The BEST Italian Meatball Recipe

This is my father-in-law’s legendary meatball recipe; the meatballs start out with a mix of ground beef, pork, and veal, are baked in the oven, then simmered away in sauce until tender and moist. Truly the BEST meatballs I’ve ever had, and perfect for your next spaghetti and meatballs night.

A plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

Years ago, I shared with you my father-in-law’s amazing meat sauce recipe, which is absolutely, positively my favorite meat sauce. Ever. If you haven’t tried it yet, grab a big pot and get stirring!

Now, about these meatballs… They are just as amazing as his meat sauce, and every time he makes them for someone that has never had them before, they always ask for the recipe. They are beyond tender, they are flavorful but not overwhelming, and the perfect accompaniment to a dish of spaghetti (or smothered in mozzarella and eaten on a toasted sub!).

Ingredients for Italian meatball recipe in a stainless steel bowl.

How to Make Italian Meatballs

Making Italian meatballs is incredibly simple! You simply mix together a handful of ingredients (ground meats, bread crumbs, Parmesan or Romano cheese, some onion and garlic, parsley, salt and pepper) and shape them into balls.

At this point, you can either bake them (instructions for baking are included in the recipe below) or pan-fry them to get them nice and brown, and then, in either case, simmer in sauce for a little bit before serving them up atop a bowlful of spaghetti.

Shaped meatballs on a baking sheet prior to baking.

Keys to Tender and Moist Meatballs

There are two key elements to ensuring that your meatballs turn out super moist and tender each and every time:

  1. Meatloaf Mix – The first key is using a mixture of ground beef, pork and veal – the combination makes the meatballs incredibly tender and ensures that they taste less like little hamburgers and more like traditional, classic Italian meatballs.
  2. Simmer Away! – The second key is letting the meatballs simmer in a pot of sauce for at least an hour. They soften up, take on some of the sauce and go from great to phenomenal.

Meatballs added to a pot of sauce.

Meatball Recipe Notes

  • To make this meatball recipe without bread crumbs, simply take one slice of sandwich bread (white or wheat, it doesn’t matter) and break it into pieces, then mix with 2 tablespoons of milk. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before combining the rest of the ingredients.
  • You can add other herbs or seasonings to suit your tastes.
  • This recipe makes fairly large meatballs, so feel free to adjust their size if you’d like smaller ones. If you do so, you will need to decrease the baking time accordingly.
  • The meatballs can be pan-fried instead of baked. Simply pan-fry with some olive oil over medium-high heat until the meatballs are browned all over, then transfer them to the sauce to simmer.
  • Many people swear by putting raw meatballs in the sauce to cook completely that way; if you choose to do that, I recommend shaping them and placing them on a baking sheeting, covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 30 minutes so they can firm up a bit and not fall apart in the sauce. Gently add them to the simmering sauce, then adjust the heat so it maintains a simmer, and cook for at least 1 hour, or until the meatballs are cooked through. (Quick tip – don’t taste the sauce after you put the raw meatballs in until they are done cooking!)
  •  You can prepare the meatballs ahead of time by shaping them and placing them on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day in advance of cooking them.
  • You can freeze the meatballs both raw and cooked. To freeze raw meatballs, place the baking sheet with the shaped meatballs in the freezer until the meatballs are completely frozen, 1 to 2 hours. Then transfer the meatballs to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 4 months. If you are baking the meatballs, you can do so from frozen, but will need to add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time. If you pan-fry the meatballs, you will want to thaw them overnight in the refrigerator first. To freeze cooked meatballs, assemble and bake the meatballs as directed, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate to cool completely. Once cool, place on a clean baking sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen, 1 to 2 hours. Then transfer the meatballs to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, microwave to reheat quickly, or drop in sauce straight from the freezer.

A pot of sauce with meatballs and spaghetti, with two plated servings next to it.

Everyone needs a classic, go-to, can-make-with-my-eyes-closed meatball recipe, and if you haven’t found yours yet (or even if you THINK you have), then you need to make these immediately.

It takes virtually no work to double the recipe, so when you’re making these for dinner, shape another batch for the freezer to save your sanity on a busy weeknight.

If You Like This Meatball Recipe, Try These:

An overheat shot of two plates of spaghetti and meatballs.

One year ago: Oatmeal-Dark Chocolate Chip & Coconut Cookies
Four years ago: Bread and Butter Refrigerator Pickles
Six years ago: Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones
Seven years ago: Croissants

Watch How to Make The Best Italian Meatballs

The BEST Italian Meatball Recipe

Servings 10 large meatballs
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 1 hour 40 minutes
Total 2 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Michelle

This is my father-in-law's legendary recipe for Italian meatballs; they are baked in the oven, then simmered away in sauce until tender and moist.

Ingredients:

  • 1
    pound
    meatloaf mix
    (mixture of ground beef, pork and veal)
  • cup
    Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2
    tablespoons
    grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1
    tablespoon
    finely minced yellow onion
  • 1
    clove
    garlic
    (minced)
  • ½
    teaspoon
    dried parsley
  • 2
    eggs
  • Salt and pepper
    (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  3. Shape into large meatballs (I use a heaping large cookie scoop, which is 3 tablespoons) and place on the baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the meatballs over, reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
  5. Place the meatballs in a simmering pot of sauce for at least 1 hour before serving.

Recipe Notes:

  • To make this meatball recipe without bread crumbs, simply take one slice of sandwich bread (white or wheat, it doesn't matter) and break it into pieces, then mix with 2 tablespoons of milk. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before combining the rest of the ingredients.
  • You can add other herbs or seasonings to suit your tastes.
  • The meatballs can be pan-fried instead of baked. Simply pan-fry with some olive oil over medium-high heat until the meatballs are browned all over, then transfer them to the sauce to simmer.
  • Many people swear by putting raw meatballs in the sauce to cook completely that way; if you choose to do that, I recommend shaping them and placing them on a baking sheeting, covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 30 minutes so they can firm up a bit and not fall apart in the sauce. Gently add them to the simmering sauce, then adjust the heat so it maintains a simmer, and cook for at least 1 hour, or until the meatballs are cooked through. (Quick tip - don't taste the sauce after you put the raw meatballs in until they are done cooking!)
  •  You can prepare the meatballs ahead of time by shaping them and placing them on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day in advance of cooking them.
  • You can freeze the meatballs both raw and cooked. To freeze raw meatballs, place the baking sheet with the shaped meatballs in the freezer until the meatballs are completely frozen, 1 to 2 hours. Then transfer the meatballs to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 4 months. If you are baking the meatballs, you can do so from frozen, but will need to add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time. If you pan-fry the meatballs, you will want to thaw them overnight in the refrigerator first. To freeze cooked meatballs, assemble and bake the meatballs as directed, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate to cool completely. Once cool, place on a clean baking sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen, 1 to 2 hours. Then transfer the meatballs to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, microwave to reheat quickly, or drop in sauce straight from the freezer.

Nutrition:

Calories: 125kcal
Fat: 8g
Saturated fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 65mg
Sodium: 113mg
Potassium: 21mg
Carbohydrates: 3g
Protein: 12g
Vitamin A: 65%
Vitamin C: 0.2%
Calcium: 23%
Iron: 1.2%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Update Notes: This recipe was originally published in August 2015. Updated in January 2019 with new photos, a video, and lots of recipe tips.

[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]