Finding a quality Meatball recipe is like winning the lottery, y’all! Nothing screams comfort like some good ole meatballs that you can serve up in various, endless ways. These meatballs are so tender, juicy, filled with fresh herbs, and insanely flavorful! They’re paired with a simple marinara sauce to enrobe all that meaty goodness!

meatballs in marinara sauce in large black pan with gold serving spoon on the side

How many of you love meatballs? Like, a very good amount of folks, yes? Whether you have a coveted recipe for them or not, welcome. Homemade meatballs are the bee’s knees and such a cozy, nostalgic comfort food that hits. I’ve tweaked + worked on my meatball game for a while and have landed on a solid, melt-in-your-mouth meatball recipe. I’m obsessed, peeps!

The Best Meatball Recipe!!! 🤤

You will love these homemade baked meatballs for a ton of reasons! First up, this recipe is so easy to make with no headaches or a crazy number of steps, nah. There are flavor-forward ingredients yielding so much oomph in these little compact balls, ha. No dry meatballs here because they’re extra juicy and moist from some of the big flavors in the ingredient lineup. All 3 big markers, check!

More recipes to make: lemon herb butter ravioli, island faves like brown stew chicken, my stewed oxtail, jamaican curry chicken and also these beef patties, my red beans and rice and crispy parmesan crusted chicken– delicious!

saucy meatballs stacked on top of each other on speckled oval plate

Why You’ll Love This Meatball Recipe ♡

Here are some main recipe highlights about this meatball recipe:

LOW-EFFORT/HIGH-REWARD: Friends, the heart of homemade meatballs is a relatively easy process. This recipe is no different in that it is super simple and straightforward. It’s a sauté-mix-shape-and-bake type of situation. While easy, these meatballs do not compromise on flavor at all.

SUPREME TENDERNESS: There’s nothing worse than biting into a meatball that is bland and dry af. I’m just keeping it real with ya. Y’all, one of the binding agents in this recipe is a *breadcrumb/ricotta* mixture that’s just like a traditional panade (bread/breadcrumbs soaked in milk) used in meatball-making. This ensures that you end up with the juiciest, most tender meatballs, ever!

FLAVOR-TOWN EXPRESS: Hello scrumptiousness…we’re talking fresh herbs, cheesiness, tons of garlic, and a few spices. No sad, unflavored meatballs in sight 😤- that’s just disrespectful. Honesty hour, I’ve eaten these meatballs on their own, no pasta or accompanying pairing because they’re that good.

SUPER SIMPLE SAUCE: I love a good tomato sauce with my Italian-style meatballs and this recipe has one. There’s no fancy, 50-ingredient lineup written here. A good ole jar of your favorite marinara sauce plus a few other staples to round out one epic tomato-based sauce and you’re golden, boo.

ingredients for homemade meatballs laid out on beige surface

Homemade Meatballs Ingredients Lineup

(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card directly below.)

  • Panko breadcrumbs: I only use panko breadcrumbs whenever I make meatballs. They’re reliable and easily accessible. Furthermore, because we’re adding in our own spices here, I often use plain panko breadcrumbs, but seasoned ones are fine as well. These help to bind the meatballs.
  • Olive oil: Just a touch for sautéing the aromatics.
  • Onion & garlic: Anything Italian needs ample onion and garlic flavor, amen.
  • Whole milk ricotta: The breadcrumbs get combined with ricotta to form a panade. Ricotta provides insurance to yield super plush, moist meatballs.
  • Ground beef & ground Italian sausage: This is the 50/50 combination of meat that I use and personally like. Ground beef because duh and then ground Italian sausage for added flavor and needed fat. Both beef and pork meats for meatballs, chef’s kiss. However, you can use all beef if you’d like. Ground pork in lieu of ground Italian sausage is an ideal stand-in, too.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: Like traditional parmesan (can be used as a sub), love this cheese. I always recommend freshly grated cheese. Pre-grated cheese pales in comparison to fresh off the block and yields the best flavor!
  • Italian herbs: I use fresh parsley and basil for heaps of herbaceous vibes, yum.
  • Eggs: One of the crucial binding elements for these meatballs.
  • Italian seasoning: Classic blend of dried Italian herbs is clutch.
  • Red pepper flakes, salt, & pepper: To round out the flavors.

How To Make The Best Meatballs

(Note: please see the recipe card directly below for the complete written instructions.)

Making these homemade meatballs is as easy as 1, 2, 3…

  1. Prep the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a large baking sheet (or 2 smaller baking sheets) with foil. Then coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray and set the baking sheet(s) set aside.
  2. Make the panade. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and ricotta. Stir the mixture together to fully combine and then set aside to mingle while you sauté the aromatics. The breadcrumbs will soak and absorb the ricotta.
  3. Sauté the onion & garlic. Add the olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add in the onion and sauté until tender and golden. Then add in the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant. Then set the mixture aside to cool down a bit for you to handle.
  4. Mix & shape the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine everything together: ground beef, ground sausage, grated cheese, parsley + basil, sautéed onion/garlic mixture, breadcrumb/ricotta mixture, and dry spices. Use your hands to bring the mixture together just until combined-careful not to over mix. Then use a scooper to scoop the meat mixture into balls, roll each ball until smooth, and place the meatballs onto the prepared baking sheet(s). Repeat this process until all meatballs are shaped.
  5. Bake the meatballs. Place the meatballs into the oven to bake for 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet(s) at the halfway mark for even cooking.
  6. Simmer the sauce. While the meatballs are baking, simmer the sauce. Combine the marinara, fire roasted tomatoes, brown sugar, fresh herbs, chipotle powder, and salt/pepper- to taste. Allow the sauce to simmer over medium-low until the meatballs are done, stirring every so often.
  7. Bring the flavors together. Add the cooked meatballs on top of the sauce and spoon sauce over them. Reduce the heat to low and let the meatballs simmer in the marinara sauce for an additional 20-25 minutes for everything to meld together in harmony, swoon.
  8. Serve these meatballs immediately as-is, with spaghetti (or pasta of choice), or in toasted hoagie rolls for meatball subs. Enjoy!!! 🙌🏾
raw meatballs on baking sheet with foil

Easy & Delicious Marinara Sauce

One of my favorite things about this meatball recipe is the marinara sauce it’s paired with. Meatballs 🤝 tomato-based sauce, yes indeed. Here’s what’s in it:

  • Marinara sauce: Plain and simple, I prefer Rao’s jarred sauces, so good!
  • Fire roasted tomatoes: Just one can of diced fire roasted tomatoes adds nice texture and a depth of flavor from those fire roasted chunks.
  • Brown sugar: A touch of packed brown sugar helps to balance out the acidic components that come with tomato-based items.
  • Fresh herbs: Another lil’ chopped parsley + basil bunch tossed in the sauce.
  • Chipotle powder: This mildly spicy powder is made from chipotle chiles that are smoked and then dried. Adds a slight kick, but totally optional!
  • Salt & pepper: To season the marinara sauce to your preference.

⇢ When the meatballs are baking, that’s when you’ll start simmering the sauce. Afterwards, add the baked meatballs to the sauce and spoon the sauce over them to coat. That sauce will enrobe and soak into the ricotta meatballs and all the different flavors going on will meld together, gahhh.

Serving Meatballs: Options on Options

When it comes to serving meatballs, the possibilities are infinite! However, the most iconic (& my personal favorite) way is with some spaghetti 🍝🤞🏾 because they’re made for each other. Both spaghetti and bucatini are my top options here, but any pasta of your choice will be fine.

If you’re not a pasta fan or want another route to serve, make meatball subs! Toasty bread, provolone cheese, and these saucy meatballs…oooeee. You can also serve ’em up just as an appetizer, make mini meatball sliders, pair alongside your favorite sides: mashed potatoes, sautéed vegetables, a salad, or rice.

BBR Tip: If serving your meatballs with pasta, I recommend boiling the pasta when the meatballs are simmering (at step #9 in the recipe card, below).

close up of meatballs in marinara sauce in black pan

Tips, Tricks, & More Information

As with many recipes, you may have additional questions for this meatball recipe. Like other BBR recipes, I always advise sticking to the recipe as it is written in the recipe card directly below. However, here’s some extra info:

  • Can I use x, y, z type of meat? The best meatballs have a 50/50 blend of beef and pork. You can use all beef, and you can even use ground turkey or chicken as a lighter meatball option. For those options, you want to check for internal doneness to reach at least 165°F. And note, when using other types of meat, you lose some flavor, and they won’t be as moist if omitting pork.
  • What binds these meatballs? The breadcrumb/ricotta mixture and the eggs are the elements that bind these meatballs together to hold their shape.
  • Ricotta alternative? If you’re looking for a ricotta sub, you can replace the ricotta for 1/3 cup of whole milk. Soaking the breadcrumbs with milk is an ideal panade. Although, the ricotta makes these meatballs even more dreamy!
  • What keeps these meatballs moist? The pork and the breadcrumb/ricotta. Pork has a good amount of fat which ensures a decent level of moisture within the meatball. Furthermore, the breadcrumbs are soaked in the ricotta and that keeps the inside of these balls super tender. Like buttery, tender.
  • Do I have to cook the onion/garlic? Doing so brings out a ton of flavor as opposed to raw-ish onion/garlic going into the mix. You can skip this step if you’d like, however, I fully recommend taking the extra time to sauté them.
  • Don’t overwork the meat mixture. Over mixing the meatball mixture will make the meatballs super tough. The key is to mix just until combined.
black hand holding side of speckled bowl full of spaghetti and meatballs

Make-Ahead Meatball Prep?

Yes! Make the meatball recipe as written (up until baking them), and then cover the shaped meatballs tightly with a sheet of foil. These prepped meatballs can be stored for up to 1 day in the refrigerator. This is a great way for the meatballs to be made ahead of any entertaining, giving you less steps on the day-of serving. Plus, the meatballs will develop more flavor from sitting, too!

You can even make the marinara sauce in advance as well! Cook and simmer according to directions, then transfer the sauce into a large enough vessel. Cover and store the sauce in the fridge for up to 3 days. Then reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through, as needed.

How To Store, Freeze, & Reheat Meatballs

Listen, having a batch of meatballs ready for whenever the craving strikes is like pure joy. Here’s what to do ⇢ Make sure the meatballs (and sauce) are completely cool, first. Leftovers will keep, covered/stored, in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. You can freeze these baked ricotta meatballs either plain (without the sauce) or with the sauce- but without any pasta, if freezing.

Place the meatballs inside of an airtight container and keep stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to make, let thaw in the fridge overnight. Then reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of water/broth to help loosen the sauce or hydrate, as needed. These meatballs reheat so nicely, love to see it.

close up of spaghetti and meatballs in speckled bowl with gold fork on the side

Every home cook needs a great Meatball recipe in their repertoire, y’all. You just cannot beat flavorful, juicy, and saucy meatballs to devour in many ways. I’m confident you will love this recipe! Be sure to tag @butterbeready in your BBR recipe creations, I sure love to see it when you do. Until next time! 🤟🏾

More Italian-Inspired Recipes:

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spaghetti and meatballs in speckled bowl with gold fork on the side

The Best Meatball Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Main Entree
  • Method: Stovetop, Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian, American

Description

Finding a quality Meatball recipe is like winning the lottery, y’all! Nothing screams comfort like some good ole meatballs that you can serve up in various, endless ways. These meatballs are so tender, juicy, filled with fresh herbs, and insanely flavorful! They’re paired with a simple marinara sauce to enrobe all that meaty goodness!


Ingredients

Scale

For the meatballs:

  • 1 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 lb lean ground beef, preferably grass-fed
  • 1 lb ground mild Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or parmesan)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 heaping tablespoons freshly chopped basil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes- optional
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the marinara sauce:

  • 24-ounce jarred marinara sauce (I love Rao’s!)
  • 14.5-ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian herbs (I use parsley & basil)
  • 1/41/2 teaspoon chipotle powder- optional
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For serving & assembly:

  • spaghetti, bucatini, or pasta of choice- as desired
  • hoagies & provolone cheese, for meatball subs- as desired
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano or parmesan cheese, for topping
  • freshly chopped parsley or basil, for garnish- optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet (or 2 smaller baking sheets) with foil and coat with nonstick spray, set aside.
  2. Make the panade. In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and ricotta cheese. Stir the mixture well to fully combine. Set the bowl aside to soak while you sauté the onion/garlic mixture.
  3. Sauté the aromatics. Place a large skillet (at least 12 inches) over medium heat and pour in the oil. Once the oil shimmers, gently swirl the oil to evenly coat the bottom of the skillet. Add in the chopped onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Then add in the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes, stirring the mixture often. Remove the skillet from heat for the onion/garlic mixture to cool down a bit for you to handle. Note: at this stage, you can keep the burner on, but move to the lowest setting while you assemble the meatballs.
  5. Mix & shape the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ground sausage, grated cheese, chopped parsley & basil, eggs, sautéed onion/garlic mixture, the breadcrumb/ricotta mixture, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes (if using), and salt/pepper- to taste. Use your hands (fitted with disposable gloves, if desired) to bring the meatball ingredients together until just combined- careful not to overwork the meat mixture.
  6. Use a medium spring-loaded scooper to scoop each individual meatball. Then roll the meatball in the palm of your hands just until the shape is smooth. Place the meatball onto the prepped baking sheet(s) and repeat this process until all meatballs are shaped, and on the sheet, you should end up with about 20-22 meatballs.
  7. Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet(s) at the halfway mark for even cooking.
  8. Simmer the sauce. Meanwhile, while the meatballs are baking, prep the sauce. In the same large skillet over medium-low heat, add in the marinara sauce (then add 1/4 cup of water to the jar, cover/shake jar to clean, and empty all contents into skillet), fire roasted tomatoes, brown sugar, Italian herbs, chipotle powder (if using), and season with salt/pepper- to taste. Stir everything together to combine and let the sauce simmer slowly until the meatballs are done.
  9. Meld together. Once the meatballs are done baking, place them directly on top of the sauce, nestling in each one. Then spoon some sauce over the meatballs. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let the meatballs finish off in the sauce for another 20-25 minutes, gently stirring every so often, for the flavors to meld beautifully.
  10. Serve meatballs & marinara sauce immediately alongside spaghetti or pasta of choice with extra cheese/chopped herbs for topping or inside of toasted hoagie rolls for meatball subs, as desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Please read the blog post in its entirety for more tips + tricks.
spaghetti and meatballs in speckled bowl with gold fork on the side