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!
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.
So, without further ado, here are my top tips for the BEST homemade meatballs.
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.
How to make a Panade for Meatballs?
- Soak milk, grated onion and garlic, Worcestershire sauce and cubed bread.
- After around 5 mins, mash with a fork.
- Add in all your other meatball ingredients apart from your meat.
- Stir to combine.
2. Treat your meat right
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%+.
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. 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 batch 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!
And breathe.. You’ve made it.
For this recipe I’ve paired them with some spaghetti and meatball sauce. Because is there anything more delicious than spaghetti and meatballs!?
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.
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..
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How To Make Homemade Meatballs (Full Recipe & Video)
Ingredients (check list):
- 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 (approx 1 handful un-chopped)
- 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
- 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
- 12.3oz / 350g Spaghetti
- 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!
Quick 1 min demo!
For another hearty meal for the family, check out my Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese!