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Bobby Flay’s Italian Meatball Recipe

Bobby Flay’s famous Italian Meatball Recipe has a 3-meat combo that you can make on the stove top or in the Crock Pot. Simmer the meatballs in his homemade marinara sauce and serve with spaghetti or in a sub!

Pair this with garlic bread with cheese and a side salad with homemade Italian dressing!

A skillet full of meatballs and marinara sauce with a wooden spoon scooping them up.

There are thousands of meatball recipes out there, I know. But this recipe is one that stands out to me the most with the 3-meat combo, Parmesan cheese, and homemade marinara sauce.

The cooking method is also perfect. It leaves  you with super flavorful meatballs that hold their shape but are also super tender.

What Makes a Great Meatball

3-Meat Combo

Bobby Flay’s meatball recipe calls for an even combination of ground beef, pork, and veal which makes for the best flavor and texture.

I use Catelli Meatball & Meatloaf mix, it’s located near the ground beef and pork. You can also use 50% pork and 50% beef. See below for my recommendation on fat content for the beef.

High-quality Parmesan cheese

Be sure to shred it from a block at home to the best flavor and texture.

The Cooking Method.

Brown them first, then let them finish cooking in the marinara sauce.

This results in a nice texture on the outside of the meatball but keeps it juicy and tender on the inside. It also adds more flavor to the tomato sauce.

Fresh garlic

Mince your own garlic from a fresh bulb. It’s much better than the jarred stuff. This garlic twister makes it easy.

Homemade Breadcrumbs.

Not totally mandatory, bu if you have a little extra time, check out my recipe for homemade breadcrumbs.

Best Kind of Beef for Meatballs

The fat content in the beef that you use for meatballs depends on what other meats are included.

In this recipe, ground pork and ground veal are also being used, which contain a higher fat percentage than ground beef, so 90% lean is a good proportion to use.

Otherwise, 70% lean is a good choice if using just beef.

Uncooked meatballs rolled out on a white surface

Do You Put Raw Meatballs in Sauce to Cook?

Although you can, I recommend browning the meatballs in a skillet with a little olive oil first.

This creates a nice texture on the outside of the meatball, while allowing the middle to remain tender and juicy as it finishes cooking in the tomato sauce.

Side by side images of meatballs in a skillet before and after being browned.

A pot with onions and garlic next to a pot with crushed tomatoes and parsley, and seasonings


How to Freeze Meatballs

Meatballs freeze well and can be frozen before or after they’ve cooked in sauce.

If you freeze them before they are cooked in sauce:

  • Place the uncooked rolled meatballs on a plate and flash freeze them 30 minutes. This will prevent them from sticking together.
  • Store them in a freezer bag or airtight container in the freezer for 3-4 months.
  • When you’re ready to cook them, add the frozen meatballs to marinara sauce and let them simmer until they’re cooked through, about 80 minutes.

If you freeze the meatballs after cooking them in sauce:

  • Place them in an airtight container along with some sauce. Let it cool completely.
  • Freeze for 3-4 months.
  • Defrost in the microwave and reheat on the stove until heated through.

Meatballs in a homemade marinara sauce in a large pot with a wooden spoon.

Make-Ahead Method

I like to prepare these meatballs 1 day ahead of time:

  •  Brown the outside of the meatballs in a cast iron skillet with oil. (This is optional, but creates a nice texture on the outside.)
  • Let them cool and refrigerate them in an airtight freezer bag until ready to serve. Note: Do not eat until you have finished cooking them in the Slow Cooker or Stove Top.

To Finish Cooking:

Stove Top:

  • Please the meatballs in a large saucepan and cover them with marinara sauce.
  • Heat simmer over medium-low heat for 55 minutes, with the lid cracker slightly.

Slow Cooker:

  • Cover them with sauce.
  • Heat them on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
  • If the sauce begins to bubble, decrease the heat to warm.

A white serving platted with a wooden spoon, marinara sauce, and meatballs on a white surface with bread around it.



  • Cooked meatballs should be stored in an airtight container and will remain good for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.


  • Meatballs maintain their best quality for the first 3-4 months in the freezer, but can still be cooked and eaten after that time.

Try These Next!


A large skillet filled with marinara sauce and meatballs with a wooden spoon on a white marble surface and a white and blue kitchen towel.

No time for homemade sauce? Rao’s Homemade Marinara is always my sauce of choice for that. (Worth every penny.)

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Did You Make This Recipe?

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Italian meatballs sprinkled with Parmesan cheese being scooped by a wooden spoon.

Bobby Flay's Italian Meatball Recipe

4.99 from 69 ratings
Bobby Flay's famous Italian Meatball Recipe has a 3-meat combo that you can make on the stove top or in the Crock Pot. Simmer the meatballs in his homemade marinara sauce and serve with spaghetti or in a sub!



  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork, *see notes
  • 1/2 pound ground veal, *see notes
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated into a powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs, preferably homemade
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Homemade Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped and sauteed
  • 56 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 basil leaves, sliced into strips


  • Note: Use a large enough pot to hold the marinara sauce and the meatballs. We're browning the meatballs in the pot first and cooking the sauce in the same pot after for extra flavor.


  • Gently combine all meatball ingredients, (except the oil), in a large bowl, don't overwork the meat, we want tender meatballs.
  • Roll into 1+1/2 inch balls.
  • Heat the oil in a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Give each meatball a final roll and add them to the pot.
  • Brown them in batches, for a few minutes on each side. They won't be cooked all the way through.
  • Remove and set aside until the sauce is prepared, then simmer them in the sauce for 45 minutes.

Homemade Sauce

  • Use the same saucepan as you used to brown the meatballs. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they’re softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and heat for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes.
  • Add the bay leaf, bunch of parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  • Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat back down to a light simmer.
  • Add the meatballs and toss them with the sauce.
  • Cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the bay leaf and parsley prior to serving. Stir in the basil. Serve, and enjoy!


  • You can use equal parts ground pork & beef if you prefer that over using veal.

  • I like to add a splash (3-4 Tablespoons) of red wine to the sauce as well. Chianti, Pinot Pior, and Merlot are great options.

  • Slow Cooker:
    • Brown the outside of the meatballs in a skillet for added texture if desired. This is optional.
    • Cover the with sauce. Heat them on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
    • If the sauce begins to bubble, decrease the heat to warm.


Calories: 97kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 34mg, Sodium: 140mg, Potassium: 286mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 225IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 45mg, Iron: 1mg
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With a combination of 3 meats in a homemade marinara sauce, Bobby Flay's Italian meatball recipe is sure to quickly become your favorite! | The Cozy Cook | #Meatballs #BobbyFlay #Meat #ItalianFood #Italian #SideDishes #Pasta #Spaghetti #GroundBeef #MarinaraSauce #BestMeatballRecipe #ComfortFood #Dinner

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320 comments on “Bobby Flay’s Italian Meatball Recipe”

  1. Excellent meatballs. I took these to the pot luck in my crock pot. Did not add pasta. Made the cheese bread. It was a big hit. I received many compliments. Will make them again. Thank you for a great recipe.

  2. I just made this and it smells wonderful. I am taking it to a potluck tomorrow  in my crock pot and wondered with all the sauce it made, do you think I could add cooked pasta to the sauce and meatballs?

    • Hi Gail, it might be easier to serve at a potluck as-is, with plenty of sauce to accompany the meatballs, but you could also add cooked pasta to it, just be extra careful that it doesn’t end up mushy in the crock pot! 🙂

  3. He uses way too much garlic. If i used that much, my husband would divorce me. He’s a picky Italian.

  4. At what point do you add the basil leaves?

  5. I don’t know any Italian who makes meatballs and sauce this way. I’m sure it’s good according to all the non-Italians commenting. 
    Most Italians I know of are really of Sicilian lineage so that may be the difference. 
    No veal or sausage in the meatballs.
    And the large amount of parsley – OMG !
    And where is the sugar in the sauce ?
    This appears to be more Northern Italian than what I’m used to.
    Sounds good though !
    Probably better than Olive Garden.

    • Take it up with Bobby, Ron. I have several of my own meatball recipes here if you’re interested, but it sounds like you might already know what you’re doing. Where in Italy do you live?

    • The traditional spaghetti and meatballs dinner is a creation of the American household and has no actual roots in Italian culture. Italy does have their own version of meatballs, but they’re very different from what we know here. Known as polpettes, they’re very rarely eaten alongside pasta.

    • The parsley is removed after the sauce is cooked. It is just to be used as a way to infuse the taste without having the tiny little bits of parsley throughout the sauce that often can give a little bit of a bitter taste if eaten. As for the sugar, it’s only used to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes if needed. Over the years it’s just become commonplace to throw sugar in there, but it’s intended to be used to taste.

      Also, as a fellow Sicilian, you should know there is no such thing as spaghetti and meatballs in Sicily.

    • I am 100% percent Italian and we make our meatballs both ways… both my mother and father family were born in Italy… Sicilians do not consider themselves Italians…there is nothing wrong with that at all.   My family is from Pescara, Central Italy.  I don’t understand where Olive Garden coming from..whatever and we call it gravey…to each their own

  6. Thoroughly enjoyed this dish. Easy to follow and make. Delicious!

  7. I prefer Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese.  I soak bread in milk to keep meatballs moist and add flavored bread crumbs at the end before rolling and frying.

  8. Making this tomorrow. Question – for the sauce,  are you adding an entire bunch of parsley, stems and all to cook in the sauce, then removing it all??

      • The bunch of parsley in the sauce. You mean put the ENTIRE bunch of parsley in w sauce and then pick it out???? Sorry. New to cooking! 

      • Yes. There is a video in this recipe post that walks you through this recipe in about 1 minute if that helps! But yes that’s what Bobby does with the parsley.

      • My mother’s meatballs were known throughout most of the city we live in. I can’t find her receip, she took it to the grave. But I remember her only using ground sirloin and would only cook them in the sauce. Never fried them. She also tossed in a couple pieces of pepperoni. What a meatball! However, I can’t get it right so I’ll try this.

      • Wow that sounds amazing Steve, she definitely knew what she was doing. I look forward to you trying this, enjoy!😃

  9. Can the cheese be omitted from the recipe? Cooking for someone with a dairy allergy! 

  10. Delicious!! I have to make turkey meatballs for a gathering. I prefer the traditional way but turkey meatballs are requested. Would this recipe work just as well using turkey or is there something more I need to do to up the flavor and texture? To be honest I have never had a turkey meatball that satisfies me the way a traditional one does. Thanks

    • Hi Janice, you can check out my recipe for turkey meatballs here, one thing that I do is that I use half and half in the meatballs because the additional fat content keeps the meat juicy, since turkey is prone to drying out. Otherwise, you can try using turkey for this recipe instead, although I haven’t tried it myself. You may want to use 1 egg instead of 2 and a little more breadcrumbs to try to keep them intact. I also like to give them an initial roll, flash freeze them for 5 minutes or so, then give them another roll to smooth them out, turkey is more difficult to work with than beef.

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