Neapolitan Meatballs


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.

Cook Time:
1 hr
Additional Time:
1 hr
Total Time:
2 hrs
8 servings, 2-3 meatballs each


  • 1/2 cup bulgur, (see Ingredient Note)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 8 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced

  • ¾ teaspoon dried oregano

  • ¼ 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

  • ½ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste

  • teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar, (optional)


  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 Facts (per serving)

285 Calories
11g Fat
22g Carbs
23g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Serving Size 2-3 meatballs
Calories 285
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 22g 8%
Dietary Fiber 4g 15%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 23g 45%
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 4g 19%
Cholesterol 70mg 23%
Vitamin A 1895IU 38%
Vitamin C 43mg 48%
Folate 21mcg 5%
Sodium 664mg 29%
Calcium 128mg 10%
Iron 3mg 18%
Magnesium 45mg 11%
Potassium 451mg 10%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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