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…
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).
How to cook Meatballs
Right, meat prepped, let’s talk about cooking the 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).
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.
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).
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?
- Garlic Bread (or Cheesy Garlic Bread, or even Cheesy PESTO Garlic Bread!)
- Garlic Butter Potato Skins
- Crusty bread or ciabatta!
Realistically anything you can dunk straight into the skillet. No need to serve these meatballs up, tuck in right from the pan!
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
- One Pot Meatballs and Rice
- Homemade Meatball Subs (stuffed with cheese!)
- Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake
- BBQ Meatballs
Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for these skillet meatballs shall we?!
How to make Skillet Meatballs (Full Recipe & Video)
Skillet Meatballs For Two
- 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
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
- 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!
- 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.
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