Baked Meatballs

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 Cheesy Garlic Bread!

A spoon pulling up a cheesy baked meatball in marinara sauce from a casserole dish.

Baked Meatballs

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.

I am more than proud to bring this dish to a Potluck or special gathering, either as an Italian side dish or to enjoy with spaghetti or sub rolls. (BONUS: It’s make-ahead and Crock Pot friendly!)

If you want to get super fancy, you can make my homemade marinara sauce or Italian breadcrumb recipe to go with it! But first, let’s talk about what makes this the BEST baked meatball recipe:

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 tighten 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.

Ingredients

The bottom of this post also contains recipe card with ingredients and full instructions.

Meatballs

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs– Try my homemade 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 lb. ground beef, 85% lean
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork- ground sausage or veal may also be used, or you can use all ground beef.

Sauce + Cheese

How to Make It

PRO TIP: Make sure your meat is completely thawed out, otherwise the end result could be watery.

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.

A glass bowl with a panad added to ground beef and being mixed for baked meatballs.

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.

A white casserole dish with uncooked meatballs topped with marinara sauce.

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. Top with parsley. Let sit for 5 minutes prior to serving.

A casserole dish with baked meatballs topped with cheese before and after being baked.

How Long to Bake Meatballs at 375°

1.5 inch meatballs take approximately 45 minutes to bake at 375°, the internal temperature needs to reach 160°.

I use this instant read thermometer from Amazon, 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.

Crock Pot Method

Roll the meatballs and place them in a lightly greased Slow Cooker. Top with marinara sauce and heat on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7.

Storage

Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

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A spoon in a casserole dish full of baked meatballs in marinara sauce with melted cheese.

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A spoon scooping up a meatball covered in marinara sauce and topped with cheese.

Baked Meatballs

5 from 3 votes
Juicy Italian meatballs are covered in marinara sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese and baked in the oven! Serve these with spaghetti, in subs, or as a delicious side dish for a Potluck!

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Notes

PRO TIP: Make sure your meat is completely thawed out, otherwise the end result could be watery.

To save time, you can skip sautéing the onions and garlic. Doing so creates a more subtle texture and flavor, particularly for picky eaters.

Ground sausage and/or ground veal may also be used.

The internal temperature of meatballs should be 160 degrees before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 128kcal, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 35mg, Sodium: 415mg, Potassium: 228mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 254IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 79mg, Iron: 1mg