Grandma’s Famous Italian Meatballs

Jump to Recipe

Grandma’s meatball recipe is the ultimate family comfort food! Spheres of ground beef broil until golden brown, then simmer in a flavorful tomato sauce until tender and juicy. Serve over spaghetti noodles or your favorite pasta.

Three large beef meatballs on a bed of spaghetti noodles and topped with parmesan cheese
Table of Contents
  1. Meat selection
  2. Using a panade
  3. Breadcrumb selection
  4. Broiling creates new flavors
  5. Meat-to-bread ratio
  6. Make an easy tomato sauce
  7. A good sauce takes time
  8. What to serve this with
  9. Grandma’s Italian Meatball Recipe Recipe

Before we got married, my husband, Jason, wanted to make sure I knew how to make all his favorite meals. He comes from an Italian family where a love of food is their bond. After calling up Grandma Rose to ask for her meatball recipe, I learned that she doesn’t use a list of specific measurements and cooks by feel. As a culinary scientist who craves details, I had some homework to do.

After years of testing, that’s how long we dated for; I finally figured it out! The most important elements are the breadcrumb mixture to retain juiciness, broiling to create surface flavors, and simmering to tenderize the beef. This recipe makes plenty of servings to use with pasta or sandwiches, and the leftovers taste even better.

unmixed meatball ingredients in a bowl

Meat selection

I use ground beef between 80% (ground chuck) to 90% (ground sirloin). The percentage corresponds to the amount of lean meat-to-fat that’s processed together. Fat adds flavor, while the meat provides a contrast in texture.

Grandma did say she uses a mixture of veal and pork on occasion, in addition to the beef. For this recipe, you can easily substitute ground turkey or chicken for a healthier alternative.

Using a panade

If using breadcrumbs, you do not have to soak them in liquid before mixing with the meat like I normally would for a classic panade. That’s because the breadcrumbs’ size is so fine that the moisture from the eggs and fat juices in the ground beef is sufficient.

Once you mix and broil, the liquids will absorb into the crumbs and activate the natural starches. During the simmering process, the starches further bind to the liquid and swell to lock in the juices. 

Breadcrumb selection

I recommend using plain breadcrumbs then adding in dried Italian seasonings for herbaceous notes. You can use premade Italian-style breadcrumbs for convenience, but I prefer to control the level of seasonings. 

Alternatively, if I have leftover bread, I make fresh breadcrumbs in a food processor then bake them until dry for a tastier meatball. This option works well for those that want to make gluten-free breadcrumbs if none are available at the market.

Recipe Resources

Broiling creates new flavors

Grandma’s Rose adamantly advises broiling the meatballs before simmering them in the sauce. This process is an integral step in keeping the meat together during simmering and enhancing the surface flavor and texture. The meatballs cook under the broiler on one side, then flip to get the bottoms browned as well.

Grandma was a smart woman! Without realizing it, she was telling me to make sure the Maillard reaction is done and executed just right. In culinary school, I learned that Maillard browning is key to creating hundreds of new flavor compounds and aromas in a dish.

Meat-to-bread ratio

The correct ratio of meat-to-breadcrumb and fat for flavor is crucial to nailing the recipe. If there are too few or too many breadcrumbs, the texture is off (tough or spongy). I find the perfect sweet spot is: 1 pound beef, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, and 1 large egg.

Make an easy tomato sauce

Foods rich in glutamates like onions, garlic, and tomatoes serve to boost the meatballs’ savory flavors. Minced garlic and onion saute with the tomato paste to add a hint of sweetness and depth to the sauce. High quality crushed canned tomatoes create a thick but pourable consistency. I make the sauce and simmer it briefly for about 30 minutes while preparing the meatballs. 

Meatballs simmering in a pot of tomato sauce

A good sauce takes time

Slowly simmering the meatballs in the sauce for over an hour allows the liquid to coax out the appetizing browned flavors from the meat. The braising process and acids in the tomato help to soften the tougher connective tissue in the beef, so that each bite breaks down with little resistance. The sauce flavor concentrates over the long cooking period.

This recipe is also ideal to be made in a slow cooker, about 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Jason reminds me that the sauce needs to be thick so that it can cling to the noodles. It’s easy to adjust the consistency with a little water or beef stock to your liking at the end of cooking.

What to serve this with

Meatball sliced in half with a fork on a bed of spaghetti noodles

How to prevent meatballs from shrinking

Adding breadcrumbs to the ground meat mixture creates a starchy paste that holds the moisture in and prevents shrinkage. Usually, when meat cooks, the muscle fibers’ proteins tighten and contract, which causes large amounts of water to squeeze out. If you do not use a classic panade or breadcrumbs, the meatballs will reduce in size and tend to become dry or tough.

Pin this recipe to save for later

Pin This

Grandma’s Italian Meatball Recipe

Grandma's tender and juicy meatball recipe simmered in a delicious tomato sauce and served with spaghetti noodles, classic Italian food.
Pin Print Review
4.16 from 438 votes
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Servings 14 meatballs
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients

Tomato Sauce

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup yellow onions, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 7 cups crushed canned tomatoes, Cento or San Marzano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Meatballs

  • 2 pounds ground beef, 80% to 90% lean meat
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, plain or Italian-style
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup yellow onion, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings, omit if using Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup sliced basil, for garnish

Instructions 

Tomato Sauce

  • In a large pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic, sauté until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Simmer covered, with lid slightly ajar to prevent splattering for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meatballs

  • Set the oven rack to the lower-middle position and set it to broil. Line a large baking sheet with foil and lightly grease it with olive oil. Set aside.
    In a large bowl, add the ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, minced onion, salt, black pepper, Italian seasoning, and minced garlic. Use hands to mix thoroughly until combined.
  • Measure and roll the ground beef mixture into ⅓ cup (3 ounces) rounds, about the size of an egg. Evenly space the pieces on the baking sheet, there should be about 14 to 15 meatballs.
  • Broil the meatballs until the surface is browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn over and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes to lightly brown the other side.
  • Transfer the meatballs to the tomato sauce. Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar, simmer on low heat for at least 1 ½ hours, checking and stirring every 20 minutes, or as needed. The meatballs should be fork tender when sliced.
  • At the end of cooking, adjust the consistency of the sauce with water if needed, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve meatballs with spaghetti topped with sauce, sliced basil, and Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Freezing: Uncooked meatballs can be stored in a large freezer bag for up to 1 month in the freezer. Defrost before broiling. Cooked meatballs and sauce can be frozen for up to 1 month, then defrosting and reheated on the stovetop until hot. 
  • Make it gluten-free: Use gluten-free breadcrumbs or almond flour.
  • Make it in the slow cooker: Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the sauce ingredients to the slow cooker and broiled meatballs. Cook on high setting for 3 hours, or 6 hours on the low setting.

Want to save this recipe?

Create an account easily save your favorite content, so you never forget a recipe again.

Register now

Nutrition Facts
Grandma's Italian Meatball Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 216 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 44mg15%
Sodium 810mg34%
Potassium 19mg1%
Carbohydrates 9g3%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 19g38%
Vitamin A 250IU5%
Vitamin C 4.1mg5%
Calcium 120mg12%
Iron 0.5mg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Tried this recipe?

Tag @jessica_gavin on Instagram. I'd love to see how it turns out!

Tag @jessica_gavin

Filed under:

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

Jessica's Secrets: Cooking Made Easy!
Get my essential cooking techniques that I learned in culinary school.
Jessica Gavin standing in the kitchen

You May Also Like

Reader Interactions

219 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Madeleine says

    This looks fantastic! So if I wanted to incorporate the panade, would I simply soak the breadcrumbs in whole milk beforehand?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Madeline, thank you for checking out the recipe! Yes, soak the bread crumbs in the milk until the liquid has been absorbed. Start by adding a small amount of the panade to your meat mixture, I used the ratio of 1 pound beef, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and 1 egg. However since you are adding more moisture with a panade instead of just dried breadcurmbs, maybe start off with 1/4 cup of panade, adding more if needed to get the right texture. The meat mixture should not stick to your hands when you roll into balls, and you don’t want it to be too mushy. You can always add a little bit of dried bread brumbs if the mixture feels too mushy and won’t hold together. I always do a test piece by pan frying a small teaspoon to tablespoon of the mixture to see if the texture and flavor is how I like it, then adjust with more panade/breadcrumbs/seasonings as needed. Let me know if you have any more questions, I would love to help!

      • Madeleine says

        Almost five months later, and I finally tried my hand at meatballs with panade. They turned out wonderfully thanks to all your help and expertise! Growing up, my mom always used dried breadcrumbs in her meatball recipe, and I definitely noticed a difference with using the panade…so THANK YOU for expanding my culinary horizons and sharing this great little tip. The meatballs I made were good, though I think I’ll try your recipe next time as the inclusion of bacon (had to jump on the bandwagon, I guess!) in mine made them just a bit too fatty for my taste.

        Thanks again, and I look forward to trying more of your recipes!

        • Jessica Gavin says

          Yay! I’m so glad that you tried the meatballs and saw that the panade helped! I don’t blame you on adding bacon, I LOVE it, and it’s hard not wanting to add it where ever you can. Please let me know if you have any more questions in the future, I’m here to help!

      • Mary says

        OMG! I have been trying to make soft meatballs for years. I followed your recipe to the tee. My family was in for a surprise and I didn’t tell them I tried something new. They loved it!! We had meatball subs the next day Usually don’t eat that type of sandwich. Thank you Jessica. Please add me to your list if you have any others.

      • Dennis Leary says

        This recipe is reminiscent of my mother’s recipe. The consistency of the meatballs comes perfect with the 2 to 1 ratio of meat to breadcrumbs with the 80/20Hamburg. Awesome taste after simmering in the “gravy” for hours then putting on a fresh crusty Italian roll. YUM!

      • Kara Hall says

        If I sin and use jarred sauce should I still simmer the meatballs in the sauce to help break down the tissue ? If so how long? If my meat is more lean then 80/20 can I add olive oil to make up the fat?

      • Jill Palmer says

        My mom always added some milk to her meatloaf mix for moisture. Do you think this would help with meatballs? Also I finely chop or chop up fine in a chopper/mincer carrot and put in my meatballs. Just something I saw in meatballs and sauce at a restraunt. With my sauce I sautéed garlic, onion, carrot and parsley in olive oil. . When it’s done I add a little hamburger 80/20 to put a little meat in the sauce and I also put these ingredients into the meatballs. I bake meatballs then simmer in the sauce for awhile. Can you tell me why the carrot. I thought it mightbe for a touch of sweetness. I love to cook

      • Jessica Gavin says

        Thank you for your comment! For this particular recipe, since I use dried breadcrumbs that are dried and very fine, the moisture from the eggs was enough to create a panade like effect. However, you can absolutely substitute 1/4 to 1/2 cup panade (fresh bread soaked in milk) to see if you enjoy the texture better with the fresh vs. dried breaad crumbs.

        • Grace Sadowski says

          How can I thank you sufficiently ?
          My daughter in law just had a baby and I spent a week making freezer meals and soups. I doubled the meat ball recipe (except for the salt ) and followed your recipe exactly. The beef was extra lean so I added about a quarter cup of olive oil to the four pounds of ground beef and that was the only tweek. Needless to say the dish was perfect and the little family delighted. My old recipe asked for a combination of ground meat but this recipe is far superior.

    • Val says

      Hi! Are you able to freeze these? We are trying make meals ahead and I wasn’t sure if this would be freezer friendly and at what point would in the cooking process should I freeze them. Many thanks in advance!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Justin- I broil on high, but check after 5 minutes. If the tops of the meatballs are a nice golden brown, then I flip them over to cook the other side. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!

  2. Frances Scaglione says

    I thought you used a panade in your meatballs? I was anxious to see your ratio of liquid to bread crumbs because I add water to the bread crumbs but am never sure how much to use.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Frances- For this particular recipe I didn’t soak the breadcrumbs, but if you wanted to I would recommend the following: Soak the bread crumbs in whole milk (add a small amount of milk and stir, adding more as needed until the breadcrumbs are moist). Without the panade I use a ratio of 1 pound beef, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and 1 egg. Since you are adding more moisture with a panade instead of just dried breadcurmbs, start off with 1/4 cup of panade, adding more if needed to get the right texture. The meat mixture should not stick to your hands when you roll into balls, and you don’t want it to be too mushy. You can always add a little bit of dried bread brumbs if the mixture feels too mushy and won’t hold together. I always do a test piece by pan frying a small teaspoon to tablespoon of the mixture to see if the texture and flavor is how I like it, then adjust with more panade/breadcrumbs/seasonings as needed. Let me know if you have any more questions, I would love to help!

  3. Amanda says

    These are fantastic. I follow the recipe exactly without the panade (haven’t had the time to experiment with that yet) and they are absolutely delicious! Taste just like my dads. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  4. Mitzi says

    Thank you for sharing your recipe !!! I am making this for the second time .My husband and children were so excited when they found out what was for supper!! I went exactly by your recipe except added a little more garlic and onion to the meatballs .Meatballs are simmering now and we can hardly wait !!!! Thank you Jessica !!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yay Mitzi! My family gets super excited too when they smell meatballs cooking in the sauce 🙂 So glad you like the recipe!

  5. Katie says

    Jessica,
    Wow! These meatballs were fantastic. Thanks for spending 10 years getting the recipe perfect. My Jim gives it an A+ and says it is a keeper!

  6. Rick says

    Tried it and it was great. I did all about 6oz of whole regatta cheese to the meat balls and they were super moist. Making some more today by request from others that I fed before with this recipe.
    Thank’s Jessica

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yay Rick! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the recipes and will be sharing more with others 🙂

  7. Sharon says

    I am cooking dinner for a lactose intolerant family member. Should i sub the cheese for anything? Or if i just don’t do anything in replacement of the cheese do you think they will turn out okay? Thank you, im so excited i stumbled on your recipe!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Sharon- Great question! The cheese adds a more savory flavor and helps to bind the meatball. I have made it without it so you could try a couple of things. Use a diary free parmesan cheese (vegan) as a replacement. Or you could make a small tester after you mix in the other ingredients. Just cook a quarter sized piece of the meat in a hot pan, then taste it. Adjust the seasoning with more salt, garlic salt, or onion powder until you get the right seasoning level.

  8. Jane Marie Gramza says

    I’ve been searching for a good meatball recipe and I think I just found it! My grandparents are from Sicily but no longer with us, nor are my parents. I do remember my mom always putting a pork chop in her sauce and letting it simmer with the meatballs. Have you ever tried this? It gives the sauce a fabulous flavor! Thank you for what I’m sure will be a great Sunday dinner! Mangia!!

  9. Anne says

    Hi, can I place the raw meatballs in the sauce and just cook them that way? If so, how long do you recommend cooking them in the sauce?
    Thanks for your advice!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Anne! I would recommend browning the meatballs first since it adds more flavor and structure to the meatballs before they cook in the sauce. You could try to add them in raw, but they may become more mushy in texture. I would check it at the indicated time, and continue to cook as needed until no longer pink in the center.

  10. Giovanni Valentine says

    Not once have I been dissatisfied with your food. I love it and this is the best I’ve eatin, it was hard tryna eat right and healthy but now I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Thanks to you my friend.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much for your feedback Giovanni! Looking forward to sharing more recipes with you!

  11. Judy says

    Hi Jessica,

    I printed the recipe a moment ago. I have a little time at home before I need to fly back to WA state so I’m looking through your cookbook and gathering my recipes here too. I look forward to making this recipe tomorrow. I am about to go to the freezer and get the hamburger out. Cannot wait to try this. You have the best recipes hands down!

    xoxo Judy

  12. Judy says

    Oh by the way I love the videos and although I have not had much time to get on your app lately I am glad I have it. When I am in WA I have accessed it to use for my cooking there.

  13. Ken Lew says

    Hi Jessica!

    Thank you for the recipe! Everything looks amazing. I was wondering, I don’t have an oven that broils, do you think I can get away with just searing the meatballs in a pan instead of broiling?

    Thanks!

  14. Kimberly Gregory says

    Can I make the meatballs smaller, say 1.5 or 2 ounces, without affecting the flavor? I would just broil them less?

  15. Debbie Sheegog says

    This is a perfect recipe that my 25-year old son found last night after we planned to make meatballs in a red sauce! It worked beautifully paired over both angel hair and fettuccini, since the family wanted two kinds of pasta. .
    He loved the idea of larger meatballs, and this was his first attempt at cooking this sort of dish. Using your recommended ingredients down to the smallest detail we knew we would never need to make them another way again!
    My past experiences with different ways of cooking meatballs have lead me to prefer your same technique using breadcrumbs and egg ingredients and the amounts of onion, garlic and spices were also perfect.
    Since we ended up cooking later than expected I did a sauce starting with the same way of sautéing the aromatic things together followed by one small can of tomato sauce, one of crushed tomatoes and one, 23.5 oz. jar of Newman’s Own Common Good Organic Roasted Garlic Sauce so that we could have it ready sooner. The other change then was adding additional liquid using both water and about 1/4 cup of wine with enough time still to allow it to cook down into a fabulous red sauce that was the perfect match for the braised meatballs.
    I loved watching my younger son’s face when he realized what a success this was as he had carefully created additional cooking time to be sure your grandmother’s family secret worked!
    It is a joy to have made new family memories of our own together in the kitchen. Thank you for sharing this. We all loved them and the guys wanted to, but could barely, eat more than one or two meatballs!
    (I actually am a vegetarian yet had to try a part of one. The taste and texture were the best I have ever had, hands down and was thrilled not to have added pork),

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Wow, I am so blown away by this lovely comment and hearing the story unfold about you and your son’s experience! You truly made my day and so happy. I hope you have more wonderful bonding moments together in the kitchen!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Shaun- yes, typically most Dutch ovens can withstand the heat in the oven. Check the temperature rating with your pot. Also, I would avoid broiling in it though because the heat is very intense and more direct to prevent cracking.

  16. Andrew Kundratic says

    Great recipe! A keeper for sure. The only thing I did different I used a can of puree because I only had one can of crushed tomatoes.

  17. Kerry says

    I had to adapt the recipe because my home canned tomatoes were, well…. Let’s just say they are in the trash. I never knew tomatoes could smell like that. Plus I wasn’t going to go back to the store….So I used fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chilis and a can of tomato sauce, beggars can’t be choosy. I followed the meatball recipe exactly. They smelled so good as I put them in the sauce. I cannot wait until dinner tonight. Probably will be a little spicy, but I don’t mind it. I cut the heat with a little sugar. If I wasn’t lazy I would have gone back to the store to get the right ingredients for the sauce. I will be doing that next time!

  18. Sarah says

    Never made meatballs before, just finished making this an hour ago! I’m crunched for time so I didn’t make it with the sauce, but this was a good first start.

    I aired on the side of caution when I was broiling them because the neatballs weren’t done all the way (though I bet they would if I let them simmer for longer in the sauce you’re supposed to make it with).

    Real tasty, real juicy even when broiled for a few extra minutes! I love the flavors and it was a lot easier to make meatballs than I thought it was. Thanks for sharing the great recipe!

  19. Marcela says

    The recepie is amazing! Thank you for sharing.
    I’m just wondering why you take the meatballs out of the sauce and store them separate. Can I just refrigerate them all together?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you Marcela! You can refrigerate the meatballs and sauce together, just make sure they are at room temperature before closing with a lid and placing in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.

  20. MelT says

    I made this last night and it was delicious. My boys had seconds and even my picky eater made them disappear. My husband said, “Add this to the rotation!!” I need gluten free so I toasted a gluten free bagel and made fine bread crumbs and it worked out great. I had a question about seasonings…do you add Italian seasonings like oregano to this ever or is it just salt and pepper with fresh basil garnish? This is my first time making sauce so I don’t know what is traditional and what isn’t. Thank you

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You are a rockstar Melissa! So genius using the GF bagel and making your own breadcrumbs. You can absolutely add some fresh or dried oregano to the sauce.

  21. Sherill says

    Thanks for this amazing recipe. I followed the meatball recipe you gave and the the family loved it. The meatballs were perfectly cooked and juicy.

  22. Blair says

    I used this recipe for my first attempt at making meatballs, and was not disappointed! I love making sauce from “scratch” too so the sauce recipe is fantastic as well. Hubby loved it too…no leftovers! I dont care for onions so I did omit those, however I added sliced baby bellas to the simmering sauce (about half way through).
    Awesome recipe, thank you for sharing!!

  23. Nikki says

    Hi there. My sauce is already in a Crock-Pot for the day. If I wanted to make these and put them in the crock pot with my sauce for tonight would I just put them in raw and let them cook in the sauce all day?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Nikki- Make sure to broil the meatballs first and then cook them in the slow cooker on low setting for 4 to 5 hours.

  24. Seth says

    These are the best meatballs I’ve ever made. The only thing I changed was to add 3 tsp (1 Tbs) of kosher salt instead of 2. We like salty food 🙂 Thank you for the recipe!

  25. Yesenia says

    Hi Jessica,
    I came across this recipe after already buying a meatball mix (1/3 each beef, veal and pork). It’s 1.4lb total so I adjusted accordingly. My question is I only used one egg for this amount of meat. Should I add another egg or will the meat mix be enough? This is my first time making meatballs from scratch! I am really looking forward to making these :). Thanks!

  26. Denise says

    Fantastic! I can finally make meatballs Just like my mom’s! Thank you! She cooked like your Grandma and I just couldn’t eyeball it.

  27. Ramah says

    I made these for my in-laws and everyone loved them! Even my husband who always says he didn’t like meat balls. He ate a bowl full before guests even arrived. I simmered them in the sauce for almost two hours and then kept them warm in a crock pot. Thank-you so much for sharing this delicious recipe!

  28. Shannon says

    Hi Jessica,
    I’ve used your recipe before for the meatballs only I added some Italian seasoning, oregano, basil and parsley as well to add more flavor. I always omit the parmesan cheese because I personally don’t care for parmesan. I used mozzarella cheese instead and they turned out awesome! I also doubled the recipe because I cook for a crowd. We ate them on subs. Everyone really loved them. Ilove making homemade food from scratch. Thank you for this wonderful recipe and I look forward to more of your recipes.

    Thanks again for sharing,
    Shannon

  29. Bruce Green says

    Wow so delicious! I added two pieces of cooked bacon I minced and mixed in with the meatball mixture. Also I used seasoned Italian seasoned bread crumbs. I also added two bay leaves into the sauce. The broiling of the meatballs really helps (I experimented and tried it both ways). I’m tempted to add some red pepper flakes but some in our family don’t like spicy so I won’t. Thank you.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Wow Bruce, you took the meatball game to the next level! My husband would love some bacon in the next batch of meatballs. Cheers!

  30. Brent says

    Thanks for a really great recipe! This was delicious and I really enjoyed the time it took to make it. I wouldn’t change a thing…and I always change something.

  31. Jim Parcels says

    Jessica,

    At the start of this post you mentioned making beef and pork meatballs for years, but I don’t see any pork listed in the recipe. Did I miss something?

    That aside, thanks for all the great info in your post!

  32. Scott says

    Going to make these again! The first time turned amazing! I have switched from my old standby to this new standby!

    Thanks!

  33. Shauna Soto says

    This recipe is a few years old, but I just found it tonight. With Washington’s recent snow storms, I needed something fun and productive to do with kids. We agreed on meatballs. And let me tell you– these are the best meatballs I have ever had. The only thing I changed was 1 lb. Beef, 1 lb mild Italian sausage. The sauce went from almost too simple, (I should have gotten better tomatoes) to an amazing depth of flavor after simmering with meatballs. So great! My 3 and 5 year old love every bit of it, too!

  34. Jennifer says

    From my grandma to your grandma: “Grandma’s Meatballs are perfect, finally I can stop making suggestions for making better meatballs!” And from me: the sauce is so much better than a jar (I’ve never liked jarred sauce but everyone always told me it was too much time/mess to make homemade. They were WRONG!)

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Wow, this is a HUGE compliment. Thank you for trying the recipe and having your grandma give approval. Cheers!

  35. Elizabeth Alkire says

    Oh, Jessica. I normally can’t staaand meatballs but they’re my husband’s favorite so I came across your recipe with low expectations… Oh. My. God. This spaghetti and meatball recipe is orgasmic. Legitimately, this is my husband’s favorite thing I cook now (I’ve made it twice in a week – tonight a double batch while having my husband’s grandfather over for dinner and so there would be plennnty of leftovers!) and I can’t get enough of it, either.

    SO GOOD. Thank you so much!

    I also appreciate you explaining the actual mechanics behind what’s happening with the food… the “food science” lol. I’m a fan!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much for the stellar review. It freezes really well too. Just form the meatballs, place them in a few resealable plastic bags, then defrost overnight. Happy cooking!

  36. Daniel says

    Trying it right now (the meatballs at least!!!) I will tackle the sauce recipe another day when I have more time. My wife put out a hamburger for spaghetti tonight and I decided that I would like to have meatballs instead of a meat sauce. I was kind of worried at first with broiling the meatballs then turning them,… I was afraid they would get too brown. But, they browned just enough to hold shape and they are simmering away in the sauce. Can’t wait to eat in a couple hours and let you know how everything was.

  37. KATHY says

    Oh. My. Goodness! We made this weekend and it was, without a doubt, the very best meatballs and sauce we have ever had! The first night we had it over penne pasta, the second night, we stuck ciabatta rolls under the broiler with garlic/Parmesan butter then added sliced meatballs (sauce clinging) and a slice of mozzarella to make the WORLDS BEST MEATBALL SANDWICH. Seriously, any restaurant that copied your recipe would become the neighborhood favorite. I made no adjustments, no changes to your recipe. SO GOOD.

  38. Vincent says

    Half ground beef and half ground veal yields an exquisite velvety texture. Veal may be politically incorrect – but it is simply magnificent.

  39. Addie says

    Hi Jessica,

    This was my first time making this meatball recipe and they were better than any that I had ever had before!!! They didn’t fall apart, they were juicy and they were tender! If I could I would eat these everyday. Thankyou

  40. Kaila says

    I love this recipe! I like to puree the tomatoes. I do the same to the garlic and onion because I dont like chunky onion. I added parsley to the meatballs and instead of broiling them I fried them up on the pan.

  41. Beth says

    I’ve made these meatballs two times, and they turned out delicious. The only thing I can recommend is that instead of cooking them on aluminum foil, I would cook them on parchment paper, because they do not stick, if you use parchment paper.

  42. Susan says

    Sooo DELISH! Thank you for sharing this meatball recipe! I used 1 lb ground beef and 1 lb Italian sausage. Force of habit, I added fresh chopped parsley and used both Parmesan and Romano cheese.
    Your ingredient ratios are perfect.
    Broiling is genius. Keeping them about 2” under the broiler, I achieved a fantastic brown crust without over cooking them before their long saucy soak.
    After dinner and many rave reviews, I made sure to copy your recipe because I never want to lose it!

  43. Carol says

    I have a question. I am making these meatballs & sauce for a party for a bunch of Construction Workers but as sandwiches. If I triple this recipe do you think I should triple all the ingredients including the eggs? Thank you!

  44. Judy says

    All your recipes I have made are wonderful. I have such a treasure in your cookbook Jessica and in you. That extra scientific information and the balance of it all, the right amount of spices make it so easy for anyone to have a wonderful dish to enjoy and no fears of sharing it with others. Thank you and bless you. Judy

  45. Ernest Contreras says

    After 40 years of high volume kitchens, I have always put my efforts on two basic points in my cooking one being quality ingredients, and simple yet proper Methods, I admire your knowledge as well as your methods, your cook smart. you do not cook under stress, and by this, you make it fun as I do. I love your work.
    You know what your food is doing deep down.

    See you more
    Chef Ernesto`

  46. John says

    Hi Jessica,

    Your recipe looks amazing and I’m so keen to try it out.

    Probably a silly question, but what happens to all the sauce left in the pan? In the video, it shows you removing the meatballs from the sauce and the next shot shows the meatballs sitting on top of the spaghetti which has been lightly covered in sauce.

    I see no quantity for the spaghetti in this recipe also?

    Sorry about the bloke questions, which are probably obvious to most other people. 🙂

    Cheers,
    John

  47. Kimikins84 says

    I used your revised husband enjoyed meatballs haha and these are the BEST meatballs ever !!! I had never made meatballs before I added minced celery but omg yes! Your grandmothers recipe is amazing!♡

  48. Ginger Napier says

    My Italian grandmother always soaked bread in milk then tore it into tiny pieces to add to her meatball mixture. She never used breadcrumbs. However, thinking about it, she always,made her own bread (about 8 loaves a month) so bread was always handy. I use bread that’s a few days old and grate it on a box grater then add enough milk to moisten. But I never knew it was called a panade and thought my grandmother’s method was unique to her. If she was still alive would be about 140 years old.

  49. Shawn says

    Hi Jessica. I found your recipe today and my whole house smells as good as it tastes. The only thing I did diffrent was I put the meatballs in a cast iron pan, seared them over the stove for a minute, then put them in my oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes since I couldn’t figure out how to use my broiler. Lol thank you so much for sharing!

  50. Karolynn Schofield says

    Can’t wait to try your recipe. I always add minced water chestnuts to my meatballs, so I will do that with yours. In your video I thought I saw you chop celery, but in the recipe it does not list it. I thought it was interesting to see the celery. Yes or No w celery?

  51. Claudia says

    Oh my goodness! These are the best meatballs I have ever had. So much better than the ones I used to make. I just finished them, I can’t wait for the family to try them. Thank you for sharing. Gramma’s recipes are always the best!

  52. Tina says

    Hi, I’m from Australia and just wanted to ask when you say broil do you mean the grill setting from above in the oven? Or just bake on high in the oven? Thanks

  53. Emma says

    I have to say, as someone who routinely messes up meatballs, this recipe was OUTSTANDING! Honestly, I’m so happy I can finally satisfy my meatball cravings at home!!

  54. Yana says

    Hi I was wondering how do you prevent the meatballs from sticking to the tinfoil? When I tried to take off the meatballs the tinfoil came with it

  55. Brynn says

    Do you add the broiled meatballs after combining the tomatoes to the paste? Or simmer the tomatoes and paste for 30 mins first, then add broiled meatballs? Thanks!!

  56. Ryan says

    Made this recipe exactly as written tonight (As I usually do when testing a new method) – totally delicious. This will be my go-to base recipe for tomato sauce AND meatballs from here on out! I’m going to play around with things (spices, etc) in the future, but texture and taste were perfect with this recipe. You’ve got a new reader Jessica, well done!

  57. Laura says

    These turned out great. Typically I’ve trusted my husband who takes pride in making them for us. Yesterday when I prepped them, he said let’s find a new recipe and tweak it to make it our own. And I’m so glad I did! Everything from the meatballs to the sauce was delicious. I added veggies to the sauce after sauteing (mushrooms and chopped collards) to bump our nutrients. Thanks for sharing the recipe and ratio that works!

  58. Helene Montini says

    I have been using your recipe for the past few batches and I love it. It most resembles and tastes like what my Grandmom used to make. I usually use a beef/pork/veal mixture but I pulled the ground beef out mistake today and I know it will still be great. I used to pan fry the meatballs but have switched to broiling and don’t make any changes to the meatball mix and only add a little oregano and red pepper flakes to the gravy. I cook for one so the freezer is my friend for weeks to come after I make a batch.

  59. Mike G says

    This has become my go to recipe for meatballs… I tweak it a little but the ratios are spot on in my opinion. And broiling was a game changer for me. I had tried pan frying and baking, but broiling is the perfect set up for the simmer in the sauce.

  60. Gina says

    Thank you so much for this great recipe and the science tips! This was my first time making meatballs with a panade and the difference was so noticeable. My family loved them. Only thing I did differently was I made the panade with all the ingredients except the meat. It made everything incorporate nicely so that all of the meatballs had the same texture and taste. I always broiled them, but never followed up with the extra cooking time in the sauce. It was usually just a quick coat and serve, but I am a believer! The sauce was much more flavorful even with using the canned tomatoes. Thanks so much for your expertise and knowledge.

  61. Katharine says

    The meatballs were delicious! I did use the panade as I thought it sounded like a nice touch. And I since I had it on hand, I used ground venison!

  62. Jeannie says

    How many servings does this recipe make? Nutrition facts say per serving, but it doesn’t say how many.
    I’ve made these several times and we love them!

  63. Jeannine says

    Made these meatballs the other night two ways – one using the 80/20 ground beef and the other using a plant based “meat”. Both turned out amazing! Thank you for your recipe. I’ll be making it again, and again.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’m thrilled to hear that using meat and a meatless option works! I’m curious to know if you could tell the difference? Which kind of plant-based product did you use?

      • jeannine says

        Yes – I used Impossible Burger. They turned out a little tougher than the beef. Other than the slightly darker color to the Impossible Burger they were VERY difficult to tell the difference once sauce was on them. The flavor from the spices and cheese was there.

        • Jessica Gavin says

          Thank you for the feedback! I tried the impossible ground meat and like it as an alternative, I will have to try it with the meatball recipe next and see if my husband can tell the difference.

  64. Carole Arborio says

    Tried this recipe for the first time. Followed directions to a tee! They are the perfect size, taste & tenderness to use in sauce with pasta, subs or to munch on…love em’.

  65. Frederick says

    Real meatballs made with veal, pork, and beef. Browning meats as well as low long simmered sauce. I’ve had it concentrate w/o paste I like to put paste on ribs or neck bones bake till almost burnt. if u make just beef meatballs. a great gravy must have pork bones either ribs or neck bones depends on budget. When u bake that paste in the bones depth of flavor insane also deglaze red wine. I’ve made your exact recipe when I couldn’t get all my ingredients. Its great as well. Your ratio 1 egg per and 1/2 cup crumbs sounds good. I like to soak inside of Italian or French bread in milk over using processed fine crumbs

  66. Michele Hyson says

    Jessica?, I want to know if your husband could tell the difference using Impossible beef? I am making both tonight because my daughter, the vegetarian in the family, is home for the holidays! What did he think? Did you have to make any adjustments

  67. Marge Nath says

    I always love your video’s. The meat balls get a thumbs up.

    Coming from marry into a Italian family I still all your
    cooking ideas.

  68. Ian Maxwell says

    Hi Jessica, first many thanks for your comments on a ketogenic diet. It is a great idea and one on which I intend to embark after I see my doctor this week.
    Question; in your Grandma’s Italian Meatball recipe you mentioned in your notes you say that it’s okay to use gluten free flour(almond flour etc). Will I need to use xanthan gum as well?
    FYI, I’ve cooked a lot of your recipes and as yet had a failure (I guess I never will) because your recipes are so precise and easy to follow.
    I’m a 80 year old man who lost his love of cooking many years ago but you’ve inspired me to take up an interest that I used to love. Thank you so very much. Please stay safe in these terrible times and keep up the excellent work that you are doing.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You’re welcome Maxwell! You don’t have to add additional xanthan gum for gluten free flour. You could add a small amount if using nut flour to creating a consistency to binds the moisture like the starches in the breadcrumbs. Let me know how it goes! Happy cooking, happy to be on this culinary journey with you!

  69. John says

    Hi Jessica,

    You mention Kosher salt in a lot of your recipes and I’m wondering if this is a cultural thing, or indeed Kosher salt is actually a better type of salt?

    Kosher salt here in Australia is something you would really have to search for as it’s not a common salt here.

    Cheers,
    John

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Kosher salt is more of a preference. I like the larger granules, easier to grab with my fingers for seasoning and stick to the surface of foods without being overly salty compared to really fine table salt. Sea salt is also a great option of kosher salt is not as available.

    • Andy says

      Hi John – I’m from the UK and wondered about why ‘kosher’ salt. All this means in US recipes is ‘salt flakes’. Koshering Salt is the US name for sea salt flakes, abbreviated to ‘kosher’ salt – probably they use a different term for rock salt (crystals) too – cheers Andy C

  70. Richard says

    I learned from a highly opinionated 2nd gen Italian a similar recipe, and she also did not give actual specifics. As for the bread crumbs she just said “keep adding until it feels tight”. She also insisted on 1 lb beef, 1 lb pork, 1 lb veal. I have found the veal can be eliminated with a 50-50 combo of beef and pork, and no one seems to notice. Two items she insisted on were anchovy paste, and red pepper flakes (to taste)

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I love hearing your meatball story, Richard! I will definitely have to try the anchovy and red pepper flakes for a spicy kick. Anchovy if a really delicious flavor booster!

  71. Rob says

    Coming from a FBI family(full blooded Italian) and making meatballs for the better part of 50 years, I have never heard or have seen my grandmother or mother put onions in a meatball

  72. Zac says

    So good. I’ve made these many times, it is a meal all of my 7 grandkids will eat. And you are right about the broiling, it adds a dimension and is way easier and faster than pan frying. I made these earlier this week and was out of breadcrumbs so I grabbed a box of crackers and dumped some in the food processor.
    I also saw somewhere that it wasn’t “authentic” to cook them in the sauce. If so I don’t like authentic since simmering in the sauce for a half hour or so does some magic, for both the sauce and the meatballs.
    I make mine about an ounce in size. Much easier for the little ones to handle (and fit better on a meatball sub the next day). And what Richard said above is spot on, a few anchovy filets and 50/50 with some good pork sausage are awesome.

  73. Bob says

    Amazing meatballs! We’ve made these several times and feel they beat any fancy Italian restaurant offerings. Want to mention that if you don’t feel like making homemade marinara they turn out great using a good quality jarred marinara like Paul Neumann’s. We do it both ways and always great. Also these make a fantastic meatball sub when you stuff the meatballs in nice greasy sub rolls and coat with mozzarella cheese before a light broiling in the oven. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe for meatballs that we make at least once a month here at our home in New Hampshire.

    Bob and Susan

  74. Elizabeth B says

    These are currently broiling! I’m wondering if I can broil some and not simmer in sauce and freeze for later? Should they broil for longer?

  75. Sally Harper says

    Not tried this recipe yet but going to make it on the weekend. I’m not able to get tomato paste what can I use instead please.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You can cook the sauce down a little longer to concentrate it down if you don’t have tomato paste. However if you want a sweeter sauce, you can use ketchup or tomato puree for a thicker sauce that’s not as sweet.

  76. MARGARET HOCKENSON says

    Best meatball recipe I have had and I’ve been cooking meatballs for over 40 years.

  77. Camille says

    These meatballs were tasty but not soft. I used breadcrumbs and did not moisturize them which I think I should have. I will try that next time.

  78. William Beckenhaupt says

    My mother taught to put grated potatoe in the mix, not too much but it helps keep them soft!

  79. Leigh says

    I’m quite an experienced cook and I know it’s always good to try new recipes.
    Broiling. BROILING! What a terrific idea! The recipe was great, too. Mine turned out a little bland, but I usually use a meat mix and today just used beef so that was probably it. Good job, good recipe. Will pass along and make again.

  80. Tina Kedikian says

    Thanks Jessica! I made them tonight and they were a hit. I used the seasoned breadcrumbs but also the Italian seasoning and put a bocconcini in each one. Turned out amazing and my family asked me to make them again!

  81. Kathleen says

    Killer recipe! It’s been put into regular rotation at our house. I’ll make a huge batch this fall when fresh tomatoes are in season, and freeze in portions, for those “I can’t be bothered to cook” days. Thank you!

  82. Elaine says

    Made these today and they came out delicious! Just a question though – is one serving one meatball? Thank you 😊

  83. Barb Weaver says

    Thanks Jessica!
    I will never be making meatballs again because my husband found YOUR recipe and HE will be making them because they are FANTASTIC!! He used Mutti whole tomatoes, an emersion blender and less salt.

Leave A Reply

Recipe Rating