Beef/ Hearty Dinners/ Pasta/ Pork

Soft & Juicy Homemade Meatballs

February 22, 2018 (Last Updated: February 17, 2020)

A few incredibly simple but crucial steps to making soft & juicy homemade meatballs. Once you try this recipe you’ll never make them any other way!

overhead shot of Soft and juicy homemade meatballs in a saucepan with marinara sauce

Simply the BEST Homemade Meatballs

There really is nothing more disappointing in life than biting into a meatball and it being tough and dry. It’s just absolute devastation across the board. If I’m having spaghetti and meatballs it’s usually for dinner, which means I’ve been looking forward to it all day, then to be served with a dry meatball? Oh hell no, not for me, not ever. 

Admittedly in the early days of my cooking I saw myself as a meatball connoisseur, because I could make meatballs that weren’t dry. But in hindsight, they may not have been dry, but they certainly weren’t gorgeously soft and juicy either. Thus in recent times I’ve made it my mission to master the art of melt in your mouth meatballs (gosh, that was a mouthful) ((excuse the pun)).

When I tell you this is one of my go-to recipes to impress I truly mean it. Not only because it’s absolutely delicious, but because it’s foolproof. Works every time. Here’s why you’re going to love it:

  • Truly Soft – No false promises here! These meatballs are truly soft and delicious.
  • Mouthwateringly Juicy – Right through to the core, these meatballs are juicy with every bite!
  • Flavour – These meatballs are far from bland, they’re absolutely packed with flavour!

So, without further ado, here are my top tips for the BEST homemade meatballs.

Homemade meatballs in sauce in a frying pan scooping out with serving spoon

1. Use a Panade

What is a Panade?

A panade is essentially a mixture of starch and liquid that you add to meat to keep it moist. Here, and in many other authentic meatball recipes, the panade is usually made up of milk and bread (not to be confused with breadcrumbs).

How does a Panade work?

By allowing the pieces of bread to soak up the milk, it locks in moisture and keeps the meatballs juicy throughout the cooking process. This will keep your meatballs much juicier than just using regular breadcrumbs. Using breadcrumbs results in far denser meatballs in comparison to using small pieces of bread – this is something I’ve tried and tested. I know, a meatball recipe without breadcrumbs seems odd, but trust me on this one.

How to make a Panade for Meatballs?

  1. Soak milk, grated onion and garlic, Worcestershire sauce and cubed bread.
  2. After around 5 mins, mash with a fork.
  3. Add in all your other meatball ingredients apart from your meat.
  4. Stir to combine.

How to make a panade - 4 step by step photos

2. Best Meat for Meatballs

Beef and Pork Meatballs

A combination of pork and beef works perfect. Many traditional Italian meatball recipes include veal, but honestly, using 2 different ground meats is already at my limit of convenience, so trying hunt down veal is just not the life for me. I find that a straight 50/50 ratio produces delicious meatballs. I have toyed around with different ratios in the past, but can’t really taste a huge difference and again – convenience.

Non lean Meatballs

It’s also important to use non-lean meat for homemade meatballs to help keep them lubricated throughout the cooking process. I’ve popped down a bit more about this in the recipe notes, but as a ballpark figure you want it definitely 15%+.

Feather fingers!

The final thing with the meat is don’t overwork it. You’ll see in the photos above I’ve already mixed together all the ingredients bar the meat. This is merely to reduce the amount of mixing you have to do to get an even spread of ingredients. Overworked ground meat simply results in a really solid, dense and dry meatball, which is certainly not what we want.

Top Tip – The best way to roll meatballs is to evenly scoop out chunks of the mixture with a 1 tbsp measuring spoon and place on a lightly oiled tray. Once you’ve got all the chunks of meat out, wet your hands a roll one by one. Much easier and far more uniformed than scooping the meat out with your hand and rolling.

Ground Beef and Pork resting on a panade in a bowl

3. How To Cook Meatballs

For the softest meatballs the best method is to poach in the sauce. However the limitation with that is there’s nowhere near as much flavour in comparison to a meatball that’s been browned. So, here are 3 alternative cooking options for homemade meatballs, from my least favourite to favourite method.

a) Baked Meatballs

Baked meatballs are great because they require the least amount of effort. However, it’s difficult to get a really good browning on them. By the time they’re properly browned on the outside, they’re totally cooked through the centre, which isn’t what we want. In fact, what we want to do is only have them browned on the outside (for flavour), then to have them finish cooking by poaching in the sauce (so they stay soft in the centre). 

b) Fried Meatballs

With frying you can do exactly that. Fry them over medium-high heat to get a good browning on the outside, then have them finish poaching in the sauce. The only limitations with frying however is 1. it’s difficult the keep the meatballs in uniform shape and 2. you’ll probably have to work in batches because they won’t all fit in the pan. This is still a great method though, just not quite as good as… 

c) Grilled Meatballs (best method)

Grilling/broiling the meatballs means you can get a good colour on the outside, allow them to finish cooking in the sauce AND allow you to cook them all at the same time. Winner! 

How to Broil Meatballs (quick summary)

  1. Space out meatballs on lightly oiled tray and spray with oil.
  2. Broil until browned on the outside (shake the pan a few times).
  3. Remove from pan and finish cooking through the centre in sauce.

Step by step photos of how toll roll and cook meatballs

How many meatballs are in 1lb meat?

The recipe below uses 1lb/500g meat and makes around 20 meatballs.

Can I prepare Meatballs ahead of time?

Absolutely! Rolling out your meatballs ahead of time is a great idea to get ahead of the game for dinner. Just space them out in a casserole dish or tray and cover with cling film.

  • Fridge – Make up to one day in advance and cook straight from fridge as you usually would.
  • Freezer – Store in freezer up to one month then thaw overnight in fridge and cook as stated in recipe (see how to store meatballs in freezer for best method).

How to store Meatballs in the Fridge

If you have any leftover meatballs, or, want to cook them in advance, you can store them in the fridge. Just allow them to cool, then cover and place in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat in the sauce on the stove until piping hot through the centre.

How to store Meatballs in the Freezer

Allow the meatballs to cool, then if they are in sauce, pop everything in a large airtight container and leave in the freezer for up to 1 month. Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat on the stove until piping hot through the centre. If the meatballs are without sauce, space them out on a tray and freeze, then take out and pop in ziplock bags and pop back in the freezer for up to 1 month. Thaw in fridge overnight then reheat in sauce until piping hot in the centre.

closeup shot of a hand holding meatball sub with melted cheese and 3 subs in the background

How to Serve Meatballs

The classic way is in a tomato sauce with spaghetti (recipe for this below). You could also plonk the meatballs in a sub and make a Homemade Meatball Sub. Here’s some sides if you’re after a little extra:

What to serve with meatballs?

If you’re after some other meatball recipes with the same soft and juicy texture, check out my similar recipes!

Unique Meatball Recipes

Alrighty, time to tuck into the full meatball recipe I think! Follow me…

overhead shot of spaggheti meatballs in skillet surrounded by forks, fresh basil and garlic bread

How To Make Homemade Meatballs (Full Recipe & Video)

overhead head shot of spaghetti meatballs in pan surrounded by forks, fresh basil and garlic bread

Homemade Meatballs

A few incredibly simple but crucial steps to making soft & juicy homemade meatballs. Once you try this recipe you'll never make them any other way! (makes approx 20 meatballs)
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 4
Calories: 622kcal
Cost per serving: £4 / $5

Equipment:

  • Large Deep Pan (combining sauce and meatballs)
  • Pot (for spaghetti)
  • Baking Tray (to cook meatballs)
  • Large Mixing Bowl (to make meatballs)
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Wooden Spoon & Tongs
  • Box Grater

Ingredients (check list):

Meatballs

  • 9oz / 250g Ground Beef (15%+ fat)
  • 9oz / 250g Ground Pork (15%+ fat)
  • 2 thin slices Plain White Bread, sliced into small cubes (crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup / 60ml Milk (whole, skimmed, semi-skimmed)
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup / 35g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 medium White Onion, grated
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced (or finely grated)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 Egg
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper

Sauce

  • 1X 14oz/400g can of Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1x 14oz/400g carton Tomato Passata (Pureed Tomatoes in US)
  • 1/2 cup / 125ml Red Wine
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Basil, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, finely diced
  • 1 medium White Onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
  • Olive Oil, for frying
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

To Serve

  • 12.3oz / 350g Spaghetti
  • extra Parmesan
  • extra Basil Leaves

Instructions:

  • Begin by combining your Bread, Milk, Worcestershire Sauce, Garlic and Onion in a suitably sized bowl and allow to soak for a few minutes.
  • Add in your Parsley, Parmesan, Egg, Oregano, Salt and Pepper and stir until combined. Add in your Pork and Beef and combine with your hands. Don't overwork the meat, only combine until all the ingredients are evenly spread.
  • Spray or lightly coat an oven tray with Oil, take a tbsp of each mixture and evenly distribute across the tray. Wet your hands and roll each dollop into balls.
  • Broil under the grill on high for around 6-10 minutes or until golden brown on the outside. Flip once half way and shake a couple of times to ensure an even coverage.
  • In a suitably sized pot or pan, brown of your Onions and Garlic in a drizzle of Olive Oil, then add your Wine and simmer for a few minutes to burn off some of the alcohol. Stir in your Chopped Tomatoes, Tomato Passata, Basil, Parsley, Salt & Pepper. 
  • Add in your Meatballs and allow to simmer until the sauce thickens and the Meatballs are piping hot through the centre. (15-20mins)
  • Meanwhile, pop your Spaghetti in salted boiling water and cook according the packet instruction. Drain when finished.
  • Serve by mixing in your Spaghetti or plonking the Meatballs on top. Either way, sprinkle some extra Parmesan and Basil to serve!

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) Meat Fat - You don't want to use lean meat for this recipe. Using non-lean meat will help lubricate the meat and keep the meatballs from drying out. I usually use 20% fat of both meats.
b) Bread - I usually use plain white bread, but feel free to use other types as preferred. However I would stay away from seeded/wholegrain types of bread as the seeds don't blend well in the meatballs.
c) Seasoning the Meatballs - I find that 3/4 tsp of Salt works perfectly, however every palette is different. What I always recommend when making sausages, burgers, meatballs etc is to fry up a tiny bit of your mixture before shaping them. That way your can tweak the seasoning before it's too late!
d) Broiling - You don't need to cook the meatballs all the way through, they will finish cooking in the sauce. This is just to ensure they brown on the outside. Also, if you are struggling the shape the balls, a short stint (no longer than 10mins) in the freezer should help firm up the meat.
e) Can I fry the meatballs instead? - Sure! Just heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and fry for 4-5mins or until golden, shaking frequently. Again, just focus on getting colour and don't worry about being cooked right through.
f) Can I Make Meatballs in Advance? - Yep! You can either roll them and pop in a large casserole dish with cling film on top and store in the fridge (up to 24hours). Or you can cook them (with or without sauce) and store in an airtight container in the fridge (3-4days). If you're doing this I recommend cooking the meatballs right through, just so you're not storing meatballs that are half raw/half cooked. 
g) Can you Freeze Meatballs? - Yep! You can either freeze them before cooking (easiest way is to spread out on tray and freeze then transfer to zip lock bag or container). Thaw in fridge and then cook. Or you can freeze cooked meatballs (just cool and put straight in zip lock bag or container) and just cook straight from frozen in the sauce until piping hot through the centre. Both store for up to 1 month.
h) Calories - Based on 20% fat meat, whole milk, 15g extra parmesan to sprinkle and 1 tbsp of olive oil to fry, divided by 4 people.

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Homemade Meatballs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 622 Calories from Fat 281
% Daily Value*
Fat 31.27g48%
Saturated Fat 31.27g156%
Trans Fat 0.63g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.3g
Monounsaturated Fat 14.77g
Cholesterol 273mg91%
Sodium 430mg18%
Potassium 990mg28%
Carbohydrates 45.56g15%
Fiber 8.8g35%
Sugar 7.87g9%
Protein 46.68g93%
Vitamin A 3700IU74%
Vitamin C 36.3mg44%
Calcium 290mg29%
Iron 6.7mg37%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
Tried this recipe?Show me how you got on by tagging @dontgobaconmyheart_ on IG and #dontgobaconmyheart!

If you loved this Homemade Meatballs Recipe be sure to Pin it for later! Already made it? Let me know how you got on in the comments and pick up your free ecookbook on the way!

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Karly
    February 23, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    This looks so awesome! Will need to try this real soon!

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 23, 2018 at 3:24 pm

      Thanks, Karly! I’m confident you’ll love them 🙂

  • Reply
    Denisse Salinas
    February 23, 2018 at 3:04 am

    5 stars
    Wow, you truly have done your research and are a meatball expert! These meatballs look absolutely perfect, and I learned a lot reading this post! Can’t wait to try.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 23, 2018 at 9:59 am

      So good to know the post is useful!! Enjoy 🙂

    • Reply
      Caitlan
      June 21, 2019 at 9:40 am

      5 stars
      Just made these meatballs and absolutely loved them and the sauce. I didn’t change anything and it was perfect. Meatballs were melt in your mouth under the broiler.

      • Reply
        Chris Collins
        June 21, 2019 at 1:42 pm

        So glad you enjoyed them Caitlin! Broiling is definitely the way forward!!

  • Reply
    swathi
    February 23, 2018 at 2:34 am

    5 stars
    I agree with you this looks melt in mouth meatballs, that too with perfectly flavored and sauce sounds great with spaghetti, ultimate comfort food.

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 23, 2018 at 9:58 am

      You’re so right, the ultimate comfort food!

  • Reply
    Carlee
    February 23, 2018 at 1:41 am

    You are making me hungry just thinking about it! My husband has had too many bad meatballs, but this is sure to win him back over!

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 23, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Haha! You’ve got this!!

  • Reply
    April
    February 23, 2018 at 12:27 am

    5 stars
    Yes! This sounds so good! Spaghetti and meatballs isn’t great if the meatballs aren’t cooked perfectly. Your’s look perfect. They sound juicy and full of flavor! You have me in the mood for spaghetti!

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 23, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Thanks, April! Juicy and full of flavour is certainly the aim of the game! 🙂

  • Reply
    Traci
    February 22, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    I am so bookmarking this beautiful, simple recipe for a future meatball production! This is probably going to be a very popular blogpost b/c…back to basics meatballllls, dude! Thanks for the great recipe 🙂

    • Reply
      Chris
      February 23, 2018 at 9:56 am

      Thanks so much, Traci! Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!!

      • Reply
        Dana
        April 3, 2018 at 10:45 pm

        Thank you so much for the recipe I didn’t follow instructions to a T I also added some shredded mozzarella as well but they turned out perfectly moist and delicious everyone decided they are good with spaghetti but even better on a sub!!! Thank you again so happy with how they turned out!!!

        • Reply
          Chris
          April 3, 2018 at 10:48 pm

          Dana! So glad to hear you loved them as much as I do! Awesome to hear your feedback. However now all I can think about is a meatball sub with shredded mozzarella!! 🙂

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