Juicy Baked Italian Meatball Recipe

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5 from 8 votes

Juicy meatballs don’t need to take hours to make! Baked in the oven for less cleanup, these classic Italian meatballs are ready in no time and will be the best you’ve ever had!

Secrets revealed! There’s a couple secrets to making the most delicious Italian meatballs. The first is grated onion. Grated onion isn’t just for flavor; it’s the best way to ensure your meatballs will be tender and juicy every time. The second trick is a blend of ground meat. Pork and beef create the perfect blend of flavors. Wondering whether lean or 80/20 beef is the best way to go? Choose 80/20 beef and regular, instead of lean, ground pork. That fat content adds SO much flavor and helps your meatballs stay juicy and tender when cooked. Finally, secret #3 is pancetta. If you haven’t had pancetta in Italian meatballs, your missing out. Toasted up in a pan, these meaty, salty, crispy bits will make the most memorable meatballs of all.

Not a red meat fan? These Chicken Meatballs are just as fabulous.

Watch Me Make This Italian Meatball Recipe

What You Need to Make Italian Meatballs

  • Ground beef – look for 80/20 ground beef, meaning 20% fat. Stay away from lean beef if possible, that will create tougher, drier meatballs.
  • Ground pork – stay away from very lean ground pork as well! A blend of beef and pork is classic in Italian meatball recipes.
  • Diced pancetta – diced pancetta is optional, but highly recommended! Pancetta adds pops of saltiness and meatiness that change the whole meatball game.
  • Italian cheese blend – an Italian cheese blend can be found in the pre-shredded, bagged cheese section of the grocery store. It includes cheeses like mozzarella, provolone, Romano, fontina, asiago, and parmesan.
  • Panko breadcrumbs – panko breadcrumbs bind the meatballs together. Stay away from regular breadcrumbs, if possible, that will make denser meatballs.
  • Yellow onion – grating a yellow onion is the key to juicy, tender meatballs every time! It’s a gamechanger!
  • Garlic – garlic adds flavor.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – olive oil adds moisture.
  • Italian seasoning – Italian seasoning is a blend of Italian herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram.  
  • Tomato paste – tomato paste adds a hint of tomato flavor, sweetness, and a touch of acidity.
  • Egg – a large egg binds everything together.
  • Fennel seeds – a dash of fennel seeds adds signature Italian flavor.
Italian meatballs recipe ingredients

How to Make Italian Meatballs, Step-by-Step

Learn how to make perfect, juicy Italian meatballs every time. Full instructions in the recipe card; this is an outline!

  1. Prep.

    Preheat oven to 400°F and grease a baking sheet.

  2. Crisp.

    Cook diced pancetta until crispy; transfer to a bowl.

  3. Grate.

    Grate yellow onion with juices, into the same bowl, using a cheese grater.

  4. Add.

    Combine cheese blend, panko, garlic, olive oil, Italian seasoning, tomato paste, egg, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper in the bowl.

  5. Mix.

    Add beef and pork, and mix until well combined but not overworked.

  6. Form.

    Shape ¼ cup-sized balls and place them on the baking sheet.

  7. Bake.

    Bake for 16-20 minutes until meatballs reach at least 165°F. Serve!Bake Italian meatballs until they register at least 165 degrees.

Tips & Tricks

  • Choose 80/20 ground beef and regular ground pork instead of the leaner options for the juiciest, most tender and flavorful Italian meatballs.
  • It’s okay if the meatballs register above 165 degrees; they won’t be dry.
  • While pancetta is optional, it is highly recommended! It adds SO much flavor and crispy bits of texture.
  • Fennel seeds are also optional but recommended for classic Italian flavor.
  • Look for an Italian cheese blend with the other pre-shredded cheeses in the grocery store.

Can You Make Italian Meatballs Ahead?

Yes, you can absolutely make Italian meatballs ahead of time! Once cooked, they last in the fridge for up to 4 days. Allow the meatballs to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Can You Freeze Italian Meatballs?

Yes, you can freeze Italian meatballs! Cook the meatballs as you normally would, allow them to cool completely, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze until solid, and then transfer the frozen meatballs to a container or bag for up to 3 months.

How Do You Reheat Italian Meatballs?

Reheat Italian meatballs in a 400-degree oven for 5-10 minutes until hot. You can also reheat them in a covered container in the microwave.

If you’re reheating frozen meatballs, I recommend the oven method! It will take 5-10 extra minutes to reheat them from frozen.

Serving Ideas

The classic way to serve Italian meatballs is as “spaghetti and meatballs”! Yum. If you’re looking for another way, here are some other ideas:

  • Sub sandwich: Make a meatball sub by placing them in a roll or Baguette and adding Tomato Sauce and melted mozzarella or provolone.
  • Appetizer: serve Italian meatballs as appetizers with toothpicks and dipping sauces like marinara, pesto, or garlic aioli.
  • Sliders: make sliders like these Ham and Cheese Sliders!
  • Pizza: use Italian meatballs as a pizza topping along with your favorite cheese and vegetables.
  • Bowl: serve meatballs in a bowl over grains like Risotto or quinoa, with some sautéed veggies and a drizzle of your favorite sauce.
  • Soup: add Italian meatballs to soup like minestrone or Chicken and Rice Soup.
  • Salad: top a salad with meatballs as a protein!

More Italian Recipes You’ll Love!

Juicy Baked Italian Meatball Recipe

Juicy meatballs don’t need to take hours to make! Baked in the oven for less cleanup, these classic Italian meatballs are ready in no time and will be the best you’ve ever had!
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: fall, spring, winter
Servings: 13 meatballs (roughly)
Calories: 165kcal

Equipment

  • Cheese grater

Ingredients

  • ½ pound cold ground beef 80/20 is best
  • ½ pound cold ground pork
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • ½ cup Italian cheese blend finely shredded works best
  • cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 small yellow onion peeled
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
  • In a dry pan, add the diced pancetta and cook over medium heat until just crispy. Remove the pancetta pieces from the pan with a slotted spoon, into a medium bowl.
  • Use the coarse setting of a cheese grater to grate yellow onion into the same bowl. Leave both the onion and its juices in the bowl.
  • Add the cheese blend, panko, garlic, olive oil, Italian seasoning, tomato paste, egg, fennel seeds, and salt and pepper to the bowl. Mix until incorporated.
  • Then add the beef and pork. Use your hands (best method) or two large spoons to mix together ingredients, until they’re well combined but not over-worked.
  • Form ¼ cup-sized balls and place meatballs about an inch apart on the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 16-20 minutes, until meatballs reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Serve with your favorite tomato sauce, or however you’d like!

Video

Notes

  • It’s okay if the meatballs register at a higher temperature; they won’t be dry.
  • While pancetta is optional, it is highly recommended! It adds SO much flavor; you won’t regret it.
  • Fennel seeds are also optional but recommended for classic Italian flavor.
  • Look for an Italian cheese blend with the other bagged, pre-shredded cheeses.
  • Stay away from lean beef and pork if possible, since some fat = flavor and juiciness!

Nutrition

Serving: 1meatball | Calories: 165kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 108mg | Potassium: 141mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.4g | Vitamin A: 36IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 1mg
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