This is hands down the best meatball recipe you will ever try! Made with the perfect blend of seasonings and baked using a special technique, these Baked Italian Meatballs are crispy on the outside, yet tender and juicy on the inside.
The Best Baked Meatball Recipe
You may think your great aunt or your grandma made the best meatballs. And while I am sure they are delicious, I am not afraid to state that my recipe is the best.
I know that is a bold claim but after one bite, I think you will agree.
Not only are these meatballs packed with incredible flavor using everyday ingredients, but the texture is perfection. They are tender and juice on the inside, yet crispy on the outside.
My secret to making the best meatballs comes down to how these meatballs are baked.
Instead of frying the meatballs, they are baked at a high temperature, which allows the outside to crisp up, as though they were fried. But to keep the meatballs tender and moist, they are baked in a bath of beef broth. I know that sounds crazy, but it works wonders! The meatballs absorb the broth while they bake, keeping them from drying out, as they crisp up.
After trying this recipe, you will have no need to ever follow another meatball recipe again. Seriously, these baked meatballs are PERFECTION!
Notes on Key Ingredients
The lineup of ingredients to make flavorful Italian meatballs is extensive, but most of the ingredients are staples you will find already stocked in your pantry.
- Ground Meat: I personally recommend using 90% lean ground beef for the best results. However, ground pork, veal, sausage, turkey, or chicken Just stay between a fat content of 10-20% regardless of the type of meat you use, as higher fat content than 20% would result in greasy meatballs and a lower fat content than 10% may result in dried out meatballs.
- Breadcrumbs: Use either plain bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs. Panko bread crumbs will keep the meatballs a bit lighter in texture than traditional bread crumbs.
- Dried Herbs: I use lots of dried oregano and red pepper flakes to add serious flavor to these oven-baked meatballs. The amounts are NOT typos!
- Parmesan Cheese: Be sure to use freshly grated cheese instead of pre-grated. There is NO comparison in the taste between fresh parmesan and the stuff you find in a jar.
- Beef Broth: Beef broth is one of my secret ingredients in these meatballs. The beef broth gives a rich flavor to the meatballs and is my secret to steaming these meatballs while they bake.
How to Make Baked Meatballs
This recipe for Baked Italian Meatballs is super easy to follow. That said, I broke down each step, sharing key tips, that will help you yield perfect meatballs.
Step One: Prepare the Meatball Mixture
It is really important to handle the meat as little as possible when making meatballs to ensure the meatballs do not become tough.
The best way to ensure that the meat is not overworked is to first combine the spices and binders together. You don't have to worry about overmixing, so really be sure to mix the ingredients together until well combined. This helps the flavor be evenly distributed in the meatballs.
Once everything is nice and combined, it is time to add the meat. Use your hands, wooden spoon, or spatula to gently incorporate the ingredients until everything is just evenly distributed throughout the meat.
Remember that the goal is to handle the meat as little as possible. If you were to mix vigorously or for a long period of time, the meat will be overworked, which can result in tough meatballs.
Step Two: Shape
It is critical that all your meatballs are the same size so that they bake up evenly.
Using either a tablespoon measuring spoon or a small cookie scoop, scoop out about 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture and then gently roll into a circle to shape. Place the prepared meatballs onto a lightly greased rimmed sheet pan.
Step Three: Bake
Now for my secret tip that will change how you bake meatballs forever! Essentially, we are going to steam the meatballs in broth in a really hot oven. The process is quite simple, yet produces phenomenal results.
Once the meatballs are shaped, pour additional beef stock around the meatballs and bake in a 450-degree F oven until the broth has evaporated and the meat is cooked through.
These meatballs are so flavorful, that you can enjoy them plain. However, they will also be delicious served in any of the following suggested ways.
- Italian Baked Meatballs are the perfect choice for a classic Spaghetti and Meatball dinner. Simply serve the meatballs on top of cooked spaghetti with a generous topping of homemade spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese.
- Use the meatballs as a base for hearty Meatball Subs.
- These meatballs are also featured in my recipe for Italian Wedding Soup--so good!
- Toss the meatballs in a barbecue sauce or a mixture of cocktail sauce and grape jelly, for a flavorful appetizer.
Storage & Reheating Instructions
Allow any leftover meatballs to cool to room temperature. Then place them into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Alternatively, you can freeze the baked meatballs for up to 3 months. To freeze meatballs, prepare as directed, Once cooled to room temperature, place the meatballs onto a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. This will take about 30 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to an airtight, freezer-safe container and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Reheat frozen meatballs by either simmering them in spaghetti sauce for 20-25 minutes or baking them at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, until warmed through.
- For gluten-free meatballs, I would suggest using an equal amount of gluten-free oats in place of breadcrumbs. I have done this quite often with success.
- I use a LOT of kosher salt in this recipe because I use plain, unseasoned bread crumbs and low sodium beef broth. If you are using regular beef broth, seasoned breadcrumbs, or Italian sausage in your meatball mixture, decrease the salt to 1 teaspoon.
- If you are egg-free, omit the egg and add in a flax egg. Egg-free meatballs will work but are much more apt to fall apart if not carefully handled, so work with a gentle touch.
- Milk is a classic ingredient in meatballs, but feel free to use additional beef broth in place of the milk. Just cut back on the salt by ¼ teaspoon.
If you are looking for a detailed step-by-step video, be sure to check out my YouTube video for Baked Meatballs.
More Variations on Meatballs
- Lentil Meatballs: Looking to cut out the meat? You will love these vegetarian meatballs.
- Instant Pot Meatballs: My classic recipe for meatballs made in the Instant Pot. Perfect for those days it is too hot to turn the oven on.
- Turkey Swedish Meatballs: These Swedish meatballs are so much better than IKEA's famous meatballs.
Need more inspiration for planning meals that your family will love? Sign up for my FREE Meal Plans and each week you will get a meal plan with a shopping list.
I can't wait for you to try out this meatball recipe--I truly believe it is the best! And I would love for you to leave a comment letting me know how much you enjoyed this recipe.
Baked Italian Meatballs
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup milk any fat percentage works
- 1 cup beef broth DIVIDED
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ tablespoon kosher salt see notes
- ½ tablespoon pepper
- 1 tsp oregano
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 pounds ground beef
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a baking sheet with rimmed edges with nonstick spray.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, milk, egg, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, and ¼ cup of the beef broth. Mix until well combined.
- Add the meat to the mixture and just combine. Do not over mix, but be sure seasonings are well dispersed.
- Scoop out about 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture, using a tablespoon measuring spoon or medium cookie scoop, and then gently shape into 1-inch meatballs. Place the meatballs onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Pour the remaining ¾ cup beef broth around meatballs, it is okay if the broth does not fully cover the pan.
- Bake the meatballs for 22-25 minutes, or until the broth is evaporated and the meatballs are browned.