These Baked Italian Meatballs will soon become your family’s very favorite spaghetti and meatball recipe! They have amazing flavor from the basil, garlic, parmesan, and extra virgin olive oil, and they are kept tender and juicy with a classic panade. All the tips and tricks included in this Italian Meatball recipe will have you feeling like an Italian Nonna in the kitchen!
Why These Are Literally The Best
- All the tips and tricks for the best Italian Meatballs are included in the recipe. = no fail!
- They are packed with flavor from the basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, bread, and extra virgin olive oil.
- The panade of bread and milk keeps your meatballs tender and juicy.
- The olive oil and cheese helps the outside brown just right in the oven.
- These are great meatballs to keep in the freezer when you are short on time for dinner.
Here are the ingredients that you need to make the Best Baked Italian Meatballs. Plus some pro tips on a few of the ingredients.
Make sure to pick a quality ground beef that has a good fat ratio- we like 85/15 or 90/10. This allows the beef to still have great flavor, but not be greasy.
Also choose a ground beef that is freshly ground (looks like ribbons in the package)- see photo above for reference.
You will be looking for ground pork here, not ground sausage. The ground pork is mild enough to mix perfectly with the beef, without taking over the flavor of the meatballs.
Don’t let me tell you how much garlic to put in your meatballs. You measure that with your heart<3 , although we find that 2-3 cloves is a good amount.
This is a tip straight from my Italian friend… use a coarse ground parmesan for your meatballs. It will give you little pockets of melted parm flavor throughout. Perfection!
Use a blender or food processor and pulse your fresh parmesan until it is a nice crumble. See photo for visual reference.
Use any bread you like. This is actually a great way to use up day old bread! We have found that a French loaf, Ciabatta, or sourdough are wonderful. Just make sure you discard the crust first.
What is a Panade
Using a panade for your Italian Meatballs is one of the secrets to getting really amazing texture and juiciness.
A panade is a mixture of a starch, usually bread, bread crumbs or crackers, and a liquid, usually broth or milk, to keep a meat mixture moist.
In this recipe we use a mixture of bread and milk. It is the perfect panade for Italian Meatballs.
Step by Step Picture Instructions
Start by making the panade of milk and the crustless, diced bread. With clean hands mix and mash the bread so it begins to break down into the milk. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. It should look like mush at this point.
Add the egg, coarse ground parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, dried basil, kosher salt and pepper. With a whisk or fork mix everything, making sure the egg gets mixed in completely.
Now add in the ground beef and pork. Again, with clean hands mix everything together. Making sure not to over process the meat. You want the meatballs to be light, not compact.
Let this mixture sit for another 5 mintues.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
About ¼ cup at a time, lightly pat the meat mixture into nice round meatballs. Placing each one on the parchment paper.
Pro Tip: Use a measuring cup or large ice cream scoop to portion your meatballs.
Pop them in a 400 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes. Until they are browning on the outside and reach 165 degree internal temperature.
There are two options for adding the marinara:
- Add your meatballs to a Dutch oven and cover with a 24 oz. bottle of marinara. Pop back in the oven, covered for 15 minutes.
- Or you can warm the marinara on the stove top while the meatballs cook. Stir the meatballs into the sauce once they come out of the oven.
These also make a wonderful Meatball Sub.
Or serve on top of creamy polenta with extra parmesan grated over top.
You can also serve them as a heavy appetizer with some warm ciabatta bread.
Making Ahead & Freezing
You can absolutely make these Italian Meatballs ahead and have them ready to bake in the fridge. They will be good in the fridge, raw, for 2-3 days.
They also are a great dinner to have ready in the freezer! Bake them as directed in the recipe below, cool completely and then place in the freezer. They will be good for 3 months in the freezer!
To use, thaw in the fridge overnight and then warm in a 400 degree oven, in marinara sauce, for about 15 minutes.
You can also pop frozen meatballs into marinara sauce and place in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or simmer over medium heat on the stove top. Cut one open first to make sure they are warmed through before serving.
Tips for Making the Best Italian Meatballs
- Good Beef – use a good quality beef, avoid buying beef that is compacted in a square package. Use a beef that is fresh ground and looks like “ribbons” in the package. Also use a lean ground beef that has a good ratio of fat to meat. We find that 85/15 or 90/10 are good ratios that still have good flavor but are not greasy.
- Panade – don’t skip the panade. It is what helps keep the meatballs tender juicy as they bake in the oven.
- Coarse Parmesan – I recommend using a coarse grate or chop on your parmesan cheese. This will allow little pockets of parm to melt into your meatballs (YUM). You can achieve the crumbly texture by pulsing your cheese in a blender or food processor.
- Do Not Overmix – you don’t want to overmix your meat into the panade mixture. This will result in an overly firm meatball. This is why we mix all the ingredients together before adding the meat.
- Roll Lightly – do not firmly roll your meatballs, use a light hand when forming. I like to use more of a patting action to form the meatball, then a rolling action. Again, you want light and tender meatballs, not heavy and compact.
- Measuring Cup or Cookie Scoop – I like to use a cookie scoop or measuring cup to portion out all my meatball mixture, then I form them into nice balls before baking.
- Wet Hands – lightly wetting your hands before forming your meatballs will help prevent the meat from sticking to your hands.
- No Pre-Browning – no need to brown your meatballs in a pan before heading to the oven. They will brown beautifully in the oven.
Baked Italian Meatball Recipe
- 1 lb up to 1.25 lbs. lean ground beef 85/15 or 90/10 are great ratios
- 1 lb ground pork
- 2 cups torn bread , crusts removed, see notes
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup coarsely ground parmesan cheese see notes
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2-3 plump garlic cloves minced ** see note
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 24 oz jarred marinara sauce (Rao's is a great brand)
- 1 lb. cooked pasta
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl combine the milk and bread. With clean hands mix/smash the two together so the bread breaks down and absorbs the milk. Let sit for about 5 minutes.
- Add the egg, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, dried basil, garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper. Stir with a fork or whisk to combine, making sure to break the egg down into the mixture.Pro Tip: give this mixture a big sniff… these are going to be some damn good meatballs!
- Add the beef and pork to the bread mixture. With clean hands stir and combine the meats and bread mixture.Pro Tip: make sure to not over mix the meat creating tough meatballs!
- Let the meatball mixture sit for another 5 minutes.
- Using a measuring cup or cookie scoop, portion about ¼ cup of the meatball mixture at a time and lightly roll/pat into a meatball. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet.Pro Tip: use wet hands when forming the meatballs, it will prevent all the meat from sticking to your hands!You will have around 20 meatballs (5 rows of 4)
- Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the meatballs are browning and are cooked through, reaching 165° internal temp.
- Remove the meatballs from the oven. There are two options when adding the marinara sauce for serving:1. Place the meatballs in a Dutch oven with the marinara sauce, and pop back in the oven for another 15 minutes, lid on.2. Warm the marinara on the stove top while the meatballs are baking. Stir the cooked meatballs into the sauce when they come out of the oven.
- Serve over cooked pasta. About 3-4 meatballs per person.
If nutrition facts are provided they are calculated as an estimate to the best of our knowledge.