5 from 1 votes

Old Fashioned Italian Meatballs

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These old fashioned traditional beef meatballs made with authentic Italian ingredients and skillet fried are some of the best and easy meatballs you will ever eat. With soft meaty centers that are tender and juicy, it cannot be easier to bring Italy into your home this week! 

Smothered in sauce (homemade or jarred), put in a sub or simply eaten right from the fork, the Italian spices and seasonings with the *secret* ingredient are exactly the classic recipe you crave. 

cast iron pan frying meatballs.

Why this recipe works

Old Fashioned Methods: Many meatballs are only made by combining eggs, bread crumbs and meat, but the extra flavor comes from milk soaked bread. 

Recipe by an Italian Grandma: We originally came across this Italian meatball recipe being shared on TikTok and followed it closely from an Italian grandma – in a few cases we substituted for more readily available ingredients that had no effect on final recipe ( like chopping a real garlic in place of using minced garlic).

Ingredients

  • Italian bread –  cut ripped into small pieces and soaked in 1/2 cup milk
  • ground beef –  as listed elsewhere in this article, there are other meats that work perfectly in a meatball like sausage or veal, but for this classic meatball, we simply use ground beef
  • Parmesan cheese – do not substitute shredded parmesan for regular cheese because it has totally different melt points. However, shredded can be substituted for grated. 
  • eggs – eggs are part of the binding process.
  • seasonings: parsley, minced garlic, fresh basil, kosher salt and cracked pepper.
  • bread crumbs – in addition to Italian bread, this 5 star recipe for Italian meatballs also includes dried bread crumbs and panko crumbs, which both act as a meat binder. 
  • vegetable oil – enough to fry up meatballs in a cast iron skillet.
  • marinara sauce – jarred or homemade sauce if using.
9 image collage of meatball ingredients laid out and labeled.

How to make Authentic Italian Meatballs

Make sure to check out the printable recipe card for full step by step instructions and ingredients.

Steps 1-6: Add raw beef, cracked eggs, fresh parsley, garlic, both dried bread crumbs, torn fresh basil into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix beef and ingredients together well, your hands work best.

6 image collage of meatball ingredients being added to a bowl.

Steps 7-10: Squeeze milk from bread and add to the beef mixture. Mix well.

Heat a pan of hot oil, about 1/2″ deep.

Using a 2 tablespoon portion scoop, scoop beef into balls and place into hot oil.

collage of 4 images showing adding bread crumb mixture in beef and scooping.

Steps 11-14: Fry, flipping frequently until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Add meatballs to sauce and heat over medium heat until hot.

Serve immediately.

Recipe makes 25-28 meatballs

4 images showing raw to cooked meatballs and then simmered in sauce.

FAQ’s

How do you get meatballs to stick together?

Meatballs are held together by a binder and in this case, that is by eggs, bread crumbs and Italian bread. This keeps the meat from falling apart in the skillet. In these authentic meatballs, the Italian bread gets soaked in milk and that can lead to moisture. Be sure to wring out as much moisture as possible to make sure the final shape doesn’t fall apart.

What are traditional Italian meatballs made of?

Traditional meatballs are either made from beef or a combination of veal/beef and sausage.

What makes a great meatball?

A great meatball can not only be smothered in sauce but eaten exactly as is- crispy edges and a soft tender center. The secret to the BEST meatballs are frying over baking and using day old bread soaked in milk.

Can other meats than beef be used?

Absolutely! Some of the best meatballs I have EVER had came out of Venice, Italy and included pork. It’s fine to use ground beef, ground sirloin, or a combination of pork + beef or beef + sausage.

Do meatballs have raisins?

Sicilian Meatballs are made with golden raisins.

2 image collage of portioning out meatballs.
homemade meatballs with red sauce and dried herbs on top.
5 from 1 votes

Old Fashioned Italian Meatballs


Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 32 minutes
Traditional beef meatballs start with great quality meat, real Italian bread, fresh Italian seasonings and Parmesan cheese. An Italian grandmothers recipe, these old fashioned meatballs are as authentic as it gets, with soft tender centers and golden brown outsides. Fried over baked, these meatballs contain major flavor and bring something special to spaghetti, subs or any Italian dinner being served. The best part about 5 star meatballs is that they are red sauce marinara sauce optional – they are just that good! Serve along side a simple salad and some crusty bread. 

Ingredients
 

  • 4 slices Italian bread cut ripped into small pieces and soaked in 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 package 6 oz. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Panko Crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • marinara sauce

Instructions

  • Tear up 4 slices of Italian Bread (day old is best) to 1/2 cup of milk and push bread into milk. Set the bowl aside.
  • Add ground beef, 2 cracked eggs, fresh parsley, minced garlic, dried bread crumbs, dried panko crumbs, and fresh basil leaves into a bowl.
  • Season meatball mixture with salt and pepper.
  • Mix all ingredients together well, your hands work best for this.
  • Squeeze milk and all moisture from bread and add to the beef mixture. Mix ingredients well. 
  • Heat a pan of hot oil, about 1/2" deep until medium-hot and oil is hot and sizzling.
  • Using a 2 tablespoon portion scoop, scoop beef into balls and place into hot oil.
  • Fry each meatball, flipping sides frequently until browned on all sides. It should take about 8-12 minutes to fully cook through meatballs, depending on size of ball and temperature of oil.
  • Using tongs, remove from pan and set to drain on paper towels.
  • If wanted, add meatballs to sauce and heat over medium heat until hot.
  • Serve immediately.

Notes

How to correctly portion:

Use a 2 tablespoon portion scoop so you get about a 2″ meatball, not super small, not gigantic. Keeping meatballs all the same size makes sure one doesn’t overcook and one undercook.
How do you get meatballs to stick together?
Meatballs are held together by a binder and in this case, that is by eggs, bread crumbs and Italian bread. This keeps the meat from falling apart in the skillet. In these authentic meatballs, the Italian bread gets soaked in milk and that can lead to moisture. Be sure to wring out as much moisture as possible to make sure the final shape doesn’t fall apart.
What are traditional Italian meatballs made of?
Traditional meatballs are either made from beef or a combination of veal/beef and sausage.
What makes a great meatball?
A great meatball can not only be smothered in sauce but eaten exactly as is- crispy edges and a soft tender center. The secret to the BEST meatballs are frying over baking and using day old bread soaked in milk.
Can other meats than beef be used?
Absolutely! Some of the best meatballs I have EVER had came out of Venice, Italy and included pork. It’s fine to use ground beef, ground sirloin, or a combination of pork + beef or beef + sausage.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 223kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 419mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g

Nutritional Disclaimer: The nutritional data provided here is auto-calculated and intended for your convenience only. As it’s generated via automation, its accuracy may be compromised. For precise nutritional insight, please compute the values utilizing the actual ingredients in your recipe through your chosen nutrition calculator or application.

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5 from 1 votes

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