Learn how to make the classic ground beef Italian meatballs from scratch that are tender, juicy, and delicious every time. The best quick ground beef recipe that is perfect for weeknight dinners.
Skip the frozen meatballs and make your own ground Italian beef meatballs with simple ingredients today!
Soft and Juicy Italian meatballs!
These homemade ground beef Italian meatballs taste better than store-bought and are very easy to make. They are so tender and juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside. They're also packed with flavors.
You can cook these meatballs in the oven or cook the meatballs in the air fryer. Whatever cooking method you choose, this meatball recipe will never fail you.
You can serve these Italian meatballs with spaghetti or bread.
Ingredients You'll Need to Make Melt-In-Your-Mouth Italian Meatballs
This Italian meatballs recipe uses a fresh blend of herbs and spices to add savory flavors to the meat. These meatballs pair well with any recipe from pasta, pizza, soup to party, and game-day appetizers.
Here's a list of ingredients that you'll need:
- Ground beef. I highly recommend using 80% lean ground beef to ensure that your meatballs stay moist and juicy. Feel free to use blends, such as ground beef with pork, and veal or use 90% or 93% lean if you want to limit your saturated fat intake.
- Egg. Use it as a binder to thicken, improve texture, and keep the dry mixture holding together.
- Milk. It's another binder agent. You are going to use milk for soaking the panko breadcrumbs for softer meatballs.
- Panko breadcrumbs. Panko and regular breadcrumbs can be used interchangeably in many recipes. However, I prefer panko breadcrumbs because it produces a lighter and crunchier texture than regular breadcrumbs. In addition, regular breadcrumbs tend to make meatballs a little tough.
- Yellow onion. Make sure that you grate or finely chop the onion. There is no need to cook the onion separately.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese. Buy a block of parmesan cheese and shred it with a grater. Do not use pre-shredded cheese because they contain preservatives like potato starch to keep them from clumping together. This anti-caking agent makes the cheese shreds don't melt together. As a result, the meatballs may turn grainy and gritty.
- Fennel seeds. A popular spice used in Italian cuisine. The flavor of fennel is slightly sweet and has a licorice-like taste. It's so subtle that it won't overwhelm the other ingredients.
The Easiest, Simplest Way to Make Soft and Juicy Meatballs
This comfort food is not complicated to make. The preparation and cooking process is pretty simple. Here are some cooking steps to follow:
Step 1. Soak the Breadcrumbs
Place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl then pour in the milk. Stir to combine, let the breadcrumbs absorb the milk and become soggy. This extra step is essential to prevent tough and dry meatballs.
Step 2. Stir in the egg and spices
Add egg, grated onion, garlic, parsley, herb, salt, black pepper, fennel, and cheese into the breadcrumb mixture. Whisk to combine.
Step 3. Add ground beef
Add the minced beef to the mixture. Use your hands to gently combine all ingredients.
Step 4. Roll the mixture into meatballs
Use a cookie scoop to grab some raw meat then gently roll between your hands to make perfectly-sized uniform meatballs so they cook evenly at the same rate. Place the meatballs on a prepared baking sheet. Allow sufficient space between the meatballs so they do not touch each other.
Step 5. Bake in the oven at 450°F
Bake the meatballs for about 10 minutes or until browned and cooked through. The internal temperature should register at 165°F.
Or, alternatively, you can cook these meatballs in an air fryer.
How to Cook Meatballs in an Air Fryer:
Step 1. Preheat an air fryer at 350°F.
Step 2. Place half of the meatballs in the basket, cook for 8 minutes.
Step 3. Shake the basket, then continue cooking for 2 minutes.
I've cooked these meatballs using both an oven and an air-fryer. The results were quite similar! Both methods take almost the same amount of cooking time, so choose whatever works best for you.
How to Make-Ahead Polpette:
If you are a fan of make-ahead recipes, this recipe is perfect for you. The meatballs can be shaped and kept in the refrigerator up to a day ahead.
You can freeze the uncooked or cooked meatballs. However, I highly recommend cooking them first and freeze for later use.
How to Store Leftover Meatballs:
First, let the meatballs cool to room temperature. After that, arrange the meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid for about 2-4 hours.
Next, transfer the meatballs into a large Ziploc bag or an airtight container. Properly stored, the leftover can last up to 2 months in the freezer.
How to Reheat Cooked Frozen Meatballs:
You can thaw the frozen meatballs overnight for faster reheat time or reheat the frozen meatballs directly from the freezer.
In the oven:
Step 1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Step 2. Place frozen meatballs in a single layer on a baking tray. Heat for 15 to 25 minutes or until hot.
on the Stove with Your Favorite Sauce:
Step 1. Add the frozen meatballs into the sauce.
Step 2. Cover the pan or pot. Cook for about 20-25 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Meatball Cooking Tips and FAQ:
For juicier and tastier meatballs, choose ground meat with some fat in it.
The secret is to soak the breadcrumbs in milk and shape the meatballs gently. Do not over mix.
For firmer meatballs, just use breadcrumbs and egg as binder agents. Skip the milk and chill then form the meatballs before cooking.
Cheap and fatty cuts make the best meatballs. You can use ground chuck, veal, and/or ground pork. For complex flavors, blend different types of meat.
Ground chuck holds itself well during cooking.
To add a bright freshness to meatballs, use fresh herbs. You can use oregano, thyme, basil, and/or rosemary.
If you have some leftover and don't know what to do with it. You can use the leftover to make meatball sliders, sandwiches, casseroles, soups, stroganoff, or stir fry.
Check Out More Delicious Recipes Using Ground Beef:
Did you make this recipe? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below! I'd appreciate it.
Ground Beef Italian Meatballs
- 1 pound ground beef, (80% lean)
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 whole egg
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves, (finely minced)
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp fennel seeds , (grind or crush with a knife)
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl then pour in the milk. Stir to combine, and soak.
- Add egg and the remaining ingredients, except beef into the mixture. Whisk to combine.
- Add the minced beef and mix with your hands until combined. Do not overmix.
- Use a cookie scoop to grab some raw meat then gently roll between your hands to make perfectly-sized uniform meatballs (about 24 balls).
- Arrange the meatballs on the prepared baking sheets. Do not overcrowd.
- Bake the meatballs for about 10 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Let the meatballs rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Preheat the air fryer at 350°F.
- Place half of the meatballs in the basket, cook for 8 minutes.
- Shake the basket and continue cooking for 2 minutes or until the meatballs are fully cooked.
- Repeat with remaining meatballs.
- Let the meatballs rest for 5 minutes before serving.