Mini Veal Meatballs with Caramelized Onions

Mini Veal Meatballs with Caramelized Onions

One of my good friends, chef David DiGregorio of Osteria Via Stato in Chicago, shared a version of this recipe for mini veal meatballs with me, explaining that it was part of his family’s culinary traditions. From the minute I tasted the little meatballs, I was hooked. While I think they are great with caramelized onions, you could serve the meatballs with tomato sauce or spooned over pasta. Either way, they are fantastico!–Rick Tramonto with Mary Goodbody

LC What To Sip Note

These mini veal meatballs may be completely old school Italian, but they make for some swell contemporary party fare. For advice on wines that go best with these little party favors, check out just below the recipe for some swell advice from the authors.

Mini Veal Meatballs with Caramelized Onions Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 4 to 6


  • For the caramelized onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 quart (4 cups) homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth, or 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups veal stock
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • For the veal meatballs
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or other coarse dried crumbs
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, preferably organic
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1 tomato, coarsely diced
  • 1 tablespoon julienned basil leaves


  • Make the caramelized onions
  • 1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onions, and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  • 2. Add the wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer briskly for 3 to 6 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer briskly for 5 to 8 minutes, or until reduced by half again.
  • 3. Stir the butter into the sauce and keep stirring until it’s incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and finish with a small splash vinegar (1 to 2 teaspoons). Cover and keep warm.
  • Make the veal meatballs
  • 4. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  • 5. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs and melted butter and mix well with your hands. Add the cheese, milk, eggs, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, the oregano, olive oil, salt, black and red pepper, and lemon zest and mix well.
  • 6. Add the ground pork and veal to the bowl and mix well. Pinch off small walnut-sized pieces of meat, each about 1/2 ounce, and roll them into mini meatballs. You should have between 32 and 40 meatballs. A few extra are fine.
  • 7. Transfer the veal meatballs to the baking sheet. Arrange them in neat rows, leaving space between them. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the meatballs are just barely cooked through. Do not overcook.
  • 8. Divvy the veal meatballs among 4 serving plates. Spoon the warm sauce over the top of the meatballs and garnish each plate with some of the remaining parsley, a little diced tomato, and the basil. Drizzle the remaining vinegar over each plate and serve.

A Word About Wine

  • The gently rolling hills of Montepulciano in Tuscany are the setting for the Sangiovese vineyards that produce Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Generally earlier drinking than Brunello, and with lower acidity than Chianti, this category of wine is one of many that are wonderful with the veal meatballs. Well-balanced dishes need well-balanced wines, so try elegant examples from Avignonesi or Il Macchione.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

If someone ever asks you to bring an appetizer to a party, take these. The meatballs are juicy, delicious, and filling. Plus they can be dressed many different ways, in addition to the caramelized onions. The flavors of the oregano and garlic make them spicy, but the lemon and panko keep them light. An added bonus is making the entire batch in the oven as opposed to searing multiple rounds in a pan on the stove.


  1. These were so good–going to make them for a picnic this weekend. One alteration I’m going to make it to reduce the butter content. Eight tablespoons is really quite a lot and it showed when I took them out of the oven. Hoping to make do with half that amount or less.

    1. Lovely to hear you found the recipe to be a keeper, Sara. What can we say? We like our butter…! But clearly you can tweak as desired…

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