Italian-style meatballs are a true family-friendly meal. Kids love them, but honestly, who doesn’t? Make them with ground pork and any other ground meat you like—beef, veal, or turkey—and serve them with pasta, in sandwiches, or on a pizza.
As a mum, I came up with a formula, the ‘4+2+1 formula’, which helps cut down on cooking and shopping time. The 4+2+1 formula means you cook four meals each week, take two from the freezer and make one simple meal using leftovers. By only having to cook four meals from scratch, you can save so much time and also have tasty, healthy home-cooked meals without the daily ‘what’s for dinner?’ stress. You can easily double this recipe. The meatballs also freeze really well, so they’re a perfect make-ahead meal.—Jen Petrovic
Italian-Style Meatballs FAQs
How do I freeze Italian-style meatballs?
Divvy them up into whatever serving size you want and scoop them into freezer-safe packaging. When ready to use them, let them thaw in the fridge and gently reheat.
Can I make Italian-style meatballs spicier?
Of course you can! One of our testers added a good dash of red pepper flakes to hers and recommends it. You can use whatever spices you prefer—a dash of hot sauce, a spoonful of sambal oelek, a little chipotle for smokiness. You can add the heat to either the meatball mixture before rolling or to the sauce before cooking.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 (3 1/2 oz) onion finely diced
- 1 garlic clove crushed or grated
- 1 pound 2 ounces ground veal and pork (or use pork and beef or turkey)
- 1 3/4 ounces breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley leaves picked, finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more if needed
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cans (14 ounce) diced tomatoes
- Pasta of your choice to serve
- Grated Parmesan to serve
- In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Dump the onion mixture into a large bowl and let cool. Wipe the skillet clean.
- Add the meat, breadcrumbs, mustard, parsley, egg, salt, and some pepper to the cooled onions and mix.
- Use your hands to roll the mixture into 1-1/4 inch (3 cm) meatballs. You should have about 15 meatballs.
- Place the flour on a plate or in a baking dish and roll the meatballs in the flour to coat. Dust off any excess.
- In the same large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Working in batches, if necessary, add the meatballs and brown on all sides.
- Return all the meatballs to the skillet, then carefully add the canned tomatoes and 3/4 cup (200 ml) water. Be cautious: the skillet will be hot and might spit.
- Cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) and the flavors have melded, 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, if needed.
☞TESTER TIP: If you prefer a spicy sauce, season with some red pepper flakes.
- While the meatballs are cooking, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water according to the package instructions.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Every Italian has her own Italian meatball recipe that they swear is the best one—myself included. But I kept an open mind and can honestly say these Italian-style meatballs are delicious and would be completely acceptable served at any Italian table.
I used ground pork and beef for my meatballs. The first time I made these, I cooked them with the sauce. The second time, I finished baking them in the oven without sauce—both were easy and wonderful! I made a second batch but didn’t cook them in the sauce. I followed all the instructions up to #5 and then transferred them to the oven for 20 minutes at 350°F to finish cooking. They were also delicious this way.
These Italian-style meatballs were tender and flavorful and a hit with my kids. We served the meatballs and sauce over spaghetti and I recommend making some garlic bread to sop up the sauce remnants in the bowl. I did need to add an additional 1/2 tsp of salt to the sauce at the end.
This mixture comes together in a snap—I even used store-bought breadcrumbs. I was surprised at the lack of cheese, milk, or fresh bread ingredients.
After simmering for 25 minutes in the canned tomatoes, the meatballs were at the correct temperature but the tomatoes were still not broken down at all. Since I have a picky 10-year-old, I removed the meatballs and pulsed the remaining tomatoes/liquid in a food processor a few times. This created a beautiful sauce.
The kid ate his meatballs with sauce, cheese, and penne while I ate mine over zoodles. Not to be dramatic, but I was shocked at how tender these were. With the sauce, fresh cheese, and your choice of pasta/veggie, this is a wildly fresh, delicious, indulgent meal. Everyone in the house gave it 5 stars!
These Italian-style meatballs are the quintessential family dinner. Over the years I have prepared many meatball recipes using different approaches with all kinds of ingredients. We never tire of meatballs and I like to try new approaches. These little beauties are small and tender, as well as deeply flavorful thanks to the addition of mustard.
I used half ground turkey and half ground pork but any combination of meats will work. The recipe is so versatile—feeding kids and adults happily, sauce or no sauce, and easily doubled. Serve it with pasta one night and freeze the rest—or stuff inside soft rolls topped with melted mozzarella the next night. Sliced in half, the meatballs would also make a good pizza topping.
Because they are so tender and flavorful, with a more subtle seasoning, these would be great for toddlers and families with young children. It’s all good!
There is some work and mess involved but the effort is worth it. After adding the browned meatballs to the chopped tomatoes, I did add quite a bit of salt and red pepper flakes to taste. We like a little heat. I also added a parmesan cheese rind. Together, I let the muddle simmer and deepen for about an hour, a bit longer than the suggested 25 minutes. The extras are not required but I had the time and ingredients on hand.
Originally published November 29, 2021