Italian Meatballs with the Best Sauce

These are the best Italian meatballs I’ve made (and I’ve made many). Tender, incredibly juicy, and generously sized – this recipe delivers everything you want in a classic meatball.

Italian meatballs cooked in homemade tomato sauce

These homemade meatballs are big, juicy, and tender. One pound of ground meat makes four generous meatballs. You can serve them with pasta like spaghetti or on a plate with extra sauce next to some bread like focaccia.

Our recipe guarantees the perfect texture — soft, juicy, tender, and not too dense in the middle. They almost melt in your mouth. I cannot wait for you to try them! If you do, come back and leave a review. We love hearing from you.

Authentic Italian meatballs cooked with Italian herbs and a tomato sauce.

What Makes Our Italian Meatballs So Delicious

Our Italian meatball recipe calls on authentic ingredients and lots of Italian herbs. One exception, however, is that while many authentic Italian recipes use bread as a binder, we use crushed saltine crackers and milk. Saltines add a lightness to the mixture (they do the same in our Meatloaf Recipe). Here’s a closer look at some of our key ingredients:

  • Ground Beef (85/15) and Ground Pork: The perfect combo for classic Italian meatballs! The beef’s 85/15 ratio keeps them juicy, while the pork adds richness and unbeatable tenderness.
  • Onion and Garlic: No Italian dish is complete without these! They add so much flavor to your meatballs.
  • Fennel, Italian Seasoning, Parsley, and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese deliver amazing Italian flavors – sweet, herby, and salty. I especially love the fennel in this recipe.

The Best Homemade Tomato Sauce

Whip up our simple, homemade tomato sauce – it’s perfect with these meatballs and incredibly easy to make. We’ve included the recipe below. I also love this Homemade Red Pasta Sauce.

How to Make Italian Meatballs

This recipe delivers incredibly flavorful Italian meatballs with a perfect, tender texture. Here’s what to expect when making them:

It begins with saltine crackers soaked in milk – my favorite trick for keeping meatballs tender! Then, we add sautéed onion, garlic, ground fennel, those amazing Italian herbs, and plenty of cheese to ground beef and pork. A good mix with your hands makes sure all the flavors combine.

Meatball ingredients in a bowl

This recipe isn’t about tiny meatballs! We make four giant ones – a true stunner for your table! Since these meatballs are so large, they stay tender and juicy in the middle. For smaller meatballs, see our Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe, which uses these Italian meatballs as inspiration.

Four big Italian meatballs on a baking sheet ready to go into the oven.

A quick bake in the oven gives the meatballs a delicious crust while keeping them juicy.

While the meatballs bake, make our simple but incredibly flavorful tomato sauce. Shallots, garlic, a splash of wine, stock, crushed tomatoes, and fresh basil work beautifully with our meatballs.

Placing partially cooked meatballs into homemade tomato sauce.

To finish, nestle those partially baked meatballs right into the sauce. They’ll finish cooking while soaking up all that deliciousness. I finish them in the oven, but gently simmering on the stove works, too!

The middle of our meatballs, shows how juicy and tender they are.

Ways to Serve Italian Meatballs

  • Spaghetti and Meatballs – the classic! After cooking your meatballs, remove them from the skillet, and then toss your cooked spaghetti in the sauce before serving.
  • Meatball Subs or Sliders
  • Serve as a stand-alone dish with bread. I love Homemade Focaccia or Garlic Bread.
  • Piled high on top of these Homemade Grits (not traditional, I know, but so delicious).
Homemade Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs with the Best Sauce

  • PREP
  • COOK

Big, juicy Italian meatballs simmered in a homemade tomato sauce. Serve these juicy meatballs with spaghetti and make spaghetti and meatballs, or, to be a bit more authentic, serve the meatballs (called polpette in Italy) as a stand-alone dish with some bread for dipping.

Makes 4 servings

You Will Need


8 ounces (225g) ground beef, use 85/15 or 80/20

8 ounces (225g) ground pork

4 tablespoons (25g) saltine cracker crumbs from 8 crackers

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (135g) whole milk

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup (60g) minced onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon ground fennel

1/4 cup (10g) chopped parsley

6 tablespoons (1.5oz) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Tomato Sauce

1/2 cup (60g) minced shallot

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1/4 cup (60ml) dry white wine

1/3 cup (80ml) chicken stock

1 (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes, we like canned crushed tomatoes with basil

1/2 cup (15g) chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  • Meatballs:
  • 1Combine saltine cracker crumbs and milk in a small bowl. Let sit.

    2Heat 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and fennel. Cook until softened, but before they brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

    3In a large bowl, combine ground beef, pork, parsley, cheese, salt, pepper, and the cooked onion mixture. Add the soaked saltine mixture and mix well (hands work best!).

    4Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Lightly oil a parchment-lined baking sheet. Shape the meatball mixture into four large meatballs. Place on the baking sheet and bake until browned on top, 10 to 12 minutes. At this point, the meatballs will be partially cooked.

  • Tomato Sauce:
  • 1Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in the same skillet used earlier. Add shallots, garlic, and Aleppo pepper. Cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

    2Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the shallots and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

    3Add wine and simmer until almost dry. Stir in stock, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and fresh basil. Bring to a low simmer.

  • Finish Meatballs:
  • 1Gently nestle the partially baked meatballs into the sauce. Spoon some sauce over each meatball.

    2To finish on the stove, cover the skillet and simmer over low heat until meatballs reach 160°F internally (10 to 15 minutes).

    3Or cook the meatballs in the oven (reccomended). Bake them in the skillet. Do not cover the skillet. Set the oven temperature to 300°F (148°C). Bake the meatballs until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • A mixture of ground beef (85/15 for juiciness) and ground pork is perfect for a classic flavor. But feel free to mix it with ground veal, lamb, or Italian sausage.
  • Use clean hands to mix the meatball mixture for the best texture and to ensure everything is well combined.
  • Our homemade tomato sauce is simple to make and absolutely elevates these meatballs. If you’re short on time, opt for a high-quality store-bought marinara.
  • To ensure food safety and amazing texture, cook meatballs until they reach 160°F using a meat thermometer. Cooking past this temperature can make the meatballs less tender.
  • For extra-juicy meatballs, go for larger sizes – four per recipe is our favorite.
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values. Sodium will vary depending on how much salt added to your sauce.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1 large meatball (recipe makes 4) / Calories 494 / Total Fat 31.4g / Saturated Fat 9.6g / Cholesterol 86mg / Sodium 922mg / Carbohydrate 21.4g / Dietary Fiber 4.1g / Total Sugars 7.2g / Protein 30.7g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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16 comments… Leave a Review
  • Mario Goudreault April 16, 2024, 12:59 am

    Thanks for the recipes.

    • Joanne April 16, 2024, 11:39 am

      You are welcome! Thank you for supporting us.

  • Diane March 18, 2024, 6:11 pm

    I made this recipe twice this weekend. One for me and the other for my son’s family….this is the best recipe ever…will be making it all the time. Thank you so much for your great recipes and videos that are a great help.

    • Adam March 20, 2024, 1:16 pm

      Hi Diane,

      This is wonderful to hear! We are so happy that your family loves the meatballs 🙂

  • Kaz March 16, 2024, 6:28 am

    Delicious – easy to make and enjoyed by all. The sauce is very versatile and could be used for many other dishes. Make – you’ll be glad you did

    • Adam March 18, 2024, 12:37 pm

      Yay! We are thrilled you enjoyed them. You may want to check out our newest recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. We used these meatballs but made them smaller.

  • Sue March 1, 2024, 6:21 pm

    I made this recipe last night and it is amazing. So full of flavor!!! It is definitely a keeper!!!

    • Joanne March 1, 2024, 6:37 pm

      That’s amazing, Sue! You might want to take a look at our new recipe for spaghetti and meatballs for inspiration 🙂

  • Jennifer February 26, 2024, 8:56 pm

    Very tasty. Recipe makes four big Italian meatballs. I decided to convert two of them into tacos by add Watkins Taco Seasoning to the mix and sauce. Will have for dinner tonight. Tacos made with corn tortillas and shredded cole slaw.

    • Joanne February 27, 2024, 11:30 pm

      Sounds great, Jennifer. Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Joanne February 22, 2024, 3:36 pm

    Would you please email me the name of the wide cutting tool you use to cut the vegetables in your Sautéed Vegetable video. I like the width and would like to purchase one. Also i enjoy receiving and making your recipes and will soon try your tomato sauce with meatballs. Thank you, Joanne

    • Joanne February 22, 2024, 6:14 pm

      I think you are asking about our Vegetable Knife. It’s from Global Knives and they call it their Classic 7″ Vegetable Knife. I bought mine on Amazon, but many specialty kitchen stores like Williams and Sonoma sell them.

  • Julia Pomeroy February 22, 2024, 4:46 am

    What are saltines?

    • Joanne February 22, 2024, 6:12 pm

      Hi Julia, Saltines are crackers (similar to water crackers, which would be a good substitute).

  • Sonia Kuczynski February 21, 2024, 7:04 pm

    I use shredded zucchini instead of the saltine crackers soaked in milk, and I use Stove Top stuffing mix with 1/2 cup water and 1 large egg, grated Parmesan, and mix well. Comes out very juicy and tender. Tasty too! Pour over spaghetti or mashed potatoes. Yummy.

    • Joanne February 21, 2024, 7:06 pm

      That sounds like a delicious twist! I love the idea of using zucchini for extra freshness.


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