I guess you could say I was spoiled when it came to food while I was growing up. My family on my mom’s side is pretty Italian. We always had amazing food, and an infinite stock of pecorino cheese.
That’s probably why I tend to be a food snob when it comes to Italian food – especially in a Midwestern community where good Italian food is hard to come by. The hardest thing to find around here is a good meatball.
Things get even more complicated when you add a dairy restriction to the mix.
Why I love this baked meatball recipe
My original recipe for meatballs called for day-old bread soaked in milk and mixed with herbs and grated cheese. It was one of those “just add the spices and stuff until it smells right” type of recipes for which I eventually nailed down measurements.
Since we’ve can’t use milk or cheese anymore, I’ve simplified the recipe, and opted for seasoned breadcrumbs and egg as a binder. I honestly don’t think you can tell the difference. They taste like authentic Italian meatballs to me, but its been a while since I’ve had a meatball with cheese in it.
Even if you aren’t dairy free, this baked meatball recipe is great because it’s easy and doesn’t require any day-old bread. I can usually whip up a big batch in about 15 minutes, and they hold up really well in the freezer.
Here’s what you’ll need to make these easy meatballs
What meat is used for meatballs?
For this easy meatball recipe, I used a mixture of ground beef and ground pork. You can easily use all beef, but you will lose a bit of the flavor. Veal is also a great alternative to pork – it’s actually more authentic – but it’s harder to find and a bit more expensive.
How to make baked meatballs
Combine your ingredients. Add the meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Use your hands (or a fork) to mix them together.
You want the mixture to look uniform, but you want to be careful not to overwork the meat.
Then I start rolling them all into balls. This helps keep the scoop from getting super dirty, and I think it’s a little more efficient.
Bake the meatballs. Place you meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 400˚F for about 20 minutes.
If you’re going to simmer then in sauce after, you can remove the meatballs at around 15 minutes. Just be sure to check the temperature for doneness after simmering.
Meatballs and gravy
Once my homemade meatballs are fully cooked, I like to make a double batch of my favorite marinara sauce (you can use whatever sauce is your favorite). Then I drop the baked meatballs into the sauce and simmer it for as long as I can.
This is an optional step, and I don’t always do it. It infuses the sauce with the flavor of the meatballs. My mom even takes it a step further and adds pork spare ribs to the gravy that eventually fall off the bone and add so much flavor and texture, but I personally think its a little too much work.
The recipe does make a decent amount of meatballs, but if we have any left over we either make meatball sandwiches or freeze them. Same goes for the sauce (if you make a double batch) because you will have enough to make at least two pounds of spaghetti.
Tips for this baked meatball recipe – how to make the best meatballs ever
- Don’t use super lean meat. I recommend using beef that is about 80 – 85% lean and a fattier ground pork
- Keep your meatballs cold. This helps prevent the fat from breaking down right away in the oven and keeps the moisture in your meatballs.
- Don’t over mix your meat. If you do, you’ll end up with tough little nuggets rather than tender meatballs.
- Wet your hands to prevent the mixture from sticking to you when you’re rolling your meatballs.
- Roll your meatballs gently. If you squeeze too tight or roll for too long, you’ll end up with tough meatballs.
FAQs about making meatballs
What temperature should I bake meatballs?
Meatballs should be cooked at 400˚F. This temperature cooks them fairly quickly and still gives them a chance to get browned. They should only take about 15 – 20 minutes.
What temperature should meatballs be cooked to?
Meatballs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165˚F. You should be able to take them out of the oven at about 155˚F and let them finish cooking as they rest.
If you’re transferring your meatballs to sauce, it’s totally fine if they’re not completely cooked when you do so. Just use a meat thermometer to check the temperature after they’ve been simmering for a while.
Do you turn meatballs when baking?
I don’t normally turn my meatballs when baking them, but you may need to depending on your oven. If you know your oven is hotter on one side than the other, try turning the pan halfway through. No need to rotate the actual meatballs.
Why are my meatballs tough?
Most likely, you over mixed your meatballs. It can be tempting to get them perfectly mixed and round, but don’t give in to the temptation. A quick mix and a gentle roll are all you need for this baked meatball recipe.Print
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 400˚F (200˚C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper,
- In a large bowl, mix ingredients with your hands until evenly combined.
- Roll mixture into 2 inch meatballs and place onto your baking sheet.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until meatballs have reached an internal temperature of 165˚F.
- Remove from oven and allow meatballs to rest or transfer to a pot with marinara sauce.
To make this recipe gluten free, swap the Panko breadcrumbs for a gluten free version.
- Category: Mains
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: 3 meatballs
- Calories: 0
- Sugar: 0 g
- Sodium: 0 mg
- Fat: 0 g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 0 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 0 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: easy, dairy free
Published: April 4, 2019. Updated: April 2, 2022.
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