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Beef/ Date Night Dinners

Skillet Meatballs For Two

February 27, 2021 by Chris Collins

These Skillet Meatballs are soft, juicy and loaded with flavour. The perfect dinner for two on date night!

These meatballs are PERFECT for date night! Straight from the skillet, no messing around. Full of flavour, easy to make and most importantly they’re super filling! Sound good? Follow me…

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

How to prepare Meatballs

There’s something truly satisfying about making your own meatballs. If you’ve never made them before I promise they’ll be better than any store bought meatballs you’ve had before. First things first, here’s my golden rules for making golden balls:

Tips for making the best meatballs

  • Panade – An essential part of making meatballs from scratch is making a panade. A panade is a combo of liquid & starch that you add to meat to keep it moist (milk and bread in this context). By allowing the bread to soak in the milk, it locks in moisture and keeps the meatballs mega soft as they cook.
  • Beef – You’ll want to use high fat beef. At least 15%, but 20% is best. There’s no way around this, fat = flavour and it also keeps the meatballs nice and juicy.
  • Feather Fingers – There’s a tendency when making meatballs to mash the beef into oblivion, but please resist! You only want to mix everything until it’s just about combined. If you go overboard it turns the beef mushy, which in turn causes the meatballs to come out tough and chewy.

Extra special meatballs!

Just to take these meatballs up a couple of notches, we’re going in with some sun dried tomatoes to add a gorgeous punch of flavour. We’re also going in with fresh basil, not only to compliment the sun dried tomatoes, but also to compliment the sauce the meatballs are wrapped in. I usually add parsley to meatballs, but it’s date night so let’s go wild. Yes my idea of going wild is adding to basil to meatballs 🤪

Process shots: soak bread in milk, egg and grated onion (photo 1), mash with a fork (photo 2), add parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, basil and s&p (photo 3), stir to combine (photo 4), add beef (photo 5), use your hand to combine (photo 6).

6 step by step photos showing how to prepare meatballs

How to cook Meatballs

Right, meat prepped, let’s talk about cooking the meatballs.

Skillet Meatballs

When making meatballs I’d actually usually broil them (If you haven’t checked out my guide on making Soft & Juicy Meatballs do give it a ganders when you’ve got a minute!). But today we’ll be frying them. Mainly for convenience as it’s all cooked in one pan, but it also means you can start the sauce with the leftover fat from the meatballs.

Tips for pan frying meatballs

  • Pan – It’s important to make sure you’ve got a good quality non-stick pan. This will help the meatballs turn more smoothly and ensure they don’t crumble apart.
  • Crust – You want to build up a nice crust on the meatballs. Not only will this caramelize the meat and add flavour, but it’ll also firm up the meatballs and help them keep shape.
  • Soft – The meatballs will be relatively soft, so just make sure you’re careful as you turn them. Just to help them keep shape.

Process shots: scoop chunks of meat on chopping board (photo 1), roll into balls (photo 2), add to pan with oil (photo 3), fry until lightly charred (photo 4).

4 step by step photos showing how to pan fry meatballs

Meatball Marinara Sauce

Alright, meatballs done and dusted, let’s talk sauce.


The bulk of the sauce is indeed tomato. I usually go for canned peeled plum tomatoes and chop them up in the can. I find plum tomatoes to be ever-so-slightly richer/sweeter than pre chopped tomatoes. In all cases though just make sure you’re getting a good quality brand. If your canned tomatoes are slightly acidic, just adjust with sugar as needed.

Red Wine

I love adding red wine into the mix. Usually because if I’m having this for date night there’s usually some red wine knocking about. But adding red wine into the sauce really deepens the flavour and compliments the beef incredibly well. Any dry red wine will work just fine.

Process shots: remove meatballs from pan (photo 1), fry onion and garlic in leftover fat (photo 2), fry tomato paste (photo 3), add red wine and simmer (photo 4), add tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt and pepper (photo 5), add meatballs back in (photo 6).

6 step by step photos showing how to make skillet meatballs

Serving Skillet Meatballs

Once you’ve coated the meatballs, just dot over some mozzarella (here I use mini mozzarella balls, bocconcini also works well) then grill/broil until the cheese melts.

What to serve with skillet meatballs?

Realistically anything you can dunk straight into the skillet. No need to serve these meatballs up, tuck in right from the pan!

meatball on slice of garlic bread on chopping board with basil in background

If you’re after another date night meatball recipe check out my Crispy Gnocchi and Sausage Meatballs!

For more similar recipes check out these beauties:

Delicious Meatball Recipes

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for these skillet meatballs shall we?!

close up shot of meatball on bitten piece of garlic bread

How to make Skillet Meatballs (Full Recipe & Video)

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

Skillet Meatballs For Two

These Skillet Meatballs are soft, juicy and loaded with flavour. The perfect dinner for two on date night!
4.50 from 2 votes
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Servings (click & slide): 2
Course: Date Night / Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Calories per serving: 680kcal
Cost per serving: £4 / $5


  • 9" Non-Stick Oven Safe Skillet/Frying Pan
  • Medium Sized Mixing Bowl & 1 Tbsp Measuring Spoon
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Box Grater
  • Fine Cheese Grater
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Tongs

Ingredients (check list):


  • 1/2lb / 250g Ground Beef (preferably 15-20% fat!)
  • 1/4 cup / 20g freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup very finely diced Sun Dried Tomatoes (important to finely dice or meatballs will break apart)
  • 1 thin slice of White Bread, diced into small cubes (crusts removed)
  • 2 tbsp Milk
  • 2 tbsp finely diced Fresh Basil
  • 1/2 medium White Onion, grated on box grater (save other half for sauce below)
  • 1 clove of Garlic, grated/mined
  • 1/2 beaten Egg
  • 1/4 tsp EACH: Salt, Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil, as needed


  • 14oz/400g can of Good Quality Chopped Tomatoes (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup / 60ml Red Wine
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste (Tomato Puree in UK)
  • 1 tbsp finely diced Fresh Basil
  • 1/2 medium White Onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of Garlic, finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp Sugar (may need to adjust this if your tomatoes are particularly sour)
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste

To Serve

  • 3.5-5.3oz / 100-150g Fresh Mozzarella (see notes)
  • Fresh Basil, to garnish
  • Garlic Bread, to serve (see notes)


  • In a medium sized mixing bowl add bread, grated onion and beaten egg. Mash with a fork until the bread absorbs the moisture, then stir in sun dried tomatoes, basil, parmesan, garlic and salt & pepper.
  • Add in beef and use your hand to combine until everything is evenly distributed. Try not to mash the beef into oblivion or the meatballs will come out tough and chewy. Use a 1 tbsp measuring spoon to scoop out equal chunks of meat and space out on a chopping board. You should get 10-12 chunks. One by one roll them into meatballs.
  • In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat add a drizzle of olive oil, then place in the meatballs. Use your tongs to frequently turn the meatballs until lightly charred with a good crust on them (you want a good bit of caramelization to boost flavour and help contain the shape). Be gentle as the meatballs with be soft/delicate. If they begin burning too quickly just turn down the heat slightly. They should just about be cooked in the middle, but they'll continue cooking in the sauce. Remove from pan and leave the fat behind.
  • Turn heat down to medium and add diced onion to the leftover fat. Fry until the onion begins to soften/turn golden then add in garlic and fry for 1-2mins longer. Add 1 tbsp tomato paste and fry for 2mins, then pour in red wine. Deglaze the pan with your wooden spoon and simmer down the wine until it turns into a thick consistency (3-5mins). This is important to burn off the alcohol.
  • Pour in tomatoes then add basil, sugar, salt & pepper. Simmer on low for 15-20mins, or until the tomatoes soften/burst and the sauce starts to reduce. Add in meatballs and simmer for 5 more mins so the meat and sauce can exchange flavours. Make sure the meatballs are covered in some of the sauce, then dot over mozzarella balls, place under the grill & broil until the cheese melts.
  • Remove pan and sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve straight from the pan with garlic bread!

Quick 1 min demo!


a) Tomatoes - I usually go for peeled plum tomatoes, I find them to be slightly richer in flavour than pre-chopped tomatoes. In all cases just go for a good quality brand. As mentioned in the ingredients, some tomatoes can taste slightly acidic, so just balance this out with sugar as needed.
b) Mozzarella - I use mini mozzarella balls, but bocconcini or torn mozzarella also works well. In reality you can use any melty cheese you fancy though! 
c) What to serve with skillet meatballs - I usually go for Garlic Bread, but if you want to go wild you could make Cheesy Garlic Bread or even Cheesy Pesto Garlic Bread. You could even make Garlic Butter Potato Skins which would make an awesome little edible boat for the meatballs. Failing that chunky warm chunky bread or ciabatta would work nicely. Anything you can dunk straight into the skillet.
d) Alternative cooking methods - I discuss both broiling and baking methods in my guide on make soft & juicy meatballs, so give that a ganders if you'd prefer not to fry.
e) Make Ahead Meatballs - If you want to get ahead of the game for Date Night you could make or prep the meatballs ahead of time:
  • Prep ahead - Roll meatballs then tightly cover in the fridge overnight, cook straight from fridge (I find this easiest to store in a casserole dish with cling film over, just so you don't squash the meatballs). Or you can freeze them on a tray, then after a couple of hours transfer to zip lock bag for a month. Thaw in fridge then cook.
  • Make Ahead - Cook the meatballs then cool and tightly store in the fridge for 2-3days. Reheat in the sauce. Or freeze (with above method using tray/zip lock bag) then thaw in the fridge and reheat in sauce.
f) Calories - assuming 1/2 tbsp olive oil is used for frying, 20% fat beef and 100g/3.5oz mozzarella with no sides. 

Your Private Notes:


Nutrition Facts
Skillet Meatballs For Two
Amount Per Serving
Calories 680 Calories from Fat 388
% Daily Value*
Fat 43.16g66%
Saturated Fat 18.248g91%
Trans Fat 1.469g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.204g
Monounsaturated Fat 17.342g
Cholesterol 173mg58%
Sodium 1228mg51%
Potassium 1249mg36%
Carbohydrates 28.33g9%
Fiber 6.3g25%
Sugar 13.61g15%
Protein 40.6g81%
Vitamin A 1765IU35%
Vitamin C 35.2mg43%
Calcium 520mg52%
Iron 5.47mg30%
* 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.
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Recipe Rating


  • Reply
    September 13, 2023 at 9:01 pm

    4 stars
    Excellent recipe that went down v well with my taster (my wife). One question: the meatballs weren’t as “meatbally” as anticipated and were a bit “crumbly” for want of a better word. Any tips on how to maintain structural integrity? I didn’t squeeze them too much when creating the balls. They tasted great, mind.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      September 14, 2023 at 5:50 pm

      Hi Ian – glad they were enjoyed by you and your wife! It’s a balancing act between not overworking the meat and causing the meatballs to come out tough, and not mixing enough so they don’t form properly. Next time I’d probably just spend a little more time mixing the meat and form the balls. Other thing I find that helps specifically with this recipe is ensuring you dice the sun-dried tomatoes really fine, just so the big chunks don’t break up the meat too much. A good non-stick or well-seasoned pan will also help prevent the meatballs crumbling as they fry. Hope this helps! C.

      • Reply
        September 14, 2023 at 6:29 pm

        Cheers Chris yeh I think I probably was over-cautious working them, will try & chop the toms finer next time as well. Just to check as well with the sun-dried tomatoes – are the ones in a jar ok? (Not aware of any others) Like I say, they tasted great! Will let you know how round two goes in a few weeks time 😉

        • Reply
          Chris Collins
          September 16, 2023 at 4:23 pm

          Yes, I always use the ones from a jar 🙂 C.

  • Reply
    March 6, 2021 at 11:01 am

    5 stars
    Perfect for date night!