Juicy, tender, and oh-so flavorful is the perfect characterization of these Oven Baked Meatballs. No mess, no fuss, and no splattering of grease with pan-frying. These are absolutely ideal for spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, soups, or a variety of appetizers. Make ahead and freeze these lovely meatballs for convenience later.
An Italian Meatball Recipe
This meatball recipe has a mixture of grass-fed beef, veal, and the unique taste of lamb. The result is a beautifully tender meatball that is infused with flavor from an assortment of herbs and seasonings. Both parmesan and ricotta cheese adds another dimension. You’ve never tasted meatballs so good and you’ll never need another meatball recipe. These meatballs can be submerged into two mouth-watering sauces, Homemade Pasta Sauce and Vodka Sauce.
Ingredients you’ll need for Oven Baked Meatballs
Three Ground Meats – Veal, Lamb, and Beef (80/20). Using the fatty meats of lamb and beef along with the delicate meat of veal makes for profoundly tender meatballs. For this recipe, I used one pound of each of these meats.
Chopped Onion and Garlic. These are the foundation of almost any savory dish, so they would definitely not be left on the sidelines in this recipe. One medium onion and six cloves of garlic (minced). Make sure and chop the onion finely.
The Cheeses – Grated Parmesan Cheese and Ricotta. You can find parmesan in pretty much any meatball recipe, but creamy ricotta is the secret ingredient here that helps produces a light and tender meatball while still holding its shape.
Bread Crumbs. I didn’t use a lot of breadcrumbs because I didn’t want the meatballs to be heavy. One-third cup was all I used in order to give them a little bit of substance.
Spices and Seasonings. These are the ingredients that bring a depth of flavor to the meatballs but are not overbearing – onion and garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasonings, fennel seed, salt, and pepper.
Fresh Parsley. The last ingredient to give it some freshness is chopped Italian parsley. I added a good 1/4 cup of this chopped herb.
How to Make Baked Meatballs in the Oven
- Combine all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Everything goes in a once. All three types of meat, chopped onions and garlic, cheeses, bread crumbs, spices and seasonings, and chopped parsley. Get your hands in there and get all messy.
- Pro Tip for Mixing the Meatballs. Don’t overmix the ingredients. It will make for a tougher meatball. How the meat is handled directly impacts how tender it is. Mix with your hands and only until the ingredients are combined.
- Form the Meatballs. Use gentleness when forming the meatballs. You don’t want them compressed and tightly packed, otherwise, they become tough, dense, and rubbery. Lightly coat your hands with oil while you are rolling them. It helps with the meat not sticking to your hands and helps with browning the meatballs when they’re in the oven.
- Pro Tip for sizing the balls evenly. Use a cookie dough scoop and then gently roll them with your hands. This way you ensure consistency of size. Also, you’re not over-handling them.
- More Tips for forming the balls. It’s best for the balls to be evenly formed in size when placed in the oven. Small meatballs will cook too fast and become overcooked and dry while the larger ones will be undercooked. My meatballs were about 2 ounces each and the whole batch made 28-30.
- Bake the meatballs instead of frying them. The good news with this recipe it avoids all of the mess of splattered grease all over your stove and countertop!
- Pro Tip for not overcooking. Meats in general when they cook too long, are tough and dry. It’s best to watch them after about 15 minutes to see how they are cooking.
- Transfer the baked meatballs onto paper towels to absorb the grease. When they come out of the oven, immediately pull them off the baking sheet and place them on several sheets of paper towels.
How Long to Bake Meatballs at 400°F?
These little beauties go into a 400°F oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Use an instant-read internal kitchen thermometer to get an accurate reading. You should remove them from the oven at 160°F or no longer pink inside.
Can Italian Meatballs be made ahead of time?
Absolutely. This recipe is ideal for make-ahead cooked or uncooked meatballs. If uncooked they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. If they are cooked and cooled completely, they can be stored for up to five days.
How to Freeze UnCooked Meatballs
Arrange the unbaked meatballs in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and place them in the freezer for an hour or two until they are frozen solid. Transfer them to a tightly sealed plastic freezer bag and store them in the freezer for three to four months.
You have two options when ready to serve:
- Bake straight from the freezer. Remove them from the freezer and place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven for 25-35 minutes until cooked through.
- Thaw and Bake. Place the meatballs (still in a plastic bag) in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Once thawed, you can bake them as directed in the recipe.
How to Freeze and Thaw this Baked Meatballs Recipe
Once the meatballs come out of the oven, let them cool completely. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and set them in the freezer for one to two hours until they are completely frozen. Transfer them to a tightly sealed plastic freezer bag and store them in the freezer for up to six months.
When ready to serve:
- Thaw in the refrigerator and bake. Leave the meatballs in the plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Transfer the meatballs in a single layer onto a baking sheet. Cover with foil to prevent them from drying out. Bake until heated through.
- To defrost in the microwave. If your microwave does not have a defrost setting, set it at a lower power setting and run at short bursts until the meatballs are thawed. Continue cooking at a low power setting until heated through. Be careful not to cook too high or too long.
- To thaw and reheat in a pasta sauce. Throw these frozen cooked meatballs into a sauce and simmer until they are cooked through between 25 and 35 minutes.
Why are my meatballs tough?
- Ricotta cheese is a secret ingredient that creates light and melt-in-your-mouth tender meatballs. It replaces the milk used in traditional Italian meatballs
- Do not over-mix and over-handle. Mix just until all the ingredients are combined and use a cookie scoop to prevent handling the meatballs too much. Oiling your hands while rolling will prevent the meat from sticking to them. Also, it helps to gently and quickly form the meatballs.
- Do not pack them too tightly.
- Do not use meat that is too lean. 80/20 grass-fed beef is what I used along with the lamb. This brings in more fat which creates a juicy and tender meatball with plenty of moisture.
- Do not over-cook. Just like any meat, meatballs, if overcooked will become dry and tough.
What to serve with Baked Meatballs
Meatball Sub Sandwiches. There’s nothing like a messy, cheesy classic meatball sub to throw in the mix of a party.
Homemade Pasta Sauce. This mouthwatering red sauce incorporates onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and spices that boost its flavor. Add these tender meatballs to swim in this pasta sauce and you have the perfect comfort food to remedy the winter “blahs.”
Cheesy Bacon Wrapped Breadsticks. These are the perfect breadstick to sit alongside these baked meatballs.
Meatball Pizzas. Use this pizza dough recipe.
Italian or other Soups. For soups, you will want smaller, bite-size meatballs.
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Oven Baked Meatballs
Juicy, tender, and oh-so flavorful is the characterization of these Oven Baked Meatballs. No mess, no fuss, and no splattering of grease with pan-frying. These are absolutely ideal for spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, or a variety of appetizers.
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 25
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 28-30 Meatballs 1x
- Category: Meatballs
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1 pound Ground Veal
- 1 pound Ground Lamb
- 1 pound Ground Grass-Fed Beef (80/20)
- 1 medium Finely Chopped Onion
- 6 large Garlic Cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
- 3/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
- 1/3 cup Bread Crumbs
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Fennel Seed
- 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 1 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1/4 cup Freshly Chopped Italian Parsely
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 pound each of ground veal, ground lamb, ground beef, 1 medium finely chopped onion, 4 tablespoons large minced garlic cloves, 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 3/4 cup ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon each garlic and onion powder, 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red peppers (to taste), 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley.
- Using a cookie scoop, scoop out a round of the meat mixture (2 ounces each). Gently roll out the meat mixture into balls. Do not overhandle at this stage.
- Place the meatballs on a baking sheet leaving space between them.
- Bake the meatballs for 20-25 minutes or until they are tender but fully cooked. Be careful not to overcook them.
- Immediately remove the meatballs from the baking sheet and let them drain on layers of paper towels.
- Add the meatballs to the marinara sauce and simmer for the remaining time.
- Don’t overmix the ingredients for the meatballs. It will make for a tougher meatball. How the meat is handled has a direct impact on how tender it is. Mix with your hands and only until the ingredients are combined.
- Use gentleness when forming the meatballs. You don’t want them compressed and tightly packed, otherwise, they become tough, dense and rubbery.
- Lightly coat your hands with oil while you are rolling the meat mixture into balls. It helps with the meat not sticking to your hands.
- Use a cookie scoop and then gently roll the meatballs with your hands. This way you’re not over-handling them.
- When the meatballs come out of the oven, immediately pull them off the baking sheet and place them on several sheets of paper towels in order for the grease to be absorbed.
- Serving Size: 3-4 meatballs
- Calories: 398
- Sugar: 1 g
- Sodium: 871 mg
- Fat: 27 g
- Saturated Fat: 9 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 8 g
- Trans Fat: 1 g
- Carbohydrates: 9 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 48 g
- Cholesterol: 86 mg
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