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Italian Meatballs [Easy Recipe!]

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These traditional Italian meatballs are enormous and pillowy soft! They are stuffed with ground beef and pig, stuffed with herbs and cheese, and served with traditional tomato sauce. Make them the size of baseballs for a main entree or smaller for an appetizer.

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italian meatballs

THE MOST DELICIOUS MEATBALLS

These meatballs are somewhat smaller than baseballs, though they may be made that big if desired. In fact, they may be made in any size desired. They are soft, stuffed with herbs and cheese, made with ground beef and pig, and topped with a traditional tomato sauce.

YOU CAN MAKE THE BEST MEATBALLS AT HOME

A plate of spaghetti and meatballs from our small Italian restaurant was one of my favorite treats when I was a kid, and I still think about it now. There’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of meatballs in marinara sauce served over spaghetti noodles. With a side of garlic bread, it was the perfect meal that I always daydreamed about.

The meatballs at the restaurant were especially big and so tender that each bite almost melted in your mouth. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

RECIPE FOR ITALIAN MEATBALLS

Begin making meatballs with bread. Soak a handful of white bread pieces (crusts removed) in boiling milk and mash them until they become a paste. Combine this with ground pork, ground beef, a mixture of ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, spices, and eggs after allowing it to cool slightly. Mix until everything is barely blended; over-mixing will result in tough Italian meatballs.

Roll the meatballs in flour with your hands. They are browned in a skillet, then finished in tomato sauce. You can either prepare your own tomato sauce, like we do, or purchase sauce from a supermarket.

Alternative Video Recipe: How to make Italian Meatballs

How to make Italian Meatballs

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HOW LONG SHOULD MEATBALLS COOK?

Once browned, these huge meatballs will require 15 to 20 minutes in the sauce to simmer. Smaller meatballs will reduce preparation time.

When finished, the meatballs should be completely cooked through. If you choose, you may use a digital thermometer to verify the internal temperature of the meatballs; they should register 160°F.

PUTTING AWAY AND FREEZING MEATBALLS

With the tomato sauce, cooked meatballs can be refrigerated for approximately 5 days. Reheat the food over a low flame or in the microwave.

Additionally, the meatballs may be frozen either cooked or uncooked:

  • If the meatballs are uncooked, freeze them on a parchment-lined baking sheet until solid, then transfer to a freezer-safe container and keep for up to three months. Refrigerate frozen food before cooking.
  • If the meatballs have been cooked, allow them to cool completely before placing them in a freezer-safe container for up to three months. Meatballs may be frozen by themselves or with tomato sauce. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before warming on the stovetop or in the microwave.

INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED:

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef (at least 16 percent fat)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2/3 cup milk (whole or 2 percent)
  • 3 slices of white bread, crusts removed (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or 2 teaspoons kosher salt)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlc, minced
  • About 1 cup flour, for dusting
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups (24 ounces) tomato sauce (recipe follows, or use already prepared)

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed or whole tomatoes, including the juice, or 1 3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
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meatballs

METHODS

  • How to make tomato sauce:

On medium heat, heat the olive oil in a large pan. Put in the carrots, celery, onions, and parsley. Turn the heat down low and cover the pan. Stir the food to coat it with oil. Cook the vegetables for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are soft and cooked all the way through.

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Take off the lid, stir in the garlic, and turn up the heat to medium-high. After cooking the garlic for 30 seconds, add the tomatoes (if using whole canned tomatoes, break up with your fingers as you add them to the pan). Put in the tomato paste and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a low simmer, turn the heat down to low, and let the sauce cook uncovered for 15 to 30 minutes while you make the meatballs.

For a smooth texture, use a blender or push through a food mill. Bring back to pan. Adjust seasonings.

  • Soak pieces of bread in hot milk: Bring the milk to a boil in a small pot. Turn off the heat, break the bread into small pieces, and soak them in the milk until they start to break down. Mix it up until you have something that looks like paste. Place it on a plate to cool down.
  • Make the meatball mixture by putting the beef, pork, ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan, eggs, salt, parsley, oregano, black pepper, garlic cloves, and bread-milk mixture in a large bowl and mixing them all together. Use your hands to mix it well until it just about comes together.

Don’t mix it too much, or it will get tough. It’s fine to have some bread or meat chunks in the mix; that’s better than overworked meatballs.

  • Make meatballs by wetting your hands and rolling the meat into balls. This kind of meatball is usually between 2 and 3 inches in diameter, but you can make them any size you want.

After rolling the meatball in your hands, roll it in the flour to give it a good coating. As you work, put each one on a baking sheet. As you make the meatballs, you might need to wash your hands a few times.

  • Brown the meatballs: When all the meatballs are made, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs on at least two sides. Don’t worry about the center being cooked all the way through because you will finish cooking these in the sauce.
  • Finish cooking the meatballs in tomato sauce: Once all the meatballs are browned, place them in the sauce and turn each one over in the sauce to coat.
  • Cover the pot and let it cook slowly for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with either pasta or crusty bread and the sauce. If you want, you can sprinkle a little chopped parsley on top as a garnish.

WHAT DO I NEED TO MAKE MEATBALLS THAT JUST MELT IN YOUR MOUTH?

The ingredients for these Italian meatballs are easy to find in your fridge and pantry. That’s why I often make them when I need a quick meal. Here are all the things you need:

WHAT DO I NEED TO MAKE ITALIAN MEATBALLS THAT JUST MELT IN YOUR MOUTH?

The ingredients for these Italian meatballs are easy to find in your fridge and pantry. That’s why I often make them when I need a quick meal. Here are all the things you need:

  • Ground beef: This recipe calls for all ground beef, but you can use half pork, sausage, or veal instead if you want. The best results will come from using fresh meat that has never been frozen.
  • Italian breadcrumbs: Many recipes call for day-old bread or plain bread crumbs, but I’ve found that using seasoned bread crumbs adds great flavors without any extra work.
  • Milk: Instead of water, I suggest using milk to soak the breadcrumbs because whole milk gives them more flavor and rich moisture than water.
  • This mixture of milk and bread is called a panade. It is often added to ground meats to make them extra tender and moist while they are cooking.
  • Depending on your diet, you can also soak the breadcrumbs in almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, or low-sodium beef broth.
  • Egg: Gives the meatballs more moisture and acts as the glue that holds everything together.
  • Parmesan cheese gives the meat mixture a wonderful, cheesy taste. I think the most authentic flavor comes from using fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano. I like to use my handy box grater to get the job done quickly and easily.
  • Onions and garlic: Many recipes say to sauté these, but I find that as long as they are finely chopped, they blend in just fine with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Parsley: I recommend using fresh herbs, but dried parsley will work just as well if you don’t have any on hand (for 1 tbsp of fresh herbs, use 1 tsp of the dried alternative).
  • Salt and pepper are used to season the whole thing.
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italian meatballs

ADVICE ON MAKING THE BEST HOMEMADE MEATBALLS

Use the freshest ingredients you can.

The best ingredients for these meatballs are freshly packaged ground beef, fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh onion and garlic (not powders), and fresh parsley.

TRY NOT TO USE MEAT WITH A VERY LOW PERCENTAGE OF FAT

  • Like hamburger patties, the fat is a key part of what makes the beef meatballs tender and juicy. I think the best meatballs are made with beef that is 80–85% lean.
  • To measure out the meatballs, use a large cookie scoop or ice cream scoop.
  • If you make meatballs that are all the same size, they will cook evenly in the oven. Using a trigger-release scoop also makes the whole process much easier. About 12 large meatballs will come out of this recipe.
  • Wet your hands and roll the meatballs with care.
  • If you work with wet hands, the mixture won’t stick to your fingers and you’ll be able to make each meatball quickly.
  • I also think you should gently shape the meatballs with just enough pressure to keep them in place. Squeezing them too hard will make them too dense.
  • Avoid overcooking.
  • Depending on your oven, it will take about 15-20 minutes at 400°F (200°C) for large meatballs.
  • With an instant-read thermometer, meatballs are done when they are golden brown on the outside and register 165°F (74°C) in the middle.
  • If you want to serve them with marinara or cream sauce, I suggest simmering them lightly for about 15 to 20 minutes to release the flavors into the sauce, but not so long that they get too dry and overcooked.

CAN ITALIAN MEATBALLS BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME?

Baked Italian meatballs keep well in the fridge or freezer, so you can make them ahead of time for dinner or meal prep. This recipe is also easy to make ahead by doubling or tripling it.

To freeze meatballs, just cook them as usual and let them cool down completely before putting them in a container that keeps air out. They can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.

HOW DO YOU COOK FROZEN ITALIAN MEATBALLS AGAIN?

To serve meatballs that you made ahead of time, let them thaw in the fridge overnight and heat them in sauce or in a 350°F oven for about 8 to 10 minutes.

If you don’t have much time, you can also heat them in the microwave on high for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are completely hot.

What to eat with meatballs

Also, these Italian meatballs are very flexible and can be served in many ways.

Some of my favorite ways to eat these gems are with spaghetti (I recommend a homemade sauce or a four-cheese sauce), in a meatball sub with mozzarella cheese, as a topping on a homemade pizza, or in a savory cream sauce with mashed potatoes.

NOTES:

This recipe makes meatballs that are so soft they melt in your mouth.

If you want your meatballs to be less soft, you can change the amount of breadcrumbs to 1/3 cup, the amount of milk to 1/2 cup, and the amount of salt by just a little bit.

To freeze meatballs, just cook them as usual and let them cool completely before putting them in a container that keeps air out.

They can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. To serve, just let them thaw overnight and heat them in sauce or in a 350°F oven for 8–10 minutes.

Please see the blog post above for more tips and tricks on how to make the best meatballs, as well as a full list of ingredients. Everyone, have fun cooking!

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Italian Meatballs


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  • Author: Emily Roselyn
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 Minutes
  • Total Time: 1hr 5minutes
  • Yield: 14 1x

Description

These traditional Italian meatballs are enormous and pillowy soft! They are stuffed with ground beef and pig, stuffed with herbs and cheese, and served with traditional tomato sauce. Make them the size of baseballs for a main entree or smaller for an appetizer.


For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef (at least 16 percent fat)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2/3 cup milk (whole or 2 percent)
  • 3 slices of white bread, crusts removed (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or 2 teaspoons kosher salt)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlc, minced
  • About 1 cup flour, for dusting
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups (24 ounces) tomato sauce (recipe follows, or use already prepared)

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed or whole tomatoes, including the juice, or 1 3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • How to make tomato sauce:

On medium heat, heat the olive oil in a large pan. Put in the carrots, celery, onions, and parsley. Turn the heat down low and cover the pan. Stir the food to coat it with oil. Cook the vegetables for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are soft and cooked all the way through.

Take off the lid, stir in the garlic, and turn up the heat to medium-high. After cooking the garlic for 30 seconds, add the tomatoes (if using whole canned tomatoes, break up with your fingers as you add them to the pan). Put in the tomato paste and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a low simmer, turn the heat down to low, and let the sauce cook uncovered for 15 to 30 minutes while you make the meatballs.

For a smooth texture, use a blender or push through a food mill. Bring back to pan. Adjust seasonings.

  • Soak pieces of bread in hot milk: Bring the milk to a boil in a small pot. Turn off the heat, break the bread into small pieces, and soak them in the milk until they start to break down. Mix it up until you have something that looks like paste. Place it on a plate to cool down.
  • Make the meatball mixture by putting the beef, pork, ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan, eggs, salt, parsley, oregano, black pepper, garlic cloves, and bread-milk mixture in a large bowl and mixing them all together. Use your hands to mix it well until it just about comes together.

Don’t mix it too much, or it will get tough. It’s fine to have some bread or meat chunks in the mix; that’s better than overworked meatballs.

  • Make meatballs by wetting your hands and rolling the meat into balls. This kind of meatball is usually between 2 and 3 inches in diameter, but you can make them any size you want.

After rolling the meatball in your hands, roll it in the flour to give it a good coating. As you work, put each one on a baking sheet. As you make the meatballs, you might need to wash your hands a few times.

  • Brown the meatballs: When all the meatballs are made, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs on at least two sides. Don’t worry about the center being cooked all the way through because you will finish cooking these in the sauce.
  • Finish cooking the meatballs in tomato sauce: Once all the meatballs are browned, place them in the sauce and turn each one over in the sauce to coat.

  • Cover the pot and let it cook slowly for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with either pasta or crusty bread and the sauce. If you want, you can sprinkle a little chopped parsley on top as a garnish.
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Pan Fry
  • Cuisine: Italian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 14
  • Calories: 136 kcal
  • Sugar: 2g
  • Sodium: 378mg
  • Fat: 7g
  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 6g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 10g
  • Cholesterol: 46mg

Keywords: meatballs, italian dish,

FAQs About Italian Meatballs

What makes Italian meatballs different from regular meatballs?

Italian meatballs are famously served in a bright, tangy, and often chunky tomato sauce called “marinara.” Swedish meatballs are cooked in a rich, roux-based, creamy gravy made with beef or bone broth and sour cream (or sometimes heavy cream)

Should Italian meatballs be fried or baked?

Since you sear the outside of the meatballs under the broiler, baking them gives them a little more flavor without adding more oil.

How do Italian people eat meatballs?

Most Americans probably think of meatballs as being cooked in tomato sauce and served with pasta. However, this way of making meatballs is almost never done in Italy. Most places just fry meatballs and eat them as is, as a snack or as a second course without any sauce.

Are meatballs made with milk?

Add Milk for Moisture
Your Italian meatballs will be more moist if you add a little bit of milk to them. (Many people think that the eggs add moisture, but what they really do is hold the meat, breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs together.)

How do you keep meatballs moist

Add moisture.
Eggs and binder ingredients like bread crumbs mixed with milk help keep meatballs soft and moist, so don’t leave any of these out.

More Alternative Meatballs Recipes to try!

SWEET AND SOUR MEATBALL RECIPE

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Sweet and Sour Meatball Recipe

Sweet and Sour Meatballs are one quick and simple meal you can prepare for your family. This dish features meatballs and sweet-and-sour sauce, as the name would imply. The sweet and sour sauce can be made in a variety of ways; as an example, see our recipe for sweet and sour tilapia. Another is the basic sweet and sour sauce that we used for sweet and sour pork; this recipe is completely different from the others.

Click Here:

MOZZARELLA-STUFFED TURKEY MEATBALLS

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Mozzarella-Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

I’m thrilled to introduce yet another dish created in partnership with Alberta Turkey, these Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs, which are the ideal way to elevate your meatball game.

It’s my favorite method to mix up meatball night since the cheesy center in these soft meatballs completely changes the game. For a fast weeknight supper the whole family will love, serve spaghetti noodles with your favorite homemade tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce.

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