This Best Baked Italian Meatballs recipe is freezer-friendly and can be served with spaghetti, as filling for a meatball sub, or used as a pizza topping!
About the recipe
A good meatball recipe is essential for any kitchen, in my opinion. We all need a good arsenal of ways to use ground meat because it really is so versatile!
I love to stock a variety of ground venison, beef, chicken, turkey, and Italian sausage in my freezer and will typically stock up when either variety is on sale. Whether it's burgers, tacos, spaghetti, pasta bakes, enchiladas, sliders, sauces, soups, or meatballs, there's potentially an endless amount of ways to use ground meats, and I'm here for them all!
My baked Italian meatball recipe features a healthy combination of lean ground beef flavored with a bit of Italian sausage. I love to add freshly-grated Parmesan, garlic, and herbs like parsley and basil for an explosion of flavor in every bite.
Sometimes I use pork Italian sausage, sometimes I use chicken or turkey. It just depends on what I have on hand. Keep reading for detailed instructions on how to make homemade meatballs, how to use them, variations, and tips for freezing them!
- Ground meats - I recommend a 2:1 ratio of 90/10 lean ground beef to Italian sausage, whether it be ground pork, chicken, or turkey sausage.
- Panko breadcrumbs - also known as Japanese-style breadcrumbs. These are a pantry staple in my kitchen that I always try to stock.
- Parmesan cheese - this type of cheese is low in lactose for those who are intolerant and is a great way to have umami flavor to meatballs.
- Fresh garlic - a head of garlic will keep for weeks in a dark pantry or inside a garlic keeping in the fridge. You can also use minced garlic.
- Fresh herbs - such as basil and parsley. These add such a vibrancy of flavor to meatballs and can reduce the need for added salt if you are following a low-sodium diet.
- Egg - a lightly-beaten egg acts as a binder for the other ingredients that will hold the meatballs together.
- Salt and pepper - coarse ground Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper are pantry staples I always try to keep stocked.
My favorite ground beef:
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- Mix the seasonings together first - when you mix together the cheese, garlic, herbs, egg, and seasonings together first, it helps them become well-incorporated before you add the meat and decreases the chance of overworking the meatballs.
- Use a gentle touch when mixing the meat with breadcrumbs and seasonings - meatballs that have been handled a bit too much can be dense and tough once baked, so try to be lighthanded when mixing and shaping them.
- If the meatballs seem dry, add a splash of whole milk - while not necessary, a splash of whole milk can add moisture and juiciness to meatballs made with lean beef and lean Italian turkey sausage.
- A digital thermometer is the best way to determine doneness - I always rely on my meat thermometer to prevent overcooking! If you use a combination of beef and pork, you will want to cook to an internal temperature of 155°F. Beef plus turkey/chicken Italian sausage will need to be cooked to 165°F.
- Easy meatballs for spaghetti - once the meatballs as baked, just add them to a hot skillet of simmering pasta sauce and stir them around for a minute or two to coat. Add the hot cooked spaghetti noodles to the skillet and serve!
- Meatballs subs - simply toss baked meatballs in a favorite sauce, like marinara, pesto, or even a good barbecue sauce and then serve on split and toasted sub rolls. Place some slices of provolone or mozzarella cheese on top, throw it under the broiler for a minute or two, and rejoice over cheesy meatball sub goodness!
- Meatball pizzas - making this Neapolitan-Style Meatball Pizza is my all-time favorite way to use these baked Italian meatballs. I will slice leftover cooked meatballs into thin rounds and use them to top the pizza. So easy!
- Add 1 cup of finely grated carrot to the mix to up the veggie content - you won't notice it!
- Add 6 ounces of finely chopped mushrooms to the meatballs mixture to add depth of flavor and moisture.
- Add 2 cups of wilted baby spinach and ½ cup of feta crumbles for an easy spinach feta version.
- Add a cube of cheese like mozzarella or cheddar to the center of each meatball as you shape them for a melty, cheesy stuffed meatball.
Storing and freezing
- Freeze unbaked meatballs on a tray lined with wax paper for 30 minutes. Transfer to an airtight freezer container or bag and freeze completely for up to 6 months.
- To reheat, place frozen meatballs in a slow cooker with sauce and heat on low for 3-4 hours until cooked through OR heat frozen meatballs in a simmering sauce on the stovetop for 30-45 minutes until cooked through to an internal temperature of 165℉.
- You can also thaw the meatballs in the fridge overnight and then bake as directed above in the oven.
Are you ready to make these Baked Italian Meatballs? Let me know how it turns out for you! Leave a comment and rate the recipe below. This will help me with the creation of future recipes! I’d also love to feature your creation in my monthly newsletter, so you can upload a photo to Instagram or Twitter with the tag @sweetcayenne5 to be featured!
Best Baked Italian Meatballs Recipe
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 whole cloves of garlic, grated finely on a microplane
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley (add a mixture of basil as well, if you like)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅔ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 pound 90/10 lean ground beef
- 8 ounces ground Italian sausage (pork, chicken or turkey)
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 400℉. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the cheese, garlic, egg, herbs, salt and pepper with a fork.
- Add the Panko breadcrumbs and the ground beef. Use clean hands to combine the ingredients thoroughly, being careful not to overmix.
- Carefully scoop and roll the meatballs into golf ball-sized balls (about 1 ½ inches thick); you should have about 12 meatballs.
- Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until cooked through (must register internal temperature of 155℉ for beef + pork and 165℉ for beef + poultry).
- Add cooked meatballs to a skillet of your favorite pasta sauce. Serve with pasta or on toasted sub rolls with melted cheese.
- Serve meatballs hot as an appetizer with a marinara sauce for dipping.
- Slice cooked meatballs into thin rounds and use as a pizza topping. Freezer instructions:
- Freeze unbaked meatballs on a tray lined with wax paper for 30 minutes. Transfer to an airtight freezer container or bag and freeze completely for up to 6 months. To reheat, place frozen meatballs in a slow cooker with sauce and heat on low for 3-4 hours until cooked through OR heat frozen meatballs in a simmering sauce on the stovetop for 30-45 minutes until cooked through to an internal temperature of 165℉. You can also thaw the meatballs in the fridge overnight and then bake as directed above in the oven.
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