Recipe: Italian Meatballs

Growing up and probably always, spaghetti and meatballs has been on the top of the list of favorite foods.  I remember helping my parents roll trays of meatballs when I was a kid, which is an activity that I have taken with me into my adult life.  This dish is super nostalgic for me, but also just generally great, and after making this dish last week, I felt the need to share my basic recipe for meatballs.

I have this recipe memorized and use a similar formula any time I make them.  As long as you have some ground meat, milk, eggs, bread, and cheese – you can make meatballs.  I almost exclusively make these with ground beef, but a sub for ground turkey, pork, veal, or even Beyond or Impossible “meat” could work for a plant-based option.  I actually prefer the pre-seasoned breadcrumbs that come from the grocery store because they are nice and fine, salty, and have some herbs in there as well, but you can make your own breadcrumbs or sub in for panko if that’s what you have.  Onions and herbs can be fresh or dried, and I’ve made these with other hard cheeses instead of parmesan or pecorino (aged cheddar or aged gouda will totally work in a pinch).

My family has always been on team “bake on a tray” before consuming.  I’ve seen meatballs added raw into a big pot of sauce to poach directly in the sauce (not to yuck other people’s yums, but ew), or pan-fried before adding to the sauce.  I stand by the baking method for a few reasons:

  1. You can roll out your whole batch onto 1-2 sheet trays and essentially cook them all at the same time in a hot oven.  Huge meal prep win if you want to make a lot and freeze.
  2. Oven cooking is hands off cooking – you can use that 20 minutes of free time to clean up or check in on your social media feeds.
  3. The oven gives you thoroughly browned bottoms with great caramelization where the meatball is in contact with the baking pan, and a fully brown exterior everywhere else.
    1. I also don’t feel that it’s necessary to flip them half-way through cooking, but to each their own (Mom).
    1. This browning will also add extra flavor to your sauce – which you would never get by adding raw meatballs to the sauce!
  4. There is absolutely nothing better than a meatball fresh out of the oven.  No sauce.  No extra seasoning.  Just a perfectly cooked through, nicely browned meatball.  One of life’s simple joys, friends.

So, if you succeeded in scoring some ground beef during your panic buying adventures, make some meatballs!  Classic feel good food, that can be served with pasta, on a sandwich (I love a meatball sub), or just straight out of the oven.  Make my Tomato Sauce from Scratch to go along with it if you have all day or need a fun cooking project between your conference calls!

Recipe down below, picture up top!

Italian Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ onion, diced fine
    • Sub with 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
    • Sub with dried parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped fine
    • Sub with dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix thoroughly to combine.  I usually use my hands for this step (it’s fun and easier), but a spoon will work if that’s too gross!
    1. Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture seems too wet.  Mixture should be very moist but able to hold together well.
  2. Portion into balls about 2 inches in diameter.  You can use a scoop (1 or 1.5 oz would be good sizes) to portion the meatball mixture evenly.  Make sure to roll each ball as you scoop to ensure that the meatball is fully intact.
  3. Prepare a sheet tray with a layer of foil, followed by a tablespoon of olive oil.  Spread the olive oil out evenly to grease the bottom of the pan fully.
  4. Line the meatballs up on the pan, with at least a ½ inch of space between each meatball to ensure even heat distribution in the oven.
  5. Bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes, until fully golden brown and crispy on the bottom, and the meat is fully cooked through in the center.
  6. Add to tomato sauce or enjoy on their own! 

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