The Best Italian Meatballs You Will Ever Eat

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There’s been a lot of fuss about this upcoming Valentine’s Day, and about cooking for someone in general. One redditor suggested that for V-Day, you should “[b]e her renaissance man,” and that, when cooking for someone, you should “[s]ee that project through, from choosing the right ingredients, to the right music selection, to the perfect message, to impeccable timing.”

To that, I say, “Nonsense!” Don’t get me wrong, if you really are a Renaissance man or woman, go for it. If you have the skill to make an intensely labored-over, fancy meal, complete with the perfect atmosphere and presentation, I tip my metaphorical hat to you. However, when did that become the expectation for romantic meals?

Spaghetti and Meatballs-- recipes for Marinara and Meatballs that are perfect for a romantic dinner!

The perfect meal for Valentine’s Day, to me, is like a great relationship: romantic, well-balanced, comfortable, flavorful, and fun. If it’s something you have to put too much work into or become too stressed over, it’s just not right. When I think of a good meal for romance, I don’t think of some complex French haute cuisine. I think of a big plate of Spaghetti and Meatballs.

The horror! The blasphemy! But why?! I’ll tell you why; Because it tastes great, when done well. If you can perfect the meatball and marinara, serve it with some garlic bread or garlic knots, and throw in a great wine, you’ve got a heck of a satisfying and impressive meal. The steps aren’t too labor-intensive, so you don’t wind up anxiety-ridden or with a botched meal, and there is a lot of room to make it your own.

Spaghetti and Meatballs-- recipes for Marinara and Meatballs that are perfect for a romantic meal!

To set the mood of the meal, feel free to add a candle or two, and that’s all you really need to do. If you don’t believe me, try to think of the most romantic dinner scene that you can remember. Was it the scene from Lady and the Tramp with the spaghetti-induced kiss? That scene has been the epitome of a romantic meal since 1955, and has been shared for generations. While sharing a plate of spaghetti might be a bit messy, it opens the meal up for a mash-up of silliness and sweetness that you’ll remember for years to come. If that’s not your style, using two plates is fine, as long as you at least make a joke about the spaghetti-kiss. It’s a must.

As I’ve said before, perfecting the meatball and marinara is key, so I’m here to share my recipes for both. Follow this link to see yesterday’s post containing the marinara recipe, and scroll down to find out how to make the Best Italian Meatballs You Will Ever Eat.

The Best Meatballs You'll Ever Eat
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This meatball recipe was adapted from Chef Anne Burrell's recipe. Her original recipe was enhanced with some tweaks to create the most flavorful, juicy meatballs that you have ever had. You'll make your Italian grandmother proud with this recipe.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, very finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • ½ lb ground veal
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Add the olive oil to a large pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season them with about a half teaspoon of salt, and cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the minced garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, or until browned.
  3. In a large bowl, add the veal, beef, pork, eggs, cheese, herbs, and bread crumbs. Using your hands, combine the ingredients. Add the onion and garlic and season with another teaspoon or so of salt. Mix again, using your hands. Then, add the milk, and mix once more.
  4. Shape the meatballs to whatever size you’d like. You can use an ice cream scoop if you find it important that all of your meatballs are the same size. I just wing it.
  5. Oil a large pan and place over medium-high heat. Give the pan a few minutes to heat up. Add the meatballs, turning them occasionally to ensure that all sides of the meatball are browned.
  6. Place the browned meatballs on a cookie sheet and bake for 18 minutes. Larger meatballs may require additional time.
  7. Add to marinara sauce as it simmers, freeze for later, or eat them plain!


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    • says

      When I take them out of the pan to move them to the baking sheet, I get rid of the grease that has been released into the pan, but nothing more intense than that. I think keeping a bit of the grease on the meatball is probably important to keep them for drying out, while too much would result in– you guessed it– a greasy meatball! Hope that helped!

  1. Carole says

    Lovely work! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is about veal? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. Cheers

  2. Amy Kutschker says

    Do you saute the garlic with the onions? You have garlic in the list of ingredients but no mention of it in the directions. I’m assuming that’s what you do with the garlic.

    • says

      Woops! I’ll change that now– yes, saute your onions and then add the garlic in the last 30 seconds or so, just to brown it a bit before adding it to your meat mixture! Thanks for pointing that out, Amy!

  3. cheryl says

    I made these tonight. They smell amazing. BUt I thought a large onion seemed to much and I haven’t put them in the sauce yet as I’m waiting until tomorrow but I did taste one and they are tasty but the onion is just way to much. I did chop in my mini chopper but I don’t think it was fine enough. Am making these for guests tomorrow with raviolis I hope they are good!

    • says

      I like a lot of onion, but if you think it’s too much, by all means, tweak to your liking! I hope you find a good balance for you and your guests. Let me know how everything turns out, Cheryl!

      • Cherykl says

        They actually were delicious! Since I cooked them the night before I put them in the crockpot with the sauce and let them simmer for a few hours as I was serving them for lunch. I am Italian and never made my meatballs with anything other than ground beef or ground turkey. This combo of the beef, veal and pork that I got from the butcher was great, and the onions were OK, especially after they simmered. The only thing I didn’t have was the basil and thyme, I thought I had it I the house so didn’t pick up when food shopping but was out. Only had oregano, was so bad I just didn’t get it!

        • says

          Glad to hear everything turned out well! I hate when I can’t find the herbs I need, but it happens sometimes and ya just gotta roll with it, unfortunately. I think the crockpot idea is great– I never thought to warm meatballs that way. Thanks for commenting back and letting me know!

    • says

      You can use ground chuck if you’d like, or anything with a decent amount of fat. You also might actually be able to find a “meatloaf mix” which is already equally mixed with the three types of ground meat in the recipe.

  4. christine Merlino says

    Your receipe is like mine.
    It’s very important to “sautee’ the onion and garlic before adding to “any meatball” Italian, polish or swedish.
    People will “skip this step”, thinking “what’s the big deal”.
    But, it is “a big deal”. It totally changes the flavor of the meatball.
    I grow my own basil and then “freeze it whole”(minus the stem) When I need it,I pull the bag out of the freezer and I “just Crunch the frozen basil” while in the zip loc bag.Grab what you need! Boom!
    One way to have fresh basil all year.
    I hate dried herbs.

  5. janet says

    I just made these. Tonight. Wonderful
    I had 1 lb each of meat and 1 cup.of a fresh 2 cheese grated parmesan mixture sold at weigmans.
    I didn’t modify the eggs or milk or bread crumbs for the extra meat and they were awesome.
    I did drain the meatballs on.paper towels before baking.there was still plenty of moisture afrer baking the meatball subs were a big hit and I froze a bunch of meatballs.

  6. DEA1 says

    Sooooo, where does the parsley come into play? Nowhere in the directions does it tell you what to do with it!!


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