This easy meatball recipe makes tender and flavorful Italian-style meatballs that use everyday ingredients and can be added to a variety of dishes including spaghetti and meatballs.
How to make Italian meatballs (overview):
Start by adding the breadcrumbs and milk to a large prep bowl and mixing it together (this forms the "panade"). Let it sit while you get the other ingredients ready. Add the remaining meatball ingredients to the bowl and then gently mix together with your hands. Form the meatballs and place them on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes or until an instant read meat thermometer indicates they're 165F in the middle. Instructions below also include frying method if you prefer. (Full recipe is at the bottom of the page after all the handy tips)
Homemade meatballs general success tips:
- Be gentle: don't over handle the meatballs mixture, and use your fingers to mix it (you want to be able to still see individual components of the meatballs). When forming the meatballs, don't pack them together too tightly. This will ensure they remain light vs. dense.
- More fat = more flavor. Low fat meatballs will be drier, less flavorful, and are likely to overcook faster. I avoid using "extra lean" ground meats.
- Meatballs are cooked when they're a minimum of 165F in the middle (use an instant read thermometer to easily test), and I used this baking sheet.
- If you decide to pan sear the meatballs instead of baking them, use cooking tongs to quickly and easily turn the meatballs when you're browning them.
Recipe notes & tips:
- This recipes makes about 25-30 1 ¼ - 1 ½-inch meatballs. You can make the meatballs bigger or smaller if you wish, but keep in mind that cooking time will need to be adjusted a bit.
- This recipe makes about 6 adult-sized portions depending on how many meatballs one eats (about 4-5/person is typical).
- I highly recommend grating your own parmesan cheese... it really makes a big difference! I always keep a wedge in my fridge and use my handy Microplane to grate it.
- Meatballs will brown more on darker colored unlined baking sheets, but I prefer the easier clean-up of lining them with parchment paper or foil!
- You can throw in some fresh chopped herbs (basil and oregano would work well) if you happen to have some. Add in a tablespoon or two of each.
- You may use panko instead of regular breadcrumbs. If you're using plain breadcrumbs vs. the Italian seasoned ones I suggest, add 1/2 teaspoon or so of Italian seasoning to compensate.
- I highly recommend using more than one variety of meat (veal would work great too, or try using ground sausage) for the best flavor and moisture.
- Grate half an onion if you'd rather do that than use onion powder.
- In a pinch, use beef broth or water instead of milk, but milk (I use whole milk) does make the meatballs better.
- You can use stale bread instead of breadcrumbs (to make the panade) if you happen to have some.
- Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to the meatball mixture for a little bit of kick.
- Meatballs will last for about 3-4 days in the fridge.
- Freezing: Meatballs can be portioned up and frozen for up to 3 months (I place individual portions in a small bag like a Ziploc or sandwich bag and then add them to a larger Tupperware container and freeze the whole thing). Or, add them to marinara sauce and divide it in your desired size portions then freeze it.
What to serve with meatballs?
- Make classic spaghetti & meatballs by adding them to marinara sauce (click for my homemade recipe or use a jar of store bought sauce)
- Alfredo sauce (my homemade recipe is linked or use your favorite store bought sauce)
- Arrabiata sauce if you like it spicy. And you can't go wrong with vodka sauce either.
- Make meatball soup, meatball casserole, or meatball subs.
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I hope you love these Italian meatballs! Questions? Do you have any tips on making the best meatballs that you've learned over the years? Share in the comments below!
Easy Meatball Recipe
- 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup milk I use whole milk
- 1 pound ground beef see note
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 large egg
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped finely
- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Add the breadcrumbs and milk to a fairly large prep bowl. Mix/mash together until you've got a paste. Let it sit in the bowl while you prep the other ingredients.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Using your hands, mix it together and then form 1 ¼ - 1 ½-inch meatballs (use about 2 ½ tbsp meat/meatball and it'll make approx. 25-30 meatballs). Don't over-mix or pack them too tightly, and use a delicate touch.
- Place the meatballs on a parchment paper or foil-lined baking sheet as you go along for easy clean-up. Choose from two cooking methods below. If you're baking them and don't have a large enough baking sheet to give them a little room, use two of them.
- Baking instructions: Preheat oven to 400F. Position the rack in the middle if using one baking sheet (if using two, do top and bottom and rotate the baking sheets halfway through cooking). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they're cooked through (an instant read thermometer will indicate 165F).Frying instructions: You can get better browning on meatballs if you sear them in a skillet, but you will need to finish them in a sauce to cook them through (it's not safe to store partially cooked meat). Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large, deep skillet and let it heat up for a few minutes over medium-high heat. Fry the meatballs in two batches until all sides are browned (about 5-7 minutes/batch). It's easiest to turn the meatballs with tongs. You may need to add a splash more oil for the second batch. Simmer meatballs in sauce (I recommend marinara) until they're cooked through.
- Baked meatballs can be portioned up and frozen after they've cooled (I add 4-5 meatballs to small bags like a Ziploc or sandwich bag and then place them in a larger Tupperware container and freeze the whole thing).
- Fattier ground meats = more flavor (and the meatballs will be more moist), so avoid anything that's extra lean (80-85% lean is good).
- You can make the meatballs bigger or smaller than suggested, but keep in mind that cooking time will need to be adjusted.
- I easily fit 25 meatballs on this half size sheet pan.
- See blog post for more tips, info on substitutions, process photos, etc... especially if you haven't made meatballs before!
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.