Who invented the meatball?

The first meatballs likely originated in the Middle East or Asia, where people mixed ground meat with spices, herbs, and grains to create a hearty and nutritious meals

1. Nobody Knows Where the First Meatball Was Made

Recipes go back to the Romans – the classic cookbook by Apicius includes a section on minces, mixtures of meat (peacock, pheasant, and rabbit were their favorites) with other ingredients. Some historians believe the first meatballs were made in Persia and are still around today as kofta.

2. Every Culture Has a Meatball

You may be most familiar with the Italian-American version of the dish, but there are also Swedish köttbullar, Spanish albondigas, Dutch bitterballen, Greek keftedes, South African skilpedjies, and from India through the Middle East, kofta. These are just a few examples of the widespread popularity of meatballs, which are often made with lamb, pork and other meats.

Our spiced lamb kofta recipe takes minutes to make and is delicious.

3. Italians Do It Differently

Italian meatballs aren’t what you think. Polpettes are smaller than their American cousins, made with equal parts bread and meat (sometimes even fish), and very much a simple peasant dish. Almost always made at home, polpettes are the main course and sometimes served in a light broth. No marinara or pasta to be seen! Spaghetti and meatballs with tomato sauce is a purely American invention, the result of a surge of Italian immigration to the U.S. and the adaptations they made to available ingredients.

4. Meatballs Were Born of Necessity

The truth about meatballs is that they are a clever way to dress up tough, cheaper cuts of meat. Meatballs also use stale bread, extending the meat portion of the recipe. And so, the meatball was traditionally a great way to stretch ingredients and serve a hungry family. Waste not, want not.

5. The World’s Largest Meatball Was Made in South Carolina

The Italian-American Club of Hilton Head Island, SC, took the record in November of 2017 with a massive 1757-pound meatball that took a year of planning to create. Special equipment had to be custom-made and it took a week to cook the meatball, and Guinness World Records was there to make it official. Most of the staggering meatball went to local programs to feed the hungry.

That’s a lotta meatball! Watch a short video about this meatball.