Here I share 3 incredibly simple but crucial steps to making soft and juicy meatballs. This foolproof recipe offers the most delicious spaghetti and melt in your mouth meatballs you’ll ever taste! – Hungry now? Jump to Recipe
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.
In my journey of creating the most delicious spaghetti and meatballs, I picked up on a few tips and tricks that make a huge difference in whether you end up with melt in your mouth meatballs or not. Whilst every step of the recipe is of course important, I will highlight 3 crucial steps that’ll truly make the difference.
1. Using a Panade in Meatballs
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). By allowing the pieces of bread to soak up the milk, it locks in moisture and keeps the meatballs juicy throughout the cooking process. Using breadcrumbs results in far denser meatballs in comparison to using small pieces of bread – this is something i’ve tried and tested.
Here I add grated onion & garlic and 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce, then allow the bread to soak it up all that goodness.
2. The Best Meat To Use For 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.
– It’s also important to use non-lean meat to help keep the meatballs lubricated throughout the cooking process. I’ve popped down the percentages in the recipe notes.
– 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.
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.
Traditionally I would fry the meatballs, but often I find it difficult to keep them uniformly cooked and in shape, especially since using a panade.
In recent times I now broil the meatballs, just enough to brown the outside, then finish off cooking in the sauce. I find this essentially offers the best ‘balance’ between browned meatballs, yet still soft and juicy in the centre. Finishing the meatballs off by poaching also adds an insane amount of flavour to the sauce from where the meatball’s have been browned.
And breathe.. You’ve made it.
Now the hard part – trying to actually share the meatballs. Like, is that even a thing? I honestly wouldn’t know because I ate that entire skillet of meatballs to myself. True story.
Then there’s the classic debate of whether you plonk the meatballs on top of your spaghetti, or mix it all in.
Whatever your decision, I can only suggest you smother the entire thing with extra parmesan. Clearly being modest in the photo below, about 5 more cups of cheese was added. Fear not.
Oh quick side note – you know these are truly melt in your mouth meatballs when you eat them after an hour of filming/photographing and they’re stone cold but STILL juicy. Literally can’t remember the last time I had a hot meal..
How To Make Spaghetti and Melt in Your Mouth Meatballs (Full Recipe & Video)
'This foolproof recipe offers the most delicious spaghetti and melt in your mouth meatballs you'll ever taste!' (makes approx 20 meatballs)
- 12.3oz / 350g Spaghetti
- 8.8oz / 250g Ground Beef
- 8.8oz / 250g Ground Pork
- 2 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 (approx 1 handful un-chopped)
- 1/3 cup / 35g Parmesan, finely grated
- 1 medium White Onion, grated
- 3 cloves Garlic, minced (or finely grated)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 Egg
- Good helpings of Salt & Black Pepper
- 1 can (14oz/400g) Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 carton (14oz/400g) Tomato Passata
- 1/2 cup / 125ml Red Wine
- 1/4 cup Fresh Basil (approx 1 handful un-chopped)
- 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley (approx 1 handful un-chopped)
- 1 medium White Onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
- Olive Oil, for frying
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- extra Parmesan
- extra Basil Leaves
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!
Watch how to make it!
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 1 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) 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.
For another hearty meal for the family, check out my Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese!