These easy oven-baked Italian meatballs are incredibly tender and juicy with irresistible flavors that will have you craving for more. Made with ground beef, onion, garlic, parmesan cheese, and parsley, these meatballs are seasoned to perfection and ready to be served in just 30 minutes!
The best Italian meatballs in the comfort of your home!
One of my favorite indulgences growing up was a plate of spaghetti and meatballs served at our small local Italian restaurant, which I still reminisce about to this day.
There’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of meatballs in marinara sauce served over spaghetti noodles, and coupled with a side of garlic bread, it was the perfect meal that I always daydreamed about.
The meatballs served at the restaurant were particularly larger in size and so unbelievably tender that every bite of the meatballs practically melted in your mouth, and it was truly one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
At the beginning of my cooking journey, I would often resort to buying frozen meatballs from the store to complement my quick weeknight meals.
It wasn’t until when I started to make them at home that I realized how easy they actually are to make, and how insanely delicious they are when made from scratch.
Although there are countless different methods to make meatballs, I personally wanted to share the best Italian meatball recipe I have developed over many sessions of trial & error.
These flavorful baked Italian meatballs are so tender that they practically melt in your mouth, and pair perfectly with a bed of pasta or in a scrumptious sandwich, to make up for the ultimate comfort meal to brighten your day.
What do I need to make melt-in-your-mouth Italian meatballs?
This Italian meatballs recipe calls for simple ingredients that are easily found in your fridge and pantry, hence why they are often my go-to for my emergency meals. Here is everything you’ll need:
- Ground beef: This recipe calls for all ground beef, but please feel free to add in a half ratio of pork, sausage, or veal if you prefer. Using fresh (not previously frozen) meat will produce the best results.
- Italian breadcrumbs: Many recipes call for day-old bread or plain bread crumbs, but I found that using seasoned breadcrumbs adds wonderful flavors to the mix all without the extra effort.
- Milk: I recommend using milk instead of water to soak the breadcrumbs, as whole milk adds more flavor and rich moisture than using plain water.
- This milk-and-bread paste is called a panade which is commonly incorporated into ground meats to keep them extra tender and moist during the cooking process.
- Based on your dietary preference, you can also use almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, or low-sodium beef broth to soak the breadcrumbs instead.
- Egg: Adds extra moisture to the meatballs, and acts as a core component to bind the mixture together.
- Parmesan cheese: Adds heavenly, cheesy flavor to the meat mixture. I recommend using fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano for the best authentic flavor. I like to use my handy box grater to get the job done quickly & seamlessly.
- Onion & garlic: Many recipes call for sautéing these ingredients, but I personally find that so long as these aromatics are finely chopped, they blend in just perfectly to the mixture.
- Parsley: I highly recommend using fresh herbs, but if you don’t have them on hand, using dried parsley will work as well (for 1 tbsp of fresh herbs, use 1 tsp of the dried alternative).
- Salt + pepper: to season the overall mixture.
Tips & tricks to make the best homemade meatballs
Use as many fresh ingredients as possible.
Freshly packaged ground beef, fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh onion and garlic (instead of powders), and fresh parsley will work best with this meatballs recipe.
Although it may not seem necessary, using high quality ingredients will produce the most flavorful results.
Try not to use super lean meat that has a low-fat percentage.
The fat is a core component in making the beef meatballs tender and juicy, in the same fashion as hamburger patties. I recommend using beef that is 80-85% lean to make the best meatballs.
Instead, mix them with your hands or a spatula until just combined. Overworking the mixture will result in tough meatballs.
Use a large cookie scoop or ice cream scoop to portion the meatballs.
Making equal-sized meatballs will ensure they are cooked evenly in the oven, and using a trigger release scoop also makes the overall process a lot easier. This recipe will yield about 12 large meatballs.
Wet your hands & gently roll your meatballs.
Working with damp hands will prevent the mixture from sticking all over your fingers, allowing you to work quickly with each meatball.
I also suggest gently molding the meatballs with enough pressure to hold them in place, as squeezing them too tight will result in dense meatballs.
For large-sized meatballs, they will take about 15-20 minutes at 400°F (200°C) depending on your oven.
Meatballs are done when they are golden-brown on the outside and register 165°F (74°C) in the middle on an instant-read thermometer.
If you are planning to serve them in marinara or cream sauce, I recommend simmering them lightly for about 15-20 minutes to release the flavors into the sauce, but not so long that they become too dry and overcooked.
Can you prepare meatballs ahead of time?
Baked Italian meatballs make for great make-ahead dinners and meal prep as they store well in the fridge or freezer. This recipe can also be easily doubled or tripled to be made in advance.
To freeze your meatballs, simply cook them as per regular instructions, and let them cool completely before storing them in an airtight container. They will be good for up to 3 months in the freezer.
How do you reheat frozen meatballs?
To serve make-ahead meatballs, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and reheat them in sauce or in the oven for about 8-10 minutes at 350°F.
If you are in a time crunch, you can also microwave them on high for about 2-3 minutes or until they are fully heated through.
What to serve with meatballs
These Italian meatballs are also incredibly versatile and can be served in many different ways.
Some of my favorite ways to serve these gems are with spaghetti (highly recommend using a homemade sauce or a four-cheese sauce), in a meatball sub loaded with mozzarella cheese, as a topping on homemade pizza, or drenched in a savory cream sauce with some mashed potatoes.
The possibilities are truly endless, so please feel free to be creative with this!
In any way that they are served, these homemade Italian meatballs make for an excellent option for dinner, and one that the whole family can enjoy.
Can you make these meatballs in the air fryer?
Definitely! As pan-frying is not required for this recipe, you can certainly use an air fryer instead of an oven to cook your meatballs, without making any special adjustments to the recipe.
Especially for busy weekdays, using an air fryer can be an absolute lifesaver as it significantly reduces the cooking time and does not require any preheating in most cases.
To cook your meatballs in the air fryer, place them in a single layer in the air fryer basket, and cook them for 10-12 minutes at 400ºF (200°C) or until they reach an internal temperature of 165˚F (74°C).
Whichever cooking option you decide to go with, I promise you that this may be the best Italian meatball recipe you’ll have ever tried, all without the extra effort!
This is one of my most cherished recipes to date and one that has been highly requested on the blog, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. ツ
I hope you enjoy this easy & delicious meatballs recipe, and as usual, please feel free to leave a comment below or message me on Instagram with any questions you may have. Happy cooking everyone!
Other easy Dinner recipes you may like:
- Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce
- Spicy Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta
- 10-Minute Air Fryer Garlic Bread
- 15-Minute Garlic Shrimp Spaghetti
- The Best Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Melt-In-Your-Mouth Italian Meatballs
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.
- In a large mixing bowl, add Italian bread crumbs and milk. Combine well and set aside while preparing the other ingredients, for at least 5 minutes.
- Add ground beef, onion, garlic, egg, salt, black pepper, parmesan cheese, and parsley to the breadcrumb mixture, and mix with your hands until just combined. Do not overmix.
- Portion onto the prepared baking sheet (using a cookie or ice cream scoop will make it easier). Wet your hands with water, and roll meatballs into 2" diameter balls.
- Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the meatballs have reached an internal temperature of 165˚F (74°C). Remove from oven and drain off any excess fat. Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy!
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