I bake and freeze these tender, moist all-purpose Italian meatballs to have on hand for quick meals of spaghetti, subs or wedding soup. Admittedly, a few disappear before they hit the freezer.
This homemade meatball recipe is a combination of two recipes from Epicurious and Chef Ann Burrell plus tips from my wonderful Italian hair stylist, Nancy, who has been making amazing meatballs forever.
I use fresh white sandwich bread torn into bits (or ground in the processor) instead of breadcrumbs. Mashed with milk to make a panade, the texture of the meatballs becomes super soft and juicy. I also add sauteed onions and garlic for great flavor. Raw onions wouldn’t work well here because of the quick baking time. Finally, I prefer baking the meatballs instead of pan frying them. They don’t get quite as crusted (well, one side does as you can see in the pictures below) but you can bake the whole large batch in one go, it’s quicker, less clean up and no fry smell.
The great thing about make-ahead meatballs is having stock in the freezer to pull out for various dinner options when you’re feeling lazy or have no time to cook.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Nancy suggests using at least two types of ground meats – even three – such as veal, pork, chicken or beef. Use any combination you like.
- I kept the seasonings basic. Feel free to add 1-2 teaspoons Italian seasonings or Worcestershire if you like.
- Large meatballs, mini meatballs – any size goes. Just remember to adjust the cooking time.
- You can pan fry the meatballs if you prefer. If they are large, brown them on all sides, then slip them into a preheated 350F oven to finish cooking for about 10-15 minutes.
- You can omit the Parmesan cheese. Just reduce the milk a bit.
Meal Suggestions with Meatballs
- Simmer frozen or freshly made meatballs in a Marinara sauce for 20-30 minutes and serve over spaghetti as pictured below. Use a good bottled sauce or make our Simple San Marzano Tomato Sauce from scratch.
- Try these meatballs in our Zesty Wedding Soup (bit hit with our guests the other night)
- Use the meatballs in subs, stews, pasta casseroles (here’s a recipe from The Cooking Jar) or on pizza.
These shortcuts should reduce total time to less than 30 minutes.
- I use a processor to chop the onions, bread and parsley (one at a time).
- Use onion and garlic powder instead of sauteing fresh onions and garlic.
- Buy pre-grated fresh Parmesan cheese.
- Use 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs instead of the bread.
Make Ahead All Purpose Italian Meatballs
- Freeze cooked meatballs for 30-40 minutes in a single layer on a pan, then transfer them to a ziploc bag. They can be frozen for months. You can also freeze the uncooked meatballs the same way, then bake them when needed at 500F for 10-12 minutes from frozen.
- Cooked meatballs will also keep will in the fridge for several days.
Great All-Purpose Italian Meatballs Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, finely diced (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
- 3 lb ground beef, veal and/or pork (any combination)
Seasoning/Binding for Meat
- 3 slices white bread (to make 2 cups coarsely torn bread)
- 1 1/4 cup milk (or water)
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian (flat) parsley
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- PREHEAT OVEN to 500F. Line 2 pans (with 1 inch sides) with tin foil and spray with oil. I use one large and one smaller pan to fit side by side in my oven, but use whatever you have.
- PREPARE INGREDIENTS: Onion and parsley can be chopped with knife. Bread can be torn into small pieces by hand. Alternatively, use processor to first finely dice onion, then coarsely process bread, then finely mince parsley.
- SAUTE ONIONS AND GARLIC: Heat oil on medium high. Add onions and saute for 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent (not brown). Add garlic and saute another minute. Allow to cool while you continue.
- MAKE MEAT MIXTURE: In large bowl, add seasonings/bindings for meat (bread, milk, parsley, eggs, salt and Parmesan). Mix to combine well. Mixture will be mushy. Add ground meats, onion and garlic. Using clean hands, mix all ingredients together GENTLY. Don't overwork the meat. (I spread fingers on one hand, form a cup and use a twisting motion to mix). Wet hands (to avoid sticking) and lightly form balls about 1 1/2-2 inches diameter (or any size you like). I make about 60 balls. Lay on prepared pans 1/2 inch apart.
- BAKE MEATBALLS: Bake meatballs for 8-10 minutes, depending on size. If pans don't fit side by side, bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, rotating pans halfway through. Meatballs will be light on top and nicely browned on the bottom. If desired, turn meatballs over halfway through to brown more evenly. I don't bother.
Here are a few other ways to use the meatballs in a recipe:
Zesty Wedding Soup get the recipe
Paprikash Meatballs get the recipe
OK, even though this is not an Italian recipe, you can certainly use these meatballs (maybe minus the Parmesan cheese).