Bombas alla sarda

Meatballs from Sardinia

One day, my grandchildren requested spaghetti and meatballs for dinner because they had tried the dish at a local pasta chain restaurant. After I gave my son “the look” for taking them there, I decided that I would make spaghetti and meatballs the classic way, with my favorite Apulian polpette (meatballs). I carefully browned the meatballs and heated them in the sauce. My granddaughter, ever the diplomat, said “Grandma, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I like the other meatballs better. These are too crunchy. I like them when they are soft.” I knew then that she would have preferred them Sardinian style. Sardinian cooks braise their polpette, also known as bombas, directly in the tomato sauce for a more tender texture. Serve these meatballs with mashed potatoes, or, if you are cooking for children, with spaghetti. For those who like their meatballs with crunch, brown them quickly in olive oil and then heat them in the sauce. By the way, the next time I made Sardinian-style meatballs for the diplomat, and she said she now liked meatballs both ways, soft and crunchy.

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For the Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ¼ cup dried bread crumbs, or ½ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Sauce

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 2 cups canned tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


To make the meatballs, in a bowl, combine the pork, bread crumbs, eggs, cheese, garlic, parsley, and a little salt and pepper and mix together until smooth. Fry a small nugget of the mixture, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Form the mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter.

To make the sauce, in a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water, mix well, and then add the meatballs. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until the meatballs are cooked through and tender, about 45 minutes.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper, then serve the meatballs and sauce.


Pour a Sardinian Cannonau. If you want something a bit lighter, drink a Rosso Conero from the Marches or a Nebbiolo d’Alba from the Piedmont.