Not to be overdramatic, but I don’t know what I would do without this delicious pan-fried meatball recipe. It’s my mom’s meatball recipe and the only way I make Italian meatballs at home now! The key is pan frying these babies in olive oil instead of baking them in the oven because you get this super delicious outside while still keeping the inside tender and moist from the addition of soaked bread and marinara sauce that gets added to the meat mixture.
Why you should make mom’s meatballs:
I come from a family full of Italian Americans who really value their family recipes so the pure fact that I’m sharing this sacred meatball recipe on the internet for you should be enough to convince you to make them! This recipe is different than most traditional Italian meatballs due to the onion and celery that’s added to the meat mixture for extra flavor. There are a few other special steps taken to ensure you end up with juicy and moist meatballs every single time. You can make a big batch of these and throw them in a big pot of simmering sauce, make meatball subs, or of course enjoy with whatever pasta you like!
Ingredients you need for these homemade meatballs:
- Ground pork
- Ground beef: my family always uses an 80:20 blend but lean ground beef is ok too.
- Italian seasoned breadcrumbs: you can use panko breadcrumbs too.
- Fresh slices of bread: I like white Italian bread best for these flavorful meatballs.
- Tomato sauce
- Parmesan cheese: pecorino romano cheese can be substituted.
- Kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, dried basil and oregano: dried or fresh herbs will both work here.
- Garlic cloves
- White onion
- Extra-virgin olive oil: vegetable oil or canola oil can be substituted.
How to make the best Italian meatballs:
- In a small skillet, cook down the onion, garlic and celery until soft and fragrant. Then set it aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine both kinds of ground meat with all the other ingredients listed on the recipe card.
- Mix everything up to evenly distribute the ingredients, then make a tester meatball to check your seasoning levels.
- Once the mixture tastes how you like, roll the raw meatballs into rounds a little larger than golf ball size.
- If you have one, prepare a cast iron skillet for panfrying on medium heat (if not, a non-stick skillet works fine as well).
- For best results, slow cook the meatballs so you can unsure a crisp, dark down exterior and fully cooked interior. Getting that delicious crust on the outside is what gives these lots of flavor.
- Once cooked, remove the meatballs from the pan with a slotted spoon to let some of the extra oil drain off. I usually set mine of a large plate lined with paper towels to help with this as well.
My best tip for pan-frying meatballs:
The best method for this is low and slow. Make sure you are using a high quality olive oil and a non-stick or well seasoned cast iron pan to reduce the likelihood of sticking too. My cooking these slowly, you will ensure that inside gets all the way cooked through and the outside remains perfectly browned instead of burnt.
More meatball tips!
- Don’t over work the meat mixture. Just mix until combined or else the meatballs could end up tough.
- When rolling the meatballs, lightly coat your hands in olive oil. This will help you form smooth, round balls and prevent the meat from sticking all over your hands.
- Make a tester meatball! Once the meat mixture is prepared, take a little piece and pan fry it on both sides for a minute or two. This way you will be able to check your seasoning levels and adjust them to your liking before you start cooking all of the meatballs.
One more PSA about meatballs:
The cook time for these meatballs is going to vary a little for everyone. The internal temperature should be right around 160 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer to check the temperature, just cut one in half and make sure the inside is completely cooked through and no longer pink before you remove them from the heat. If you follow the cooking tips I’ve listed above, a good rule of thumb to follow is getting them fully cooked through in 20 minutes on medium to low heat.
- 2 large nonstick or cast iron skillets
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb ground beef 80:20
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup italian breadcrumbs
- 4 slices white bread
- 2-3 tbsp marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp each: pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, dried basil and oregano
- 1/2 white onion finely chopped
- 1 tsp garlic minced
- 2 ribs of celery finely chopped
- In a small skillet, sauté the onion, garlic and celery until soft. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the meat, egg and breadcrumbs.
- Pour the milk into a separate bowl and submerge each piece of bread. Lightly squeeze out the excess milk, then tear each slice into pieces and add to the meat.
- Add in the marinara, parmesan and seasonings.
- Add in the sautéed onion, garlic and celery from earlier too.
- Mix everything together (your hands are the best tool for this), then try to make a tester like I mentioned before.
- If you're satisfied with the seasoning levels, start to roll the meat mixture into 2 to 3 inch sized balls.
- Get two pans going on the stove over medium to low heat and start to fry up the meatballs.
- You'll want to rotate the meatballs in the pan to get an even cook on them and make sure they aren't sticking.
- You should see a nice brown color on all sides of the meatball (this part can be time consuming but it's what makes this recipe so good, it should take about 20-25 minutes total).
- When the meatballs are fully cooked, transfer them to a paper towel lined baking tray to get rid of any excess oil.
- My favorite ways to serve are in a sandwich, alongside pasta, or on top of creamy polenta!