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A bowl of Italian meatballs and spaghetti on a wooden tray with fresh parley, thyme and wine in the background.

Italian Meatballs (How to Bake, Fry Or Poach)


  • Author: Amanda McGrory-Dixon
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: About 30 meatballs 1x

Description

We're about to get cozy here with a big bowl of comfort food. Juicy, plump and full of flavor, these Italian meatballs slowly simmer in a rich homemade tomato sauce until they're perfectly tender. For the ultimate convenience, you can make these meatballs in advance for easy entertaining and choose among three different cooking methods to suit your personal taste.


Ingredients

Scale

For Homemade Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 (6)-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup chianti, optional
3-4 (28)-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (see note)
10 fresh thyme sprigs
5 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 fresh oregano sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

For Italian Meatballs
1 cup soft bread crumbs, torn from white sandwich bread, no crust (see note)
1 cup heavy cream or milk
2 eggs
6 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, using the small holes of a box grater
1 cup grated onion, using the large holes of a box grater
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1 pound ground beef, preferably 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat
1 pound ground pork


Instructions

For Frying Italian Meatballs

  1. Before starting on our meatballs, we make our sauce, so it can get a head start simmering. Heat olive or canola oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft, about five to eight minutes. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste and chianti. Cook until the chianti is nearly fully reduced.
  3. Pour in the crushed tomatoes with the juice. Tie the thyme, rosemary and oregano together with kitchen twine. Add the bundled herbs with bay leaves and stir in salt and pepper. Mostly cover, leaving a crack open, and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and keep the heat as low as possible to maintain a simmer.
  4. Now we start on the meatballs. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and heavy cream or milk. Allow the bread crumbs to soak as you prepare the other ingredients.
  5. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the garlic cloves, Parmesan, onion, parsley, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and anchovy paste if using. Drain the bread crumbs in a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in the bread crumbs.
  6. Add the ground beef and pork. Using a gentle touch, stir with a wooden spoon to form one cohesive mixture. You could even use your hands to mix the ingredients together. Mix just until combined.
  7. Lightly oil your hands and form into balls slightly larger than the size of a golf ball. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. In batches, add meatballs without overcrowding the pan. Brown on one side and then roll over to the other side. Repeat until the meatballs are lightly browned on all sides.
  8. After frying, drop the fried meatballs directly into the simmering sauce. Simmer on low to medium-low heat about two hours, stirring occasionally. Try to be as gentle as possible when stirring. If you're in a hurry, you could simmer the meatballs for only 20 minutes, but two hours is best for optimal flavor and texture.
  9. After simmering for two hours, stir in the freshly chopped basil and turn off heat. Serve the meatballs with pasta or as a party appetizer. Enjoy!

For Baking Italian Meatballs

  1. Before starting on our meatballs, we make our sauce, so it can get a head start simmering. Heat olive or canola oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft, about five to eight minutes. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste and chianti. Cook until the chianti is nearly fully reduced.
  3. Pour in the crushed tomatoes with the juice. Tie the thyme, rosemary and oregano together with kitchen twine. Add the bundled herbs with bay leaves and stir in salt and pepper. Mostly cover, leaving a crack open, and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and keep the heat as low as possible to maintain a simmer.
  4. Now we start on the meatballs. Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and heavy cream or milk. Allow the bread crumbs to soak as you prepare the other ingredients.
  5. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the garlic cloves, Parmesan, onion, parsley, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and anchovy paste if using. Drain the bread crumbs in a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in the bread crumbs.
  6. Add the ground beef and pork. Using a gentle touch, stir with a wooden spoon to form one cohesive mixture. You could even use your hands to mix the ingredients together. Mix just until combined.
  7. Lightly oil your hands and form into balls slightly larger than the size of a golf ball. Place on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. After baking, drop the baked meatballs directly into the simmering sauce. Simmer on low to medium-low heat about two hours, stirring occasionally. Try to be as gentle as possible when stirring. If you're in a hurry, you could simmer the meatballs for only 20 minutes, but two hours is best for optimal flavor and texture.
  8. After simmering for two hours, stir in the freshly chopped basil and turn off heat. Serve the meatballs with pasta or as a party appetizer. Enjoy!

For Poaching Italian Meatballs

  1. Before starting on our meatballs, we make our sauce, so it can get a head start simmering. Heat olive or canola oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft, about five to eight minutes. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste and chianti. Cook until the chianti is nearly fully reduced.
  3. Pour in the crushed tomatoes with the juice. Tie the thyme, rosemary and oregano together with kitchen twine. Add the bundled herbs with bay leaves and stir in salt and pepper. Mostly cover, leaving a crack open, and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and keep the heat as low as possible to maintain a simmer.
  4. Now we start on the meatballs. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and heavy cream or milk. Allow the bread crumbs to soak as you prepare the other ingredients.
  5. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the garlic cloves, Parmesan, onion, parsley, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and anchovy paste if using. Drain the bread crumbs in a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in the bread crumbs.
  6. Add the ground beef and pork. Using a gentle touch, stir with a wooden spoon to form one cohesive mixture. You could even use your hands to mix the ingredients together. Mix just until combined.
  7. Lightly oil your hands and form into balls slightly larger than the size of a golf ball. Drop directly into the simmering sauce. Simmer on low to medium-low heat until cooked through, about two to three hours, stirring occasionally. Because they're going in without a crust, it's normal for a few meatballs to break up during the cooking process. Most meatballs will remain intact. Try to be as gentle as possible when stirring.
  8. After simmering for two hours, stir in the freshly chopped basil, remove the other herbs and turn off heat. Serve the meatballs with pasta or as a party appetizer. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Three 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes is technically enough to cover the meatballs, but if you like a lot of sauce, you may want to add a fourth can. This comes down to personal preference.
  • Getting 1 cup of soft bread crumbs should take about three to four slices of white sandwich bread. Use only the white part of the bread --- not the crust --- and tear into small pieces.
  • I find heavy cream adds a bit of decadence to the meatballs, but milk is a fine replacement.
  • You can make the meatball mixture or form into meatballs up to a day ahead. Just cover and store in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can store the cooked meatballs in sauce in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze in the sauce.
  • Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
  • Category: Main Dishes
  • Method: Stove-Top or Oven
  • Cuisine: Italian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 meatball
  • Calories: 70
  • Sodium: 249
  • Fat: 3
  • Saturated Fat: 0
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 4
  • Fiber: 0
  • Protein: 5
  • Cholesterol: 28

Keywords: Italian meatballs