This easy meatball recipe makes juicy, tender, and flavorful Italian-style meatballs that are freezer friendly and you can use in so many different ways! Here we include instructions for both baked and fried.
You also may want to make Spaghetti and Meatballs from scratch.
The only meatball recipe you'll ever need
If you're looking to make all-purpose meatballs that you can use for a variety of dishes, this recipe is a winner. I like to think of them as an extremely tasty blank canvas. It makes a big batch that you can keep in the freezer so they're ready to go for simple meals later on. There's just something so comforting and special when they're made from scratch.
Homemade meatballs aren't difficult to make, and they taste so much better than store-bought ones since they're fresh, perfectly seasoned, and you know exactly what goes into them. We've also rounded up a bunch of creative ways you can eat these versatile meatballs so that a delicious meal is always on the menu!
Ingredients for them
- Breadcrumbs - Italian seasoned ones pack in a bunch of goodness from dried Italian herbs
- Milk - to make a panade with the breadcrumbs
- Ground beef and pork - we're going for 80% to 85% lean. Anything leaner will yield meatballs that are drier, less flavorful, and are likely to overcook faster. I avoid using extra lean ground meats here. More fat = more flavor!
- Egg - to help bind everything together
- Garlic, onion powder, salt & pepper - tasty aromatics and seasoning to enhance and bring out the flavors
- Parsley - for a burst of freshness
- Parmesan - to take them to the next level. Always use freshly grated from a block of parmesan cheese!
What is a panade?
- It's a fancy term that's simply a mixture of a starch and a liquid to keep meat tender so it doesn't dry out. In this case, it's breadcrumbs and whole milk to form a paste to moisten the ground beef and pork. Making a panade with breadcrumbs also happens to be easier and less time consuming than using bread.
What to serve with meatballs
- There are so many options! A few of our favorites are using them in meatball soup, this meatball casserole, or meatball subs.
- Boil up some pasta and warm them in a homemade pasta sauce. Some of my favorites include Alfredo sauce for creamy goodness, arrabiata sauce if you like it spicy, and you can't go wrong with vodka sauce either. Of course, you can use your favorite jarred variety too.
- You can also serve them with mashed potatoes and smothered in this creamy mushroom sauce for something cozy and a little different that doesn't include pasta.
- They're great in the summer with a little BBQ sauce and a side of broccoli salad.
- Want something totally out of the box? Add them to homemade Caesar salad to make it a fun meal!
How to make easy meatballs
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Prep your ingredients. Add the breadcrumbs and milk to a large prep bowl and mixing it together to form the panade. Add the remaining meatball ingredients to the bowl.
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 cooked in the middle. If you prefer, see the recipe card below for the pan searing method.
- Be gentle! Don't overhandle 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.
- This recipe makes about 25-30 1 ¼ to 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. Just ensure they're all the same size.
- This recipe makes about 6-8 adult-sized portions depending on how many meatballs one eats. About 3 to 5 meatballs per person is typical.
- 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!
- If you find that they're falling apart as they cook, try the baking method or, when pan frying, coat them lightly in flour first to get a little crust and to prevent them sticking to the skillet.
Tools for this recipe
- Meatballs are cooked when they're a minimum of 165F in the middle. Use an instant read thermometer to easily test them.
- I used this baking sheet to make them.
- 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.
- 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.
Substitutions and variations
- You can throw in some fresh chopped herbs if you happen to have some. Basil and oregano would work well. 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 that I suggest, add 1/2 teaspoon or so of Italian seasoning to compensate.
- I highly recommend using more than one variety of meat for the best flavor and moisture. Veal would work great too, or try using ground Italian sausage!
- 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 whole milk is best.
- 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.
Leftovers and storage
- These Italian meatballs will last for about 3-4 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
- Meatballs freeze great, and they 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 for convenience and then add them to a larger Tupperware container and freeze the whole thing!
I hope you find that these are the best meatballs you've tried! Questions? 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
- Prep your ingredients, then add the breadcrumbs and milk to a fairly large prep bowl. Mix/mash together until you've got a paste.
- 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). Broil for a few minutes if you want them more browned.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 or in the oven 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 or transfer the skillet to the oven 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.