Serve Homemade Italian Meatballs for an easy dinner and leftovers on a bun for lunch. Italian meatballs make a great freezer meal and the meatball recipe is perfect paired with our easy homemade spaghetti sauce.
We love Italian food. Every now and then we make pasta with sausage or a creamy pasta sauce. We even love meatless pasta recipes. But every so often we just have to take it back to a classic. Homemade meatballs.
You know we share only the best of our family recipes and this one definitely ranks as one of the top. This is an old family recipe from my mom’s side of the family. Although we are not of Italian heritage in any way, a relative married an Italian woman, who then let the family in on her family’s Italian meatball recipe.
Although I’m sure Italian meatballs are made many different ways, we are so in love with this version from my Italian relative.
Of course I’d have to say what I love the most is the taste and texture of the meatballs. Tender and savory, just the way a meatball should be. But a close second is how versatile this recipe is. Let me take you through an example of how you can make this into an easy freezer meal, slow cooker dinner, and yes, even a school lunch for the kids!
For our homemade meatballs we use a mix of lean ground beef and Italian sausage (either sweet Italian sausage or hot, depending on what you like). If you can find ground veal, add some of that. Those three meats together make a fantastic meatball.
Have plain ground pork? Season it with our Italian sausage seasoning.
Can I use ground turkey? Yes, but it will alter the flavor and the meatballs may be just a little bit drier due to the lean turkey. The meatball mixture will be slightly stickier and softer as well.
You may think that meatballs well…just meat. But if you want tender, moist meatballs with amazing flavor, there is a few other things to add:
Meatballs are easier than ever to make.
Simply mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. It may be easiest to whisk the eggs in a small bowl first so that they are easier to mix in. We often find ourselves setting aside the spoon and simply using our hands to mix. It’s messy, but it’s just faster this way.
For perfectly uniform meatballs, use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up the meat mixture. Roll balls and place them on a baking sheet to get ready to bake!
When making meatballs, you want to be sure there is not too much moisture added. The beef mix should be moist, but not soggy. Eggs help bind the meatballs together, but if there are too many eggs (or milk or other liquid), the meatballs will fall apart.
When you are mixing the meatballs, if you think the mixture feels soggy, add ¼ to ½ cup of Italian bread crumbs.
Is it better to fry meatballs in skillet or bake them in the oven? Italian tradition will pan-fry meatballs in olive oil, then let them finish cooking while simmering in marinara sauce.
I prefer to bake our meatballs for several reasons:
*Pro Tip: Place a wire rack on a large baking sheet. Bake the meatballs on the wire rack so all of the fat drips down during baking.**
Yes! Cook the meatballs and allow them to cool. Split the meatballs up in whatever size Ziploc bags you’d like and pop them in the freezer to use at another time. Meatballs will freeze well for up to 2 months.
We are crazy about meatballs that we’ve simmered in sauce. They taste amazing. Whether your meatballs are fresh or frozen, you can put the meatballs in the slow cooker, cover them with homemade sauce and let them simmer all day.
Let me tell you that this is by far my most favorite way to eat these meatballs. That extra time in the slow cooker gives them a depth of flavor that will make you swoon.
One of my favorite school lunchroom lunches was “Meatball Splash” which was simply homemade Italian meatballs smothered in spaghetti sauce, served on a hot dog bun. Our lunch ladies served these often and I loved them!
I take this best meatball recipe and serve it on buns for our own homemade meatball sub sandwiches. And your child can enjoy these at school by simply putting the warm meatballs and sauce in a thermos. Send along spoon and a hot dog bun in a baggie and they can make their own sandwich at school.
If your kids are like mine, they grow tired of peanut butter and jelly very quickly. They’d be super happy to have a home cooked comfort meal for their school day.