Homemade Italian Meatballs

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These truly are the meatballs that set the standard for all other meatballs.

Producing a meatball that is juicy and deeply flavorful can be a challenge. We show you the tried and true tricks for making the most succulent meatballs of all time. Make the homemade marinara sauce ahead of time and then let those balls simmer in all of the glory. Perfect for spaghetti and meatballs or for a party appetizer!

An overhead view of a large cast-iron skillet filled with Italian meatballs resting in a layer of homemade marinara sauce.

How To Make Homemade Italian Meatballs


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The Ingredient You Will Need

The ingredients for these amazing meatballs are classic Italian flavors. Here’s what you’ll need to have on hand:

Ground meat – We love a trio of ground beef, pork, and veal. You’ll need a total of 2½ lbs. You can go with a combination of all three, or beef and pork, or just beef.
Eggs – Lightly beaten
Bread crumbs – From a slightly stale piece of Italian bread that you’ve pulverized in your food processor, or, you could use purchased breadcrumbs (either plain or Italian will work).
Herbs – Fresh parsley and basil, chopped. Fresh is best, but dried can also be used (go with half the quantity listed in the recipe card).
Garlic– Finely minced
Seasonings – Salt and pepper.
Italian bread – Let 4 slices sit out on the counter for a few hours to dry out. Cut off the crusts and then tear them into pieces.
Milk – Whole is best.
Parmesan cheese – Grated.
Marinara sauceHomemade is the way to go, but quality store-bought will work in a pinch.

EXPERT TIP: Allowing the dried-out Italian bread to soak in the whole milk for about 8 to 10 minutes is a “tried and true” technique for achieving extra tender and juicy meatballs. Press the bread into the milk. Most of the milk should get absorbed before you add it to all of the other meatball ingredients.

A person transferring milk-soaked bread pieces from a glass bowl into another glass bowl filled with ground meat, herbs, and seasonings.

Tips For Making Perfect Italian Meatballs

Use a Combination of Ground Meats – Beef, pork, and veal add a truly authentic taste. Ground veal can be found in the meat department of many well-stocked supermarkets. If you can’t find it, just go with equal parts beef and pork.

Incorporate a Moistening Agent – This is critical: Milk-soaked breadcrumbs moisture and depth of flavor to the meatball mixture. If desired, you can grate an onion and add it to the mixture, too. It will add moisture and flavor, but also, a bit of an onion taste.

Be Gentle – Form the meatballs into uniform sizes, being careful not to overwork the mixture, which can result in tough meatballs. If possible, weigh each meatball to ensure evenly shaped balls. A kitchen scale helps tremendously. We recommend approx. 3 oz each. 

A person forming an Italian meatball in his hand over a bowl of the meatball mixture.

How To Serve

These meatballs are wonderful as a party appetizer, especially for game day, or any type of entertaining.

They can also be easily prepared in advance and then refrigerated. To get them ready for serving, simply place them in a roasting pan and spoon a little extra marinara sauce around them, cover the pan with foil, and then bake at 300°F for about 30 to 45 minutes, until they are soft and heated through. Transfer them to a serving platter, a slow cooker on WARM, or a chaffing tray. Be careful to not have the heat too high, or the meatballs could burn on the bottom.

Of course, they are amazing served with an Italian feast either as a side or on top of pasta for an unforgettable serving of spaghetti and meatballs.

Another incredible way to serve these gems is in a meatball submarine sandwich.

We also love to serve them directly from a cast-iron skillet filled with a nice layer of simmering marinara sauce. It’s gorgeous and always a hit with family and friends.

A close-up view of Italian meatballs in a marinara sauce topped with shaved parmesan and chopped parsley.

Other Classic Italian-American Recipes To Try

Everyone has their favorite Italian dishes that they love to order from their favorite Italian restaurant. When you can re-create them at home, it doesn’t get much better than that. Here are some beloved recipes that we are certain you and your family will treasure:

Classic Meat Lasagna
Best-Ever Baked Ziti
Eggplant Rollatini
Eggplant Parmesan
Chicken Parmesan
Chicken Marsala
Pasta Pomodoro
Penne alla Vodka
Shrimp Marinara
Salmon Puttanesca
Pasta Primavera
Cacio e Pepe

These are all amazing and classic in every possible way. But, in the meantime, aren’t the glorious balls of deliciousness calling your name? Spaghetti and Meatballs for everyone!

An overhead view of a large pasta bowl filled spaghetti and meatballs with two glasses of red wine and a board of bread all nearby.

We love all kinds of meatballs, from Mexican (Albondigas) meatballs to Swedish meatballs, but, there is just something undeniably special about Italian meatballs.

As with most things in life, to get the best possible outcome, they require a little tender love and care, and a little bit of time.

But, after you and your loved ones take that first bite, you’ll cherish every moment of it. They are really that amazing.

A close-up view of numerous cooked meatballs on top of spaghetti with marinara..

Ready to make the best meatball in the world? Go for it!

And when you do, be sure to take a photo of it, post it on Instagram, and tag @HowToFeedaLoon and hashtag #HowToFeedaLoon!

An overhead view of a large cast-iron skillet filled with Italian meatballs resting in a layer of homemade marinara sauce.

Homemade Italian Meatballs

These Homemade Italian Meatballs are wonderful over pasta, as an appetizer, or in a meatball hero sandwich. They take a little time to make, but are they ever worth it. You won't believe how incredible your house will smell as these gems are simmering in the made-from-scratch marinara sauce. Incredible.
4.86 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Entree
Cuisine: Italian, Italian / American
Keyword: how to make Italian meatballs, meatball recipe
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 504kcal


  • 4 cups fresh marinara sauce
  • 4 slices Italian bread crusts removed (let them sit out for about an hour to firm up)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 lb beef ground, 85% lean
  • 1 lb pork ground
  • ½ lb veal ground
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs fresh, from slightly dry Italian bread, pulverised in a food processor (see NOTES)
  • 3 tbsp parsley fresh, chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 tbsp basil fresh, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated, plus extra for serving


Do Ahead

Make the Meatballs

  • Tear the crustless bread into small pieces and place in a medium bowl. Pour the milk over the bread and press with your fingers, to help the milk get absorbed. Let it rest for about 5 minutes.
    4 slices Italian bread, 1 cup whole milk
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the beef, pork, veal, and eggs. Mix until just combined.
    1 lb beef, 1 lb pork, ½ lb veal, 2 large eggs
  • Now add the breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, salt, garlic, and pepper and mix it well.
    ½ cup breadcrumbs, 3 tbsp parsley, 2 tbsp basil, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp Kosher salt, 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Add the soaked bread and Parmesan cheese to the meat mixture and mix until fully combined.
    1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Pull out chunks of meat and roll them between your hands that have been dampened with water. Each ball should be slightly larger than a golf ball, approx. 3 oz. each. Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate the rolled balls for 15 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Bake meatballs for 30 minutes. Flipping once, halfway through cooking.
  • (Alternatively, you can brown the meatballs in a skillet with olive oil - about 1 tablespoon - until browned on all sides).
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet or pot, heat the marina over medium heat.
    4 cups fresh marinara sauce
  • Carefully add the meatballs and any accumulated juice to the marinara.
  • Lower the heat to medium and cook them for at least 20 to 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour. Add more marinara, if necessary. You'll need to turn the balls over now and then if they are not fully submerged.
  • Use tongs to remove the meatballs from the sauce and place them in a serving bowl. Ladle on a little sauce and grate fresh Parmesan cheese over the top. Garnish with chopped parsley (if using).
  • Serve at once with extra sauce on the side. Or, place them in a slow cooker on the WARM setting.


See the video near the top of the blog post for visual guidance. If you liked the video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. 
We recommend using a trio of beef, pork, and veal. If desired, you can go with just beef and pork (1½ lbs beef + 1 lb pork) or all beef (2½ lbs beef). 
Fresh breadcrumbs are recommended (from a large slice of Italian bread that has been set out for at least an hour). For the bread/milk mixture, stale bread works great, too. 
If you prefer, you can brown the meatballs in a skillet (instead of the oven). You'll get a darker crust on the balls, but, they can lose their shape somewhat. A non-stick skillet makes this easier. 
The marinara sauce can be made days in advance. The meatballs can be made up to 2 to 3 days in advance.  See the blog post under "How To Serve" for reheating instructions.
Leftovers will keep covered in the fridge for up to 1 week. They can be frozen for 2 to 3 months. Thaw completely and then reheat as instructed. 


Calories: 504kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 163mg | Sodium: 1282mg | Potassium: 529mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 371IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 233mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!

POST UPDATE: This was originally in July 2015, but was updated with improved tweaks to the recipe with new tips and photography and a fabulous new video in February 2024!


    • Hi Beth! Isn’t that most annoying thing? We usually cut the size of parchment we need, unfurl it, and place a plate on it for awhile. This actually works pretty well, but, it will still want to curl a bit. Actually, thinking about it…we probably used the parchment paper sheets that you can purchase from most supermarkets. They are in flat boxes and not on a roller. They stay nice and flat. Hope this helps!! Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    I’ve never been able to make a decent meatball until I made yours!
    I’d usually just make spaghetti and meat sauce with Italian sausage, but not anymore! Added bonus: this meatball mix makes the most fabulous burgers as well!

  • Love you guys to pieces and can’t wait to make this recipe. But I have to say (as a humble writer) I lost count of how many times you spelled marinara ‘marina’. Oops!!!

    • Jane!! Thank you so so much!! We are embarrassed that some of our older recipe posts are riddled with typos! Since then, we have employed a much more thorough proofing process and we have been working hard to re-visit all older posts and update/revise accordingly. Thank you for pointing this out to us! We honestly appreciate it so much!! And thank you for your love and support and we hope you stay aboard. All the very best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    I decided to start this recipe late on a Sunday afternoon after a Saturday night with too many vinos flowing lol. The marinara sauce recipe brought out a gorgeous sweetness to the San Marzano tomatoes and the meatballs with their layers of flavors was so worth the labor! Looking fwd to leftover meatball subs this week. Thank you!

    • Hi Cece!! Sorry for the delayed response!! You have no idea how many times we’ve delved into a “project” when the vino is flowing!! That’s great, though!!! There is nothing much better than homemade meatballs and marinara in the fridge, just waiting to be eaten all week. Sounds amazing and we’re kinda jealous!!! xoxoxo Kris & Wesley

    • 5 stars
      I always loved to cook but since I’ve developed severe & chronic back pain I cannot stand up or move around much. Sadly, enjoying cooking for so many years & having to give it up more or less, I really enjoyed your video and started the meatballs & sauce today. My daughter had to help me but we got it done. Meatballs are outrageously delicious & pretty close to what my Italian mother made. Thank you for making me smile.

      • And thank YOU, Judy, for making us smile from ear to ear! That is a HUGE compliment and we appreciate it so very much!! Please stay in touch! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    I took it a bit further. I made the meatballs as per the recipe but instead of cooking them in the oven or browning them on the stove I added them directly into the instant pot with the sauce I usually make. 10 minutes cook time, 15 minutes natural release. The meatballs held their shape and were very moist. The recipe made over 30 golf ball sized meatballs

    • Hi Karen! Wow!! So glad you had such awesome success with our meatballs recipe and that’s brilliant to finish them off in the IP. So delicious and much quicker!! Thanks for letting us know and for the wonderful review! That means so much to us!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    I made these meatballs for a work function and everyone went WILD over them. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • 5 stars
    you guys crack me up! I want to come to a dinner party at your house would be so much fun! My grandmom used to put milk and soaked bread in her meatballs to. I forgot about that until I saw your video. I’m going to try that next time I make them!

  • This is the 2nd reference in 2 days suggesting I bake something on wax paper?!? Set me straight guys…is it really okay despite what google says? THANKS!

    • Hi Tracee! No, I typically don’t ever bake with wax paper. I’ve removed that reference (not sure what I was thinking!). You can even just place the uncooked meatballs directly on the baking sheet. Thanks, Tracee!!

  • 4 stars
    Where’s the sweet Italian sausage? Where’s the fennel? Why so much milk? Why do you put so much flavor in your breadcrumbs when you could just add it directly to the meat mixture? Your recipe is good, it just needs, in my opinion, a few more flavor additives. I like that you can bake your meatballs which is what I’ve done for years. There’s a vegan in my family so I can’t simmer the meatballs in my sauce – that and the fact that I make 4 doz. meatballs at a time and freeze them.
    By the way, loons are my favorites; we had them on the river behind our house in MA. They drove the dogs crazy when they dove and resurfaced.

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