Italian meatballs are tender and flavorful. They require a little bit of time, but the results are well worth it!
Italian meatballs are one of our favorite things to make for Sunday dinners. We love how delicious these meatballs are, especially when we pile them on a bed of freshly cooked spaghetti or use the leftovers for meatball subs! However you decide to use them, they’re sure to be a hit! For an easy twist try Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs, Spaghetti Casserole, or Instant Pot Spaghetti.
Tender, Flavorful Meatballs
What is an Italian meatball? Italian meatballs are made with a mixture of beef and another meat, lots of Italian herbs, and are coated in marinara sauce.
We love tossing ours on top of spaghetti and then using the leftovers for lunch… because meatball subs are the best! No matter how you eat them, they’re sure to become a family favorite! Enjoy 🙂
The secret to these meatballs is a combination of freshly minced basil and parsley! You just can’t go wrong with fresh herbs! So are you ready to get started?!
How to Make Italian Meatballs
Note: This recipe calls for a mix of ground beef and ground pork. You can choose to use all pork, all beef, or even all ground chicken or turkey.
COMBINE. In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs (plain or seasoned will work) and the milk. Stir together and let it sit for 5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are soggy. (Note: I prefer buttermilk, but sometimes I don’t have any on hand so I just use whole milk.)
COMBINE. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, bread crumb mixture, egg, parmesan, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Using your hands, gently mix the ingredients, being careful not to overwork it.
SHAPE. Shape meat mixture into balls, approximately 1 1/2 inches in size.
BROWN. In a large skillet set over medium heat, add olive oil. When the oil is shiny and hot, add the meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides, rotating every 2-3 minutes or so. Remove meatballs and place on a paper towel lined plate. (Note: You may need to do more than one batch depending on the size of your skillet. You don’t want to overcrowd the pan or they won’t brown properly.)
Italian Meatball Sauce
These meatballs are delicious and flavorful on their own, but I promise you this sauce will take them to the next level!! It’s like a homemade marinara, and it tastes delicious in meatball subs.
HEAT. Set a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil.
SAUTÉ. When it’s hot, add the onion and sauté until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, taking care not to brown it. Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, basil, parsley, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
SIMMER. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to low and allow to gently simmer for 10 minutes.
ADD. Add the cooked meatballs and the parmesan, simmer for an additional 50 minutes (longer if I have time). I like to stir the mixture once or twice just to make sure that the meatballs aren’t sticking!
SERVE. Once everything has simmered away they’re ready to be devoured! And let me tell you, they will be!
Troubleshooting, Serving, and Storing
Why are my meatballs tough? Using a light hand when mixing creates incredibly tender meatballs, so be sure not to overmix. If you find that your meatball mixture is dry after mixing, you should add another egg yolk or more milk. This will soften up the mixture by adding more moisture into it.
What if they are not sticking together? If the meatballs are falling apart it is most likely a result of not having enough of a binder, such as eggs. Make sure to fully incorporate the eggs so that it is evenly spread through the mixture. This will ensure that the meatballs stick together well. If they still aren’t sticking together add another egg.
Try serving your Italian Meatballs with:
- Roasted spring vegetables
- Instant pot asparagus
- Cranberry apple pecan kale salad
- Honey mustard chicken salad
Store: Keep meatballs in an airtight container for 3-4 days, making sure to store them with some sauce. When reheating you risk the meatballs drying out, so it’s best to reheat them with sauce. Reheat them in the microwave or in a saucepan until warmed through.
Freeze: Fully cook your meatballs and then let them and their sauce cool completely before placing them in a freezer safe ziploc bag. They can last 3-4 hours this way. Then let them thaw in the fridge before reheating as needed.
This is a great recipe to double and then freeze the other half for later. Then you can easily use them for entertaining, rewarm them in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours, or let them thaw in the fridge and rewarm for only 2-3 hours.
If you want to freeze uncooked meatballs, place the meatballs on a tray and place it in the freezer until they’re set, about 5 hours. Then remove them from the tray and place them in an airtight, freezer safe bag, they will last about 3 months.
For more meatball recipes, try:
Italian Meatballs Recipe
For the Meatballs
- 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup whole milk - OR buttermilk
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 egg - lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp fresh basil - minced
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley - minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
For the Sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion - diced
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp fresh basil - chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley - chopped
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
For the Meatballs
- In a small bowl combine bread crumbs and buttermilk, stir and let sit for 5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are a moist.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the ground beef, ground pork, bread crumb mixture, egg, parmesan, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Using your hands, gently mix the ingredients, being careful not to overwork it. Shape meat mixture into balls, approximately 1 1/2 inches in size.
- In a large skillet set over medium heat, add olive oil. When oil is shiny and hot, add the meatballs. You may need to do more than one batch depending on the size of your skillet. You don't want to overcrowd the pan or they won't brown properly. Brown the meatballs on all sides, rotating every 2-3 minutes or so. Remove meatballs and place on a paper towel lined plate.
For the Sauce
- In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. When hot, add the onion and saute until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, basil, parsley, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Bring to a rolling simmer, then reduce to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add cooked meatballs and the parmesan, simmer for an additional 50 minutes, taking care to check that the sauce isn't burning or that the meatballs aren't sticking. Serve with cooked spaghetti or place or use for meatball subs.