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These easy baked meatballs are perfect for busy weeknights! Instead of standing at the stove to pan-fry meatballs in batches, you can pop them right into the oven for just 10 minutes. Whip up a made-from-scratch marinara sauce while the meatballs bake, and dinner is ready! Serve the baked Italian meatballs on their own with crusty bread, tossed with spaghetti, or stuffed inside sub rolls.

Close overhead image of a spoon in a skillet of oven baked meatballs with sauce

How to Make Baked Meatballs | 2-Minute Video

Oven Baked Meatballs

This is truly the best oven baked meatballs recipe! They’re simple to prepare with basic ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen; they’re hands-off and don’t require babysitting at the stovetop; and they’re delicious on pasta, inside subs, or with a loaf of crusty garlic bread. You can’t beat a classic family favorite!

I’ve provided instructions for a homemade marinara sauce here, but you can even skip that step and serve the meatballs on their own (no sauce!), or just toss them with a jar of your favorite store-bought sauce (we love Rao’s brand). They’re versatile, quick, and even freezer-friendly!

Should you brown meatballs before baking?

Browning or frying meatballs in a skillet adds color, flavor and a seared texture to the outside — but it’s definitely not necessary! Sometimes we just don’t have the time or energy for that extra step, and baking meatballs is also healthier. Since you’re adding these meatballs to a pan of sauce at the end, and since they’re already loaded with so much great flavor, no one will ever know that you took a little shortcut!

Close up front shot of a spoon in a pan of Italian baked meatballs

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a batch of oven baked meatballs. As always, specific measurements and complete step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Ground “meatloaf mix”: a combination of ground beef, ground pork and ground veal. See my suggestions below for substitutions.
  • Italian-style bread crumbs: these seasoned bread crumbs act as a binder to hold the meatballs together.
  • Egg: gives the meatballs structure.
  • Milk: combines with the breadcrumbs to create a “panade,” which acts as a binding agent and (more importantly) prevents the meatballs from drying out. The milk activates the starch in the breadcrumbs to form a gel. This behaves similarly to a fat by lubricating the meat’s protein fibers and preventing them from becoming tough.
  • Parmesan cheese: for rich, salty, cheesy flavor in the meatballs.
  • Basil, parsley and oregano: classic herbs that give the meatballs and sauce great Italian flavor.
  • Salt: enhances the other flavors in the dish.
  • Garlic powder and pepper: even more flavor!
  • Olive oil: to cook the onion for the sauce.
  • Onion and garlic: a savory flavor base for the sauce.
  • Tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce: the base of the marinara.
  • Water: to thin the sauce.
  • Brown sugar: balances the acidity in the tomatoes and gives the sauce a deeper, more complex flavor.
  • Italian seasoning: for even more Italian flavor in the sauce.

How to Make Baked Meatballs in Sauce

Skip the frozen package of prepared meatballs, because this post offers a step-by-step guide and a few helpful tips to show you how to make baked meatballs in the oven from scratch in just minutes. Tender and light on the inside, and touched with subtle notes of Italian herbs, garlic and Parmesan, the easy meatball recipe comes out perfectly every time. A hearty, cozy, and delicious supper is just minutes away — and it will make you the hero at the table!

  1. Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Chill the meat mixture for 1 hour, if time allows. This will make it easier to roll them out.
  3. Roll the meat mixture into 1 ½-inch balls.
  4. Bake the meatballs in a 425°F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F.
  5. While the meatballs bake, simmer the marinara sauce on the stovetop.
  6. Add the baked meatballs to the sauce and cook for 2-3 more minutes. This will give the meatballs a chance to absorb some of the flavors from the sauce, bringing the whole dish together!
Meatball mixture in a large bowl
Process shot showing how to make baked meatballs in oven
Homemade marinara sauce in a skillet
Baked meatballs in sauce in a skillet
Square image of baked Italian meatballs in a cast iron skillet

What to Serve with Tasty Baked Meatballs

Baking meatballs gives you an easy and versatile dish. Here are a few easy meal ideas that take advantage of the meatballs:

Make Ahead

You can shape the meatballs, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you need a quick dinner, just pull them out and pop them into the oven! You can also freeze the raw meatballs to enjoy them at a later date (see the freezing instructions below).

Storage

Leftover meatballs will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat on the stovetop over low heat or in the microwave, just until warmed through.

How to Freeze Easy Baked Meatballs

You can freeze the meatballs before or after cooking. To freeze raw meatballs that you’ll bake later, arrange the raw meatballs on a baking sheet, freeze until solid, and then transfer to a large Ziploc freezer bag. Freezing them on the baking sheet first will prevent the meatballs from sticking together or falling apart. You will need to add a few extra minutes to the total baking time if you’re baking the meatballs directly from the freezer.

To freeze cooked meatballs, bake as instructed in the recipe, cool to room temperature, and then freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. When the meatballs are frozen, transfer to a Ziploc freezer bag. The meatballs will last in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Overhead shot of a pan of the best baked meatball recipe with a side of Parmesan cheese and homemade sauce

Recipe Variations When Baking Meatballs

  • Double the Recipe. Using 1 lb. of meat yields about 21 meatballs. If you’d like to prepare a larger batch to feed a group or to save leftovers in the freezer for another meal, just double all of the ingredients.
  • Use other Meats. I prefer the “meatloaf mix” because the blend of three different types of meat yields meatballs with so much flavor! That said, you can substitute with a 50/50 blend of ground beef and ground pork, or use all ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, Italian sausage, or ground pork. Just make sure that the meat totals 1 lb. and is about 85% lean. If using chicken or turkey, cook the meatballs to an internal temperature of 165°F instead of 160°F.
  • Instead of preparing the marinara sauce shown here, take a shortcut and toss the meatballs in a jar of your favorite store-bought sauce (we like Rao’s brand).
  • Include ½ cup finely-minced or grated fresh onion for moisture and flavor in the meatballs.
  • Add crushed red pepper flakes for spicy meatballs.

Tips for the Best Italian Baked Meatballs Recipe

  • Combine the meatball mixture with your hands — not with a wooden spoon. The more gentle you can be, the more light and tender your meatballs will stay. Don’t overmix, or you’ll end up with tough, dense, and dry meatballs.
  • If you have some extra time, chill the meatball mixture for at least 1 hour before shaping. I don’t always do this (it’s not necessary), but it does make the shaping easier if the mixture is more firm.
  • A cookie dough scoop helps form even meatballs that cook in about the same amount of time. Scoop, roll gently in your hands, and then bake!
  • Coat your hands with a little bit of olive oil periodically as you’re shaping the meatballs. The oil prevents the meat from sticking to your hands, and also helps the outside of the meatballs brown when they’re in the oven.
Close up overhead shot of baked meatballs in a cast iron skillet

More Easy Meatball Recipes to Try

Close overhead image of a spoon in a skillet of oven baked meatballs with sauce

Baked Meatballs

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Chilling Time (optional) 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 4 – 6 people (about 21 meatballs total)
Calories 385 kcal
These easy baked meatballs in homemade marinara sauce are perfect for busy weeknights!

Ingredients
  

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 lb. ground “meatloaf mix” (a combination of ground beef, pork and veal) (see my note below for substitutions)
  • ¼ cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or sub with ½ teaspoon dried basil)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (reduce to 1 tablespoon for a less-sweet sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Optional, for serving: cooked pasta, bread, additional fresh herbs, additional Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Make the Meatballs:

  • In a large bowl, use your hands or a fork to gently combine all of the meatball ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. If time allows, cover the bowl and chill for about 1 hour (this is optional, but will make the meatballs easier to shape).

Bake the Meatballs:

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Use a scoop to shape the meat mixture into 1 ½-inch balls. Tip: rub your hands with a little bit of oil to prevent the meatballs from sticking. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Make the Sauce:

  • While the meatballs bake in the oven, prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste; cook and stir for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, brown sugar, parsley, basil, salt, Italian seasoning and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper or sugar, if necessary.
  • Add baked meatballs to the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 more minutes so that the meatballs can absorb the flavors from the sauce.

Video

Notes

  • Double the Recipe. Using 1 lb. of meat yields about 21 meatballs. If you’d like to prepare a larger batch to feed a group or to save leftovers in the freezer for another meal, just double all of the ingredients.
  • Use other Meats. I prefer the “meatloaf mix” because the blend of three different types of meat yields meatballs with so much flavor! That said, you can substitute with a 50/50 blend of ground beef and ground pork, use all ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork. Just make sure that the meat totals 1 lb. and is about 85% lean. If using chicken or turkey, cook the meatballs to an internal temperature of 165°F instead of 160°F.
  • Instead of preparing the marinara sauce shown here, take a shortcut and toss the meatballs in a jar of your favorite store-bought sauce (we like Rao’s brand).
  • Include ½ cup finely-minced fresh onion for moisture and flavor in the meatballs.
  • Add crushed red pepper flakes for spicy meatballs.
  • Combine the meatball mixture with your hands — not with a wooden spoon. The more gentle you can be, the more light and tender your meatballs will stay. Don’t overmix, or you’ll end up with tough, dense, and dry meatballs.
  • If you have some extra time, chill the meatball mixture for at least 1 hour before shaping. I don’t always do this (it’s not necessary), but it does make the shaping easier if the mixture is more firm.
  • A cookie dough scoop helps form even meatballs that cook in about the same amount of time. Scoop, roll gently in your hands, and then fry!
  • Coat your hands with a little bit of olive oil periodically as you’re shaping the meatballs. The oil prevents the meat from sticking to your hands, and also helps the outside of the meatballs brown when they’re in the oven.

Nutrition

Serving: 4meatballs and 1/5 of the sauceCalories: 385kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 30gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 1862mgPotassium: 1213mgFiber: 7gSugar: 17gVitamin A: 1666IUVitamin C: 34mgCalcium: 187mgIron: 7mg
Keyword: baked meatballs, easy meatballs, homemade meatballs, italian meatballs
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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