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Learn all our tips and tricks to make the best Baked Italian-Style Meatballs.
A Freezer-Friendly Big-Batch Italian Meatball Recipe
If you’ve ever struggled to make a delicious Italian-style meatball – today’s recipe is for you! With all our tips and tricks, you’ll be making tender, moist and super flavorful meatballs that rival the ones served at your favorite Italian restaurants.
My husband Jack grew up in a big Italian family, and this recipe is how his grandmother used to make meatballs for their Sunday supper – so you know these meatballs are going to be good!
Our Baked Italian-Style Meatball recipe is a “big-batch” recipe – enough for you to make Spaghetti and Meatballs with our quick Italian Tomato Sauce for dinner, Meatball Parmesan, Meatball Lasagna, or Meatball Subs. Then, freeze the rest in portion-sized bags, and you’ll have delicious Italian meatballs anytime the craving strikes.
Why you’ll love Baked Italian-Style Meatballs
- A combination of three different ground meats, cheese, bread, onions, garlic, and seasonings in every meatball is a very delicious bite!
- Using milk-soaked bread instead of breadcrumbs yields a super tender meatball.
- Baking the meatballs in one big batch is quick and easy.
- You can serve these tender, tasty meatballs in a variety of Italian-inspired recipes – and they are delicious eaten plain too.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Meat – We use a combination of ground beef, ground pork, and ground veal – the combination of these three meats gives great flavor and texture to the meatballs. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to find ground veal at the supermarket. You can try asking the butcher if they have it, or we buy veal stew meat and grind* it ourselves at home. Or – just use more ground beef.
- Yellow Onion
- Fresh Garlic
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Bread – Choose a dense bread such a sour dough, country loaf, or a French baguette and cut off the crusts.
- Milk – Whole milk or a lower fat milk to soak the bread. If you are not able to have dairy, you can use water instead.
- Parmesan Cheese
- Seasonings & Spice – Kosher salt, ground black pepper, dry oregano, dry basil, and fresh flat leaf parsley.
*To grind your own meat at home, you’ll need a meat grinder. If you happen to have a Kitchen Aid mixer, we recommend this food grinder attachment. It’s powerful enough to handle grinding meat for this recipe or for homemade sausages, but we’ve also used it to grind up bread to make homemade breadcrumbs, make cauliflower rice, and more.
Special Tools Needed
- Various Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Cutting Board and Sharp Knife
- Large Bowl – To mix meatball mixture.
- 2 Medium Bowls – To soak the bread in milk and to strain it.
- Medium Strainer
- Grater for Parmesan cheese
- Sauté Pan
- Sheet Tray lined with Foil
- 1-ounce Scoop – To portion your meatballs
- Non–Stick Cooking Spray
A note about portions
As written, this recipe makes 85 to 90 smaller (one ounce) meatballs.
You can, of course, make larger meatballs if you prefer. Just note that the cooking time in the recipe below will vary depending on the size – larger meatballs will take longer to cook. Use a probe thermometer to tell when your meatballs are cooked through – remove the meatballs from the oven when they reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees F.
How do I make Baked Italian-Style Meatballs?
- Combine beef, pork, and veal in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Set aside to cool.
- Remove crust from bread, then cut into small cubes.
- Soak bread cubes in milk.
- Add eggs, cooled onion mixture, grated Parmesan, seasonings, and spices to the bowl with the ground meat.
- Pour soaked bread into strainer over a second bowl to drain. Use your hands to squeeze out as much milk as possible from the bread, then add it to the large bowl with the meat mixture. (You should have about a cup of strained milk in the second bowl after squeezing out the bread. This will be used to dip your scoop later when forming the meatballs.)
- Combine all ingredients in the big bowl by gently combining with your fingertips. Try not to over mix as that can cause the meatballs to become very dense.
- Scoop out about 85-90 one-ounce meatballs onto your cutting board or countertop. Dip the scoop in the drained milk as needed to stop the meatballs from sticking to the scoop.
- Roll each meatball between your two palms and line up on a foil lined sheet tray that has been sprayed with kitchen pan spray.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes.
- Once cooled, use in any recipe calling for meatballs or freeze in quart zipper seal bags for later use.
Italian Meatball Cooking Options
- Since this is a big-batch Italian-Style Meatball recipe – making about seven dozen or so – we found it easiest to bake the meatballs in the oven on a sheet tray. (Line the sheet tray with foil to prevent sticking and for easy cleanup.) Just note that this method will NOT yield meatballs that are browned on the outsides. The baked meatballs are super tender and moist throughout.
- If you prefer, you can fry these meatballs in oil in batches in a large skillet until cooked through. Follow this recipe – the finished meatballs will be browned and seared on the outside, but still tender and juicy on the inside. This method is particularly good if you are making a smaller batch, plus the seared outside adds a bit of flavor.
- Some Italian families cook their meatballs right in their sauce and the released juices as the meatballs cook adds extra flavor to the sauce. We don’t typically do this ourselves, but you certainly can! Just make sure that your meatballs are well-formed and firm before carefully dropping them in your sauce. Plus, we suggest using a leaner ground beef, if possible, so that the sauce doesn’t get too greasy from the rendered beef fat.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I make Italian Style Meatballs ahead of time? Yes, these meatballs can be made in advance.
- How do I store leftovers? Refrigerate for up to three days, or freeze in zipper seal bags.
- How do I reheat leftovers? Heat in soups, sauces, or in the microwave. If using the microwave, just avoid too high of a heat and avoid overheating.
- Can I freeze? Yes, we recommend freezing in smaller portion zipper seal bags with as much air squeezed out as possible. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
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1 1/2 pounds ground beef (80/20)
1 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal or increase beef to 2 pounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 loaf dense bread such as a baguette, country loaf or sour dough
2 cups milk (any fat content)
3 whole eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dry basil, or half that of fresh
1 1/2 teaspoons dry oregano, or half that of fresh
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Place the three ground meats into a large bowl and set aside.
- In a medium sauté pan, cook onions in the olive oil for three minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute then remove from heat to cool.
- Cut the crust off the bread and cut the bread into small cubes. Finished trimmed bread should be eight ounces or about 4 ½ cups.
- Place the bread into a medium bowl and pour all the milk over. Push the bread down into the milk to soak.
- While the bread soaks, add the eggs, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley, and the Parmesan cheese to the large bowl with the ground meats.
- Pour the soaked bread into a strainer over another bowl to drain. Grab handfuls of the wet bread and squeeze out as much of the milk as possible then add to the meat mixture. Continue until all the bread has been squeezed and added to the bowl. Do not discard the milk, there should be about one cup left which you will use to wet the scoop when portioning out the meatballs.
- Lastly, add the cooled cooked onion mixture including the oil to the large bowl.
- Gently combine the ingredients with a large wooden spoon or firm spatula or with gloved hands. Do not overmix or the meatballs will be tough.
- Turn the oven on to 375 degrees F.
- Line a sheet tray with foil and spray with kitchen pan spray.
- Use a one-ounce scoop and scoop out between 85 and 90 meatballs onto your cutting board or counter, dipping the scoop in the milk to keep the mixture from sticking to the scoop.
- Use two hands and roll each meatball round between your palms, keeping your hands wet with the milk in the bowl.
- Line up the rolled meatballs onto the sheet tray and spray the top with additional kitchen pan spray.
- Bake for 20 minutes, remove and cool.
- Use in any recipe calling for meatballs or freeze in individual quart zipper seal bags.
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If frying the meatballs instead of baking, fry in batches over medium high heat, rolling meatballs around the saute pan to brown all sides. You will need additional olive oil for this method. To make this process easier and to help maintain the meatballs’ round shape, refrigerate the rolled meatballs for an hour to firm up before frying. No need to refrigerate if baking.