The BEST Italian Meatballs

4.87 from 46 votes
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posted: 04/05/20

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy
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This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

These are the BEST Italian Meatballs! My Italian grandmother’s recipe, the word perfect doesn’t even begin to cover it. Check out the reviews on this recipe, your family will be sure to fall in love.

a close up of 6 meatballs on red sauce on spaghetti with fresh parsley as a garnish

This recipe for classic Italian meatballs is one of my favorites on my whole blog. Out of all the recipes I’ve posted, I am in love with this one perhaps most of all.

It is my grandmother’s recipe and just the pictures alone are enough for me to conjure up memories of sneaking meatballs out of the serving bowl before it was time for lunch.

My grandmother’s recipe, filled with her restless love, is the absolute best and I think the reviews on it back that claim up perfectly.

HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN MEATBALLS

Grandma started her amazing meatballs by soaking some Italian bread in cold water. Some simple white Italian sandwich bread works perfect.

Other recipes instruct you to soak the bread in milk. I tried that and it messed with the flavor. I’m sure Grandma did water because they were pinching pennies and milk has never been cheaper than water, but I really think it’s the way to go.

WHY SOAK YOUR BREAD IN WATER

I’ve since learned this:

When bread is soaked in liquid, it releases the gluten. The gluten wants to bond to a portion. When soaked in water it bonds with the protein in the meat, keeping the flavors of the meat in the meatball. This makes for a delicious meatball! When soaked in milk, it bonds with the protein in the milk instead.

Choose water!

overhead view of a clear glass bowl filled with meat, eggs, soaked bread, fresh parsley, and breadcrumbs to make Italian meatballs

MEATBALL INGREDIENTS

Besides the soaked Italian bread, we have some other delicious and important ingredients:

  • Ground Beef
  • Ground Pork (see notes below)
  • Eggs
  • Soaked Bread (that has been well squeezed)
  • Breadcrumbs (yes, you need bread and breadcrumbs)
  • Parmesan
  • Garlic Salt
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Fresh Parsley

USING GROUND PORK

It is really important to the flavor of the recipe that you use both ground beef and ground pork. If you use just one or the other, you won’t get the right taste.

Pro Tip! If you are only able to find a 1 pound package of ground pork, divide it in half and freeze the other half. It will freeze well for up to three months.

Though I bet you will make these again sooner than that.

close up of a parchment lined baking sheet where a cookie scooper has formed six Italian meatballs before baking

COMBINE INGREDIENTS AND SCOOP

I always use clean hands to mix up the meatball ingredients. You want to mix until they are just combined. No need to over mix.

After that I like to use a cookie scoop to make my meatballs. There are two reasons for this:

  1. It creates uniform meatballs, so they bake evenly.
  2. It’s a lot faster than pulling out meat for the meatballs by hand.

This is the cookie scoop I have. I love it.

a white bowl filled with spaghetti and topped with red sauce and five Italian meatballs

THREE DIFFERENT WAYS TO COOK ITALIAN MEATBALLS

There are three different ways you can cook your meatball recipe. They all come with their pluses and draw backs, so find the one that works for you. I’m going to start with the one that is in the recipe you can print.

COOKING METHOD ONE

  1. Put all of the rolled out meatballs on a cookie cooling rack and put that rack on a baking sheet that is lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Bake the meatballs in a 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until a meatball in the middle of the pan is cooked through.

Pro: It is clean and easy.  

Con:  You don’t get those crispy outside edges.

COOKING METHOD TWO

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and then fill it about a half of an inch full of extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Heat the oil and then brown the meatballs in batches, turning them after about two minutes.
  4. Transfer them to a baking sheet and finish cooking (about 10 minutes) in the oven.

Pro:  You get the crispy outside edges without deep frying them.

Con:  You have a two step process and that’s annoying.

COOKING METHOD THREE

  1. Fill your cast iron skillet almost an inch full of extra virgin olive oil and heat.
  2. Cook the meatballs in batches (about 10 around the outer edge).
  3. Cook for three minutes and then flip, cooking the second side for an additional two minutes.
  4. Transfer to a paper towel lined sheet.
  5. And then serve or keep warm in a covered baking dish in an oven set at very low heat.

If you cut into them immediately after removing from the oil they won’t be cooked, there is some carry over cooking that happens on the plate. You can put your mind at ease by using an instant read thermometer.

Pro:  They are ridiculously amazing with their crisp fried outer edge and their soft amazing inside.

Con:  It is very easy to over cook the outside while trying to get them cooked enough on the inside.

My grandma went with cooking method three, and she rocked it every single time. I loathe frying, so I always opt for cooking method number one. I skip the frying all together and bake them like in my Baked Turkey Meatballs.

HOW TO SERVE

Traditionally, Italians do not serve meatballs on top of spaghetti. Grandma put them in a big bowl in the middle of the table.

Even though Grandma served these on their own, but you can feel free to top your spaghetti with some homemade spaghetti sauce and then throw on these meatballs.

FREEZING

These meatballs do freeze well. Here’s how:

  1. After baking and cooling, place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  2. Put the baking sheet in the freezer.
  3. Flash freeze for 1 hour.
  4. Transfer the meatballs to an airtight container for up to three months.
The Italian Meatballs has a brown crispy outside and tops the red pasta.

WHAT TO SERVE THEM WITH

If you are making these for your family, here are some ideas of things that would help round out the meal.

My Zucchini Salad, has flavors that would compliment this well, and it’s very easy to make.

We almost always have Roasted Broccoli when we have meatballs.

Finally, I love this Arugula Salad Recipe so much, and it is super simple.

If you make this meatball recipe, I would be honored if you came back and let me know what you think. It’s such a treasured recipe.

4.87 from 46 votes

The BEST Italian Meatballs

Serves: 24 meatballs
(tap # to scale)
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
These are the BEST Italian Meatballs!  My Italian grandmother’s recipe, the word perfect doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground chuck 85/15
  • 1/2 lb ground pork (unseasoned) If you can only get a pound, save half in the freezer.
  • 2 eggs whisked
  • 4 slices of Italian bread 5 ounces
  • 1 cup bread crumbs I used Italian seasoned
  • 4 TBSP grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 2 TBSPs chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Soak the bread in cold water for about five minutes, ringing out the excess water and pulling the bread apart with your fingers.
  • Combine the meat, eggs, and parsley in a large bowl. Add the bread. Then add the dry bread crumbs, parmesan, garlic salt, and salt.
  • Using a cookie scoop scoop out the meatballs onto wax paper and then roll them into into consistent balls. Place them on a cookie cooling rack. Place that rack on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until you can cut into a meatball in the middle of the rack and not see pink.
Serving: 1meatball Calories: 111kcal (6%) Carbohydrates: 7g (2%) Protein: 5.4g (11%) Fat: 4.9g (8%) Saturated Fat: 1.8g (11%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g Cholesterol: 29.4mg (10%) Sodium: 262.8mg (11%) Potassium: 14.9mg Fiber: 0.5g (2%) Sugar: 0.4g Vitamin A: 54.5IU (1%) Vitamin C: 2mg (2%) Calcium: 24.5mg (2%) Iron: 0.7mg (4%)
Author: Lisa Longley

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The BEST Italian Meatballs

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Hi! I'm Lisa Longley, and I am committed to giving you simple dinner ideas and recipes that are easy to make; recipes that will fill your home with joy. I am the owner and author of SimpleJoy.com and I'm so glad that you are here.

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  1. Donna Maria Facinelli says

    4 stars
    Good recipe. But, my nonna used milk, real garlic, a bit of basil and, like everybody’s Italian nonna back in the day, she fried her meatballs (baking? What the…). You just can’t get that taste and crust from frying meatballs in olive oil. Since I don’t want nonna haunting me, I stick with her recipe.

    Good Italian meatballs are deceptively hard to get right. People think it looks easy (just meat and spices, right?) Ha! Get the texture wrong, or too much or not enough cheese, breadcrumb, etc, and you have meatballs that come apart in sauce or are as hard as hockey picks, with weird flavoring.

    So, all in all, well done. (Quit being lazy! Fry those meatballs and make your nonna proud)!

    • Lisa Longley says

      Ooo, not about being lazy at all. Just know that some people will run from a recipe that calls for frying and I want to be able to give them another option.

    • Amy says

      I fried mine then baked slow and they are melt in your mouth amazing! My Mom died and we never got her recipe so with some tweaking of this one, I finally got it! I know my Mom is proud of me :)

  2. Wheele says

    Do you remove the crust

    • Lisa Longley says

      No, I leave it on. It will combine smoothly with the rest of the bread

    • Amy says

      No just get as much water out as possible.

  3. Larry Gaines says

    Might try this with Italian sausage

    • Amy says

      I would just use the pork and season with Italian seasoning. They are amazing

  4. Amy says

    I’ve made these twice and they are amazing! The second time I added some Italian seasoning and used grated Parmesan because it was all I had and I made them smaller than the first go round. They were melt in your mouth delicious and exactly like my Moms that she made me every birthday. And I did use water when I soaked my bread and I browned them in a skillet in olive oil and transferred them to a cookie sheet with parchment paper. I’m so happy to find my Moms recipe. She died unexpectedly and we never got her recipe. These remind me of her so much!

    • Lisa Longley says

      Amy, this comment makes my week! Finding recipes that remind of us of loved ones – especially moms – are priceless. I also lost my mom and I regret not getting a lot of her recipes, but I truly treasure the ones I do have. Much love to you!

  5. Amy says

    5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe! It gave me my Moms meatballs back! I thought we lost them with her!!!

  6. Victoria says

    I found this recipe on Pinterest and WOW! It did NOT disappoint. Such a good crust such a good flavor. The only cheat I do is when recipes call for breadcrumbs I use stove top! Hahha don’t hate! It adds SO MUCH savory flavor!

    • Lisa Longley says

      I’m so happy to hear this Victoria! So glad you liked them (no hate!!) and I’m very grateful you took the time to come back and tell me.

  7. Christina says

    Can you use gluten free bread for this recipe? This looks really good and I would love to try it.

    • Lisa Longley says

      I think that would work fine, Christina, but I can’t say for sure because I haven’t tested it.

  8. Christina says

    I found this recipe about a year ago and ever since I made them the first time, my boyfriend requests them weekly. (Ugh, a lot of work) but they taste so close to my Nana’s that I lost the recipe for so I’m very grateful for your post and this recipe!!

    • Lisa Longley says

      I’m so happy to hear this, Christina! And I totally recommend doubling the recipe and freezing half the batch. Then you can just make them every other week ;)

  9. Joe says

    5 stars
    My meatballs came out amazing love the recipe

    • Lisa Longley says

      So glad to hear that, Joe!

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