If you're looking for the best meatball recipe, look no further! These homemade Italian meatballs are soft, tender & melt-in-your-mouth delicious! They're made with ground beef and breadcrumbs and then baked in the oven. Top with Parmesan cheese and Italian herbs for the best Italian meatballs! Easy to make, perfect with spaghetti, and great for Thanksgiving or Christmas!
The Best Italian Meatballs
These are hands down the best meatball recipe! These baked Italian meatballs are one of my go-to weeknight meals when I want something comforting and satisfying! They're all beef meatballs that remind me of traditional, old-school meatballs you'd get at an Italian restaurant.
- Tender and juicy - These easy beef meatballs are melt-in-your-mouth tender. They're incredible soft and tender and moist thanks to the breadcrumbs, milk, and Parmesan cheese.
- Easy and ready in under 30 minutes - Less than 10 minutes for prep and 20 minutes to bake in the oven. It can't get easier than this!
- Versatile recipe - You can use any combination of ground beef, pork, or sausage. Add any herbs you have on hand, fresh or dried! There's also countless ways to serve these beef meatballs!
- Easy cleanup - This is a one bowl recipe that makes it simple to prepare! Baked meatballs also mean no splatter or pan frying involved!
- Make ahead and freeze - You can pre-bake and freeze these meatballs up to 2 months in advance. It's great for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other holiday since it can be prepped ahead of time. They reheat very well and stay moist and juicy!
These homemade meatballs can be simmered in tomato sauce and served as spaghetti and meatballs or with gravy over mashed potatoes. You can even make them into Swedish meatballs with a creamy gravy or add them to soup!
Ingredients for Homemade Italian Meatballs
- Ground beef - I used 85% lean ground beef. Feel free to substitute half with ground pork or Italian sausage.
- Breadcrumbs - When mixed with milk, breadcrumbs make your meatballs moist, tender, and juicy! I recommend using plain breadcrumbs as opposed to using seasoned Italian breadcrumbs. Pre-seasoned breadcrumbs have varying degrees of sodium and some are actually quite salty which can over-season your meatballs.
- Parmesan cheese - Use freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the best flavor. The cheese adds a rich, savory flavor to these meatballs.
- Italian herbs - Use fresh herbs if available. I used chopped Italian parsley and basil. Feel free to use dried herbs as well.
- Milk - Milk is used to moisten the breadcrumbs and keep the meatballs juicy and moist. I used whole milk but you can substitute with any kind of milk or broth.
- Egg - Egg is used as a binder to keep the meatball mixture intact. I used one large egg.
- Garlic & Onions - Finely mincing or grating the garlic and onions will save you time from sautéing them. They should cook up nicely and soften in the oven as the meatballs cook.
How to make Homemade Italian meatballs
- Add ground beef and other ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix together until well combined. Avoid over-mixing as it can result in tough meatballs.
- Divide and shape each meatballs into round spheres. Use a cookie scoop for consistent sizes then roll into round meatballs. Wet your hands with water or oil to prevent sticking. Place them about 1 inch apart on a lined cookie sheet. I used a 3 Tablespoon cookie scoop for this recipe.
- Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until fully cooked. The internal temperature should be 160 degrees F for fully cooked beef meatballs or 165 degrees F for fully cooked pork, chicken, or turkey meatballs.
- The meatballs should be golden brown on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Add them to any Italian dish, pasta, spaghetti, sandwich, or serve on its own!
Expert Tips for the Best Meatballs
- Use freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the best meatballs.
- Avoid pre-seasoned Italian breadcrumbs as the salt content varies and they can be too salty. Instead, make your own by combining plain breadcrumbs with herbs and grated cheese.
- Use fresh herbs if possible - Italian parsley, basil, rosemary, and oregano are great options.
- Use a cookie scoop for consistent sizes. I used a 3 tablespoon scoop for large meatballs.
Make ahead and freeze
You can make ahead and freeze these Italian meatballs for later recipes. Place in an airtight, freezer safe container and freeze for up to 2 months in the freezer. It helps to separate them so they don't stick together.
These are great for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other holiday since meatballs can be prepared in advance.
To reheat pre-baked frozen meatballs, simply place them on a baking tray and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until fully heated through, about 13 to 17 minutes.
If pre-baked but not frozen, reheat in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven until fully heated through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Or you can simply use the microwave.
- Spicy Italian meatballs - Add crushed red pepper flakes to the mixture.
- Turkey or chicken meatballs - Use any combination of ground turkey or chicken. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
- Pan Fried Italian meatballs - You can opt to pan fry in a large pan with vegetable oil. Flip and rotate the meatballs until it's browned on all sides and fully cooked.
- Meatballs simmered in sauce - Add the baked Italian meatballs to simmer in tomato sauce for 5 to 10 minutes to add more flavor.
What to serve with meatballs:
- Spaghetti and meatballs or any pasta dish!
- Italian soups
- Serve with gravy over mashed potatoes
- Make meatball sandwiches
- Glaze with bbq sauce or sweet and sour sauce
- Make into Swedish meatballs
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Please share, rate, or comment below. I'd love to hear from you!
Thanks so much for stopping by! 🧡 -Jamie
Italian Meatballs - Tender and Juicy
- 1⅓ lb ground beef - see Note 1
- ⅔ cup breadcrumbs - see Note 2
- ⅞ cup milk - or broth
- ½ cup onion - finely minced or grated
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese - see Note 3
- 2 Tablespoons fresh Italian herbs - chopped; See Note 4
- 3 cloves garlic - finely minced
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
Optional herbs & spices
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes - for spicy Italian meatballs
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Add the milk and breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl and stir until the milk is absorbed. Then add the remaining ingredients (including any optional spices) and mix well until combined.1⅓ lb ground beef, ⅔ cup breadcrumbs, ⅞ cup milk, ½ cup onion, ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese, 2 Tablespoons fresh Italian herbs, 3 cloves garlic, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon sea salt, ½ teaspoon pepper
- Roll the mixture into 2 inch diameter meatballs and lay them on a lined baking tray. Wet your hands with water or oil to prevent sticking. See Note 5 for consistent sizing.
- Bake in a preheated 400°F oven until fully cooked, about 18 to 20 minutes depending on size. The internal temperature for beef meatballs should be 160°F. If you mixed in ground pork, chicken, or turkey, the internal temperature should be 165°F.
- Serve with your favorite tomato sauce and spaghetti, with gravy, or any other dish. Enjoy!
✎ Recipe Notes
- Ground meat - I used 85% lean ground beef. You can also use a combination of beef, pork, or sausage.
- Breadcrumbs - I recommend plain, unseasoned breadcrumbs. Pre-seasoned Italian breadcrumbs contain varying amounts of sodium and some are quite salty. Check the nutrition label if using Italian breadcrumbs and adjust the salt accordingly.
- Parmesan cheese - I highly recommend using freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the best flavor.
- Italian herbs - I used fresh Italian parsley and basil. Substitute 2 Tablespoons of fresh herbs for 2 teaspoons of dried herbs.
- Use a cookie scoop for consistent sizes. I used a 3 Tablespoon scoop for large sized meatballs. It makes about 16 meatballs.
*Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools.
Meatballs are fully cooked when the internal temperature is 160 degrees F for beef meatballs or 165 degrees F for pork, chicken, or turkey meatballs.
Both options result in tender, juicy meatballs but I find baking to be easier, more convenient, and healthier. Baking also results in even cooking as the meatballs heat evenly in the oven.
On the other hand, pan frying meatballs can result in a browner, crispier crust which creates a richer flavor. However, it requires constant watch and flipping for even cooking.
This post was originally published in 11/10/21. It was updated with more content on 12/6/22.