Baked Italian Meatballs — Ready in just 30 minutes, these quick and EASY baked meatballs come out perfectly moist and tender every time! There’s no need to brown the meatballs before baking, which cuts back on dishes and saves time! These are the BEST Italian meatballs for spaghetti, subs, casseroles, and more!
Table of Contents
- Best Ever Baked Italian Meatballs
- Ingredients in Italian Meatballs
- How to Make Italian Meatballs in the Oven
- Make-Ahead Best Meatballs Instructions
- Tips for the Best Italian Baked Meatballs
- Italian Meatball Recipe FAQs
- Ways to Serve Italian Meatballs
- Side Dish Ideas for Meatballs
- Storage Instructions for Leftover Meatballs
- Baked Italian Meatballs Recipe
- More Easy Meatball Recipes:
Best Ever Baked Italian Meatballs
We’re mad for meatballs in my family. Whether the meatballs are coated in butter chicken sauce, honey garlic sauce, grape jelly and bbq sauce, or spaghetti sauce, they disappear from the dinner table almost instantly.
Somehow I hadn’t yet shared my recipe for classic Italian baked meatballs — better late than never, I suppose!
As the name suggests, Italian meatballs are seasoned with Italian seasoning (usually a mixture of dried herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, and rosemary) as well as fresh garlic and onion. I prefer using a blend of ground pork and ground beef when baking meatballs for both flavor and added moisture.
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese adds a subtle nutty, cheesy flavor to the meatballs while also helping the meat mixture stick and bind together. Italian breadcrumbs and an egg do the rest of the heavy lifting when it comes to binding the meatball mixture.
Baked Meatballs Are Quick and Easy
Rather than browning the meatballs in a skillet and then baking them, I skip the skillet and throw them straight into the oven. Browning the meatballs first might add a little extra flavor, but it makes a mess of my stovetop, dirties an extra pan, and takes up time that I don’t always have to spare.
Baking Italian meatballs at a high temperature works just as well, all while reducing the prep time.
The meatballs turn out perfectly moist, tender, and juicy every time and pair well with your favorite spaghetti recipe. Or, stuff the meatballs into a sub or sandwich, add to a pasta bake, or enjoy as is with marinara sauce!
Ingredients in Italian Meatballs
Homemade Italian meatballs require very few ingredients, most of which you likely have on hand:
- Milk (any kind)
- Italian breadcrumbs
- Ground pork
- Ground beef
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Cloves garlic
- Italian seasoning
- Large egg
- Salt and black pepper
- Fresh parsley
Note: Scroll down to the recipe card section of the post for the ingredients with amounts included and for more complete directions.
How to Make Italian Meatballs in the Oven
This is such an easy baked meatball recipe. Since the meatballs don’t have to be seared in a skillet before baking, the prep work is minimal!
Step 1: In a small bowl, combine the milk and breadcrumbs. Let sit for 2 minutes to soften.
Step 2: In a large bowl bowl, combine the ground beef and pork, Parmesan, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, egg, and salt. Add the breadcrumb mixture and stir to combine.
Step 3: Scoop out the mixture using a large cookie scoop or ice cream scoop (or ¼ cup measuring cup) on a prepared baking sheet. Use your hands to form the mixture into balls. You can lightly oil your hands with extra virgin olive oil or just water works, too.
Step 4: Place the meatballs onto a greased baking tray in a single layer and bake at 400ºF for 15 to 20 minutes and then serve up your cooked meatballs!
How Long Should You Bake Meatballs?
Large meatballs like these Italian meatballs (approx 3 to 4 tablespoons meat mixture per ball) need to bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 400ºF.
You’ll know the meatballs are done when they’re no longer pink inside, or a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the meatball reads 165ºF.
Make-Ahead Best Meatballs Instructions
Meatballs freeze well and can be made up to 3 months in advance. Isn’t that what all those store-bought convenience packages of frozen meatballs are!
I recommend baking the meatballs now and freezing them for later.
Although you can technically freeze meatballs raw, I think they freeze and reheat better when they’re cooked before being frozen.
Tips for the Best Italian Baked Meatballs
Use higher-fat ground meat. I prefer 80/20 lean ground beef and regular ground pork sausage. You need the meat to have some fat in it so the meatballs stay moist and tender without being greasy.
Soak the breadcrumbs in milk. The milk-soaked breadcrumbs help ensure every nook and cranny of the meatball stays moist and they act as a binder so the meatballs hold together. They also prevent the meatballs from shrinking in the oven.
Bring the ground beef and pork to room temp. You want the meat to be room temperature before baking the meatballs. This helps the meatballs cook evenly in the oven and will prevent the exterior from finishing before the interior and makes for overall really tender meatballs.
Don’t overmix the meat mixture. If you overwork or overmix the meatball mixture, you’ll end up with tough or dense baked meatballs. Mix the meat and seasonings together just until combined, and work as quickly as possible when shaping into balls.
Using fresh herbs? Replace the dried Italian seasoning with 2 teaspoons each of fresh rosemary, thyme, and basil.
Don’t be scared of salt. This recipe uses more than a pound of meat, ¾ cup milk, and ½ cup of Italian breadcrumbs. The herbs and spices in the recipe definitely do their part in flavoring the meatballs, but you need to use a full teaspoon of sea salt to ensure the meat mixture is seasoned properly.
Italian Meatball Recipe FAQs
I recommend using a mixture of ground beef and ground pork. Ground pork has a little extra fat in it and makes the meatballs more flavorful.
I prefer using 80/20 ground beef. Anything lower in fat will make the meatballs dry. For the pork, I typically use ground pork sausage. You can also use Italian sausage.
Technically yes. However, because both of those are lean white meat, your meatballs will not have as much flavor, they will be drier, they may not hold together quite as well, and they will likely bake up quicker.
If you choose to make substitutions, I would perhaps swap out the 1/3 pound ground pork with either ground turkey or ground chicken. Or perhaps half the amount of ground beef could be replaced. And then watch the baking time, since my hunch is that your turkey meatballs or chicken meatballs will bake quicker, although I haven’t personally tested it.
I use a large cookie scoop to form evenly sized Italian meatballs. The quick-release lever is a lifesaver because while a ¼ cup measuring cup also works, it’s not quite as easy.
Also if you’re using one, don’t fill the measuring cup quite all the way or else the meatballs will be too large. You may also try spraying the measuring cup with cooking spray so that the meatball mixture releases more easily.
Once you scoop out the meat mixture, wet your hands before forming the meatballs. This will prevent the meat mixture from sticking to them.
I use classic Italian bread crumbs. You can use ‘seasoned’ bread crumbs. There’s no need to make homemade fresh bread crumbs. And don’t use panko bread crumbs because they’re too crunchy.
When they’re no longer pink in the center, or a digital thermometer inserted in the center reads 165ºF internal temperature.
You can, but it’s not necessary the way this recipe is written and I don’t bother browning my meatballs in this easy meatball recipe before baking them.
Sure, browning the meatballs adds nice flavor, but I prefer baking them at a pretty high heat to caramelize the exterior. This saves me from having to flip a bunch of meatballs over a hot stove, and it reduces the amount of dishes I have to do!
I’ve made meatballs both ways and the honest answer is — it depends on how much time I have. A meatball is a meatball, and I like them cooked in a skillet or baked. Since these Italian meatballs are on the larger side, I prefer baking them. Baking Italian meatballs ensures they cook through evenly and means I don’t have to babysit them on the stovetop the whole time like I do with pan-frying.
I suggest baking meatballs at 400ºF for 15 to 20 minutes.
They should be in the oven for no more than 20 minutes (provided they’re about 3 tablepsoon each). If they’re still slightly pink inside, let them rest on the counter for 10 minutes before serving so the carryover heat from the oven has time to finish cooking them.
If your Italian baked meatballs are dry, it means you likely over cooked them.
To a lesser degree, perhaps you accidentally added too many breadcrumbs although overcooking is more likely the culprit.
That means you overworked the meat mixture. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to mix together the meat mixture and stop just as soon as it’s combined.
Then, scoop out the meat using a large cookie scoop and gently shape it into balls using your hands.
They’re either dry from being overcooked, or you didn’t soak the breadcrumbs in milk first. If you used an egg replacer instead of a real egg, that might also be the cause.
Nope! Bake them on a baking sheet uncovered so the exterior caramelizes.
Ways to Serve Italian Meatballs
These oven baked meatballs are so versatile and can be enjoyed in pastas, casseroles, and sandwiches. Here are some ways to enjoy them:
- In meatball subs
- In spaghetti and meatballs
- In pasta bakes
- In casseroles
- In sandwiches
- In sliders
- In soups
- With marinara sauce
Side Dish Ideas for Meatballs
Apart from the obvious choice of pasta, meatballs pair well with green salads, roasted vegetables, and crusty bread.
Here are some ideas for what to serve with baked meatballs:
- Apple, White Cheddar & Spinach Salad
- House Salad
- Fall Harvest Salad
- Cheesy Roasted Asparagus
- Mediterranean Cobb Salad
- Parmesan Balsamic Broccoli
- Cheesy Bread Rolls
- Garlic Cheese Flatbread
- Mashed Potatoes
Storage Instructions for Leftover Meatballs
Leftover baked meatballs will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer. Let the meatballs cool to room temperature before sealing in an airtight container.
Consider making a double batch to freeze for future dinners! Then all you have to do is thaw and use them.
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Baked Italian Meatballs
- ¾ cup milk, 2% or whole recommended, but any type is fine
- ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
- 1 pound ground beef, I use 80/20, 85% is fine too, but do not use extra-lean
- ⅓ pound ground pork
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup white or yellow onion, finely minced
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely minced for garnishing; optional
- Preheat oven to 400F and if desired for easier cleanup, line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray, or spray the baking sheet well; set aside.
- To a small bowl, add the milk, bread crumbs, stir and allow to stand for 2 minutes to soften the bread crumbs. Move on while you wait.
- To a large bowl, add the beef, pork, Parm, onions, garlic, Italian seasoning, egg, salt, pepper, add in the softened bread crumbs and any remaining milk from the small bowl, and using a large wooden spoon or clean hands, mix until just combined. Tip – Do not overmix or your finished meatballs will be tougher.
- Using a large cookie scoop (about 3 tablespoons), form equal sized meatballs. Tips – I make about 15 meatballs, but you may yield a few more or less. However, if you make them either much bigger or smaller than mine, you'll need to adjust the baking time. If you don't have a 3-tablespoon cookie scoop, you can use a 1/4-cup measure which is 4 tablespoons, but don't fill it quite fulll. If desired for easy removal, you may consider spraying the inside of the cup with cooking spray every after every few meatballs so they release more easily.
- Wet your hands and roll each one of the meatballs quickly between your palms, or until smooth and round.
- Place them on the baking sheet, about 1/2-inch apart, or simply equally spaced over the baking sheet and baked uncoverd for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until done. Meatballs are done when a thermometer inserted in the center reads 165F. Tips – Make sure to start checking your meatballs after 14-15 minutes, just in case yours are done a bit earlier than mine. You may consider rotating your baking sheet once midway through baking because even the best ovens bake a bit unevenly and those closest to the back of the oven will start browning a bit faster than those closest to the door.
- Optionally garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately. Extra meatballs will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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