Treat your family to spaghetti and meatballs tonight! These easy Italian meatballs are truly the best homemade meatballs ever. They're simple to prepare with basic ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen, and they're delicious on pasta, inside subs, or with a loaf of crusty garlic bread. You can't beat a classic family favorite!
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 meatballs 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!
Is it better to bake or fry meatballs?
Either method works! I like to bake my turkey meatballs because it's a tad bit healthier (no frying in oil) and it eliminates a few minutes of hands-on time in the skillet. A more traditional pan-fried method; however, seems like it's worth a little extra effort when I'm preparing classic Swedish meatballs or a perfect Italian meatball recipe.
Frying meatballs creates a crispy, browned exterior that adds texture to the meatballs, locks in juices, and gives the meatballs a ton of extra flavor. Finishing them in a warm pot of simmering marinara sauce keeps them nice and moist, while also marrying the flavors of the sauce and the meatballs together. You can't quite replicate these benefits when you bake meatballs in the oven.
Ingredients for Homemade Italian Meatballs
- Ground beef (or use a combination of ground beef, pork and veal)
- Italian style bread crumbs
- Parmesan cheese
- Parsley flakes
- Dried oregano
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade)
How to Make the Best Homemade Meatballs from Scratch
Don't be intimidated by the process of making your homemade meatballs from scratch. It's as easy as 1-2-3, and only requires about 20 minutes of hands-on time. They're perfect for a cozy Sunday supper, and they're a great make-ahead option if you'd like to stash them in the freezer for a busier day.
Step 1: Shape
Combine the meatball ingredients with your hands and shape into 2-inch balls.
Step 2: Fry
Fry in a skillet for about 5-7 minutes, or just until they're browned on all sides.
Step 3: Simmer
Finish cooking the meatballs in a pot of warm marinara sauce. Simmering the meatballs in the sauce for about 20-30 minutes will keep them tender and adds so much flavor to the dish!
What to Serve with Easy Homemade Meatballs
More Ways to Enjoy Meatballs
- Serve the meatballs and marinara sauce over zucchini noodles (instead of traditional spaghetti) for a lighter, veggie-packed meal.
- Tuck them inside these 5-Ingredient Meatball Subs;
- Use them in this Weeknight Meatball and Tortellini Soup;
- Stir them into a Dump-and-Bake Italian Meatball and Rice Casserole or into a Dump-and-Bake Meatball Casserole!
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, fry, and simmer! You can also freeze the raw meatballs to enjoy them at a later date (see the freezing instructions below).
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 Basic Homemade Meatballs
You can freeze the meatballs before or after cooking. To freeze raw meatballs that you'll fry 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.
To freeze cooked meatballs, you can pan-fry (as instructed in the recipe) or bake in the oven (those instructions are included below), 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.
Meatball Recipe Variations
- Double the Recipe. Using 1 lb. of meat yields about 16 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. You'll need to fry the meatballs in batches, since you won't be able to fit them all in a single layer in one skillet.
- Use other Meats. Just like meatloaf recipes often call for a blend of ground beef, pork and veal, you can do the same with this recipe. Purchase 1 lb. of "meatloaf mix" at the grocery store, or create your own blend of ground meats. This will give the meatballs even more flavor.
- Add more flavor with more herbs. Use fresh herbs when available, and include any of your favorites. Basil would also be a nice addition!
- Include ½ cup finely-minced fresh onion for moisture and flavor in the meatballs.
- Add crushed red pepper flakes for spicy meatballs.
How to Bake Meatballs in the Oven
While I prefer the crispy texture and the added flavor that you get from frying the meatballs, you can also prepare these homemade meatballs in the oven. If you'd like to bake your meatballs, arrange them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 425-degree F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a pot of warm sauce, then serve!
Tips for the Best Homemade Meatball Recipe
- Pick a ground meat with some fat in it. I like 85% lean ground beef, but any similar ground pork, beef, veal or lamb will work. The fat in the meat helps to keep the meatballs tender and juicy, so if you pick a lean meat like chicken or turkey, you'll need to watch the cooking time carefully to make sure that they don't dry out.
- 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!
- Use a high-quality store-bought marinara sauce (we love Rao's brand), or make your own quick recipe at home. The sauce is such an important component of spaghetti meatballs, so you want it to be the best!
More Homemade Meatballs to Try
- Aunt Bee's Swedish Meatballs
- Italian Baked Turkey Meatballs
- Porcupine Meatballs
- Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 1 lb. ground beef (or a combination of ground beef, pork, veal, etc.)
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic (about 1-2 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more, for frying
- 1 large jar (at least 24-35 oz) marinara sauce (or use homemade sauce)
- For serving: pasta of choice, cooked according to package directions
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley flakes, oregano, salt and pepper. Use your hands to gently mix. Shape the beef mixture into 2-inch balls.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until oil shimmers. Add the meatballs to the skillet (working in batches, if necessary) and brown on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Add more oil to the skillet, as needed, to prevent the meatballs from sticking. Remove meatballs from the skillet and drain on paper towels.
- Warm marinara sauce in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the meatballs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes (or until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink). If the sauce starts to get too thick as it simmers, you can cover at any point.