These Italian Meatballs are baked in marinara sauce and topped with melted Mozzarella cheese. These are perfect to serve with spaghetti, in subs, or as a side dish for a potluck or holiday! This is an easy dish to make ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze for later.
Be sure to serve this with a side of my garlic bread with cheese.
I am so excited to share this recipe with you. These meatballs are SO juicy and tender, and it’s all due to the miracle of using a panade. It makes these meatballs melt in your mouth.
What is a Panade?
A panade is a mixture of starch and liquid that is combined to form a paste. It’s mixed in with meat for meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers to preserve the tender texture of the meat.
When meat cooks, the proteins expand and contract and in doing so, moisture escapes. The starch in the panade turns to a gel when cooked and lubricates the fibers in the meat as it cooks.
The bottom of this post also contains recipe card with ingredients and full instructions.
How to Make It
- Soften the onions and garlic in a pan and set aside to cool. *Note: This is optional but creates a more subtle texture and flavor, which is especially helpful for picky eaters.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. (Breadcrumbs, Parmesan Cheese, and Seasonings.)
- Combine the wet ingredients in another small bowl. (Whisk the egg, add the milk, stir to combine.)
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine until a paste forms. (This is the panade.) Add the onions/garlic.
- Add the panade to the meat and use your hands to mix until just combined. Don’t overwork the meat or the meatballs will be tough.
- Add 3/4 of the marinara sauce to a 9×13 casserole dish. Roll meat into 24 balls 1+1/2 inches thick.
- Add the meatballs to the dish and spoon remaining marinara sauce on top. Cover and bake at 375° for 30 minutes.
- Remove the cover and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 more minutes.
- Broil at 450° for 1-2 minutes at the end if desired. Use a paper towel to carefully dab off any excess grease on the top. Top with parsley and serve.
Baking Sheet Method
To bake these on a baking sheet without sauce: 1.5 inch meatballs take approximately 30-35 minutes to bake at 350°, the internal temperature needs to reach 160°.
I use this instant read thermometer (Amazon Affiliate link), it is a life saver in the kitchen.
Make Ahead Method
These meatballs can be rolled and stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours prior to baking.
You can also flash freeze the raw meatballs on a baking sheet for 1.5 hours, then store them in a gallon freezer bag for up to 3 months. Let them defrost in the fridge overnight prior to baking.
PRO TIP: I like to bake this entire dish of meatballs, let them cool, and freeze them in portions of 4+ to serve with spaghetti during a busy week. I just drop the frozen meatballs right into a pot of marinara sauce and let them defrost over low heat.
Crock Pot Method
Roll the meatballs and place them in a lightly greased Slow Cooker. Top with marinara sauce and cheese. Heat on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7.
Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Tools for This Recipe
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Prefer to use ground turkey?! Try my Turkey Meatball recipe!
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated from a block
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 lbs. ground beef
- ½ lb. ground pork
Sauce + Cheese
- 32 oz marinara sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Fresh Parsley, to garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Set aside and let cool.
- Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper and set aside.
- Crack an egg in a small bowl and whisk it. Add the milk and whisk to combine.
- Combine the dry mixture with the wet mixture to form a smooth paste. Mix in the onions and garlic. (This is called a panade and keeps the juiciness and flavor intact while the meatballs cook.)
- Add the meat to a large bowl and top with the panade. Use your hands and gently mix until just combined. Don’t overwork the meat or the meatballs will be tough.
- Roll into 1 ½ inch meatballs.
- Pour ¾ of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 inch casserole dish. Add the meatballs. Spoon remaining sauce over the top.
- Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and top with cheese. Bake 15 more minutes. Broil for additional 1-2 minutes at the end if desired. Use a paper towel to carefully dab off any excess grease on the top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Ground sausage and/or ground veal may also be used.
The internal temperature of meatballs should be 160 degrees before serving.