Add the meatballs to the sauce. Simmer over low heat, partially covered, for 50 minutes.
  7. Taste the sauce and add sugar, if it seems tart, and additional pepper to taste. Serve the meatballs with the sauce.
  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Shopping Tip: Bulgur is made by parboiling, drying and coarsely grinding or cracking wheat berries. Unlike cracked wheat, it simply needs a quick soak in hot water for most uses. Look for bulgur in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets, near other grains, or online at or

Nutrition information

  • Serving size: 2-3 meatballs
  • Per serving: 285 calories; 11 g fat(4 g sat); 4 g fiber; 22 g carbohydrates; 23 g protein; 21 mcg folate; 70 mg cholesterol; 9 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 1895 IU vitamin A; 43 mg vitamin C; 128 mg calcium; 3 mg iron; 664 mg sodium; 451 mg potassium
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 1 1/2
  • Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 2 1/2 lean meat

Reviews 6

December 16, 2013
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By: EatingWell User
Very Satisfying I was a little skeptical of the bulgur and the cinnamon, but I really loved these meatballs. The texture was good, the taste was great and they are substantial meatballs, not those little cocktail size meatballs. I used an immersion blender to mash the tomatoes rather than the potato masher as we like out sauce more smooth than chunky. I served this with whole wheat spaghetti and a green salad. Pros: Size of Meatballs
February 04, 2010
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By: EatingWell User
I found, after reading over the ingredients, that there seemed to be, at least according to my taste a disparity in the ratio of the sauce to the amount of meatballs. I adjusted this to my thinking. I also adjusted the cooking times and cooked longer at a simmer.
January 24, 2010
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By: Tommy's Girl
We have tried a couple of other healthy meatball/meatloaf recipes, and this is the best so far. The one thing we changed was we used an extra can of tomatoes and no fresh tomatoes. I think the fresh tomatoes would have added some great flavors. The process was very time consuming. This will not go into our "main menu" but to the special occasions menu, simply because of the time factor.
September 21, 2009
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By: EatingWell User
Good recipe, however, the meatballs could stand to be kicked up a few notches. I would add some salt and a little cayene pepper to the meat mixture next time. Possibly even sub half the beef for hot italian sausage. I made the meatballs as written, but only made half the amount of sauce, thinning it a little with beef broth, and it was plenty. I used crushed tomatoes instead of stewed, and some Panko breadcrumbs I had on hand instead of the wheat bread cubes. The sauce was a little bitter, possibly because my fresh tomatoes were not ripe, but the sugar at the end helped. I served it with some pan-seared polenta slices. Chandra, Seattle, WA
September 21, 2009
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By: EatingWell User
I thought the meatballs were good, but I don't know if I'd make them again. They required quite a bit of work. Not sure that they were two hours of cooking good. Sarah, ND
September 21, 2009
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By: EatingWell User
Wonderful!!! Wasn't sure about the meatballs with cinnamon added, but it all came together deliciously... the sauce was fantastic, & so fresh & different from scratch recipe. We had creamy polenta & roasted zucchini with it. Jacqueline, Buffalo, NY