Homemade Meatballs: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

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Let me preface this by saying: I am not Italian. The Angry Chef is, however—and very much so—and these meatballs were more than acceptable to him. Regardless, I understand that I’m treading on hallowed ground for some. If you’re a meatball aficionado, please be kind to me. I’m just a little mouse.

That said, these are old-fashioned meatballs that are more like mini meatloaves (wait, would that be meatloafs?).

They’re garlicky and have a rich, meaty flavor from a combination of ground beef and pork. A generous helping of eggs and fresh potato bread crumbs help them stay moist and succulent as they fry.

This is a satisfying, get-your-hands-dirty kind of recipe.

How do you like them meatballs?

Serve the meatballs on top of pasta with a good, quick homemade marinara. (I’ve included a recipe at the end of this post that puts the flavorful frying oil to good use.) If you impaled one or two on a skewer, they’d make a great appetizer. You could even use leftover sliced meatballs to top homemade pizza.

You can also drape your meatballs in sauce, then nestle them in a toasted roll under a few slices of provolone for a killer sub.

You can use this mixture as the basis for meatloaf. Or you could form it into patties and make ever-so-slightly sophisticated hamburgers.

But, but…where’s the Parmesan?

If you know anything about me, it’s probably that I love cheese.

However, when it comes to meatballs and sausage, I can’t abide it when the cheese is actually mixed in with the meat. I’m not sure what it is, but cheese IN the meat produces a flavor note I can’t stand. That said, I usually blanket my meatballs with Parmesan right before I sit down to eat. Go figure.

If this isn’t an issue for you, you can definitely include some ground Parmesan in the meat mixture. If you do, just cut down on the amount of salt a little.

A note on making potato breadcrumbs

If you have a food processor, it couldn’t be easier. I ripped up about 6 slices of potato bread, tossed them in my Cuisinart, and gave them a few pulses. The bread shredded into wonderfully soft, small crumbs.

Warning: Potato bread is really pretty moist, so be careful not to overprocess it. (When your crumbs look good, stop.) I feel like if you did, they might start to glom together into a sticky ball.

If you don’t have a food processor (or just don’t want to deal with it), pick up some regular fresh breadcrumbs at the market.

A note on freezing and reheating homemade meatballs

These freeze pretty well. If you’re not going to cook the whole batch at once, put some in a single layer in a large zip-top bag and lay flat in your freezer (so they don’t get smooshed and misshapen).

As for reheating, they will dry out a bit in the microwave. If you can, heat them up in a pot of simmering marinara sauce.

The Hungry Mouse’s Homemade Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
2 1/2 cups fresh potato breadcrumbs (instructions below)
1 Tbls. kosher salt
3 jumbo eggs
1 Tbls. garlic powder
1 Tbls. dried parsley
1 Tbls. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
olive oil for frying

Makes about 50 golf-ball-sized meatballs.

Make the potato breadcrumbs
Start with about 6 slices of fresh potato bread. Any brand you like will work.

Rip the bread up�crust and all�into smallish pieces and toss into the bowl of your food processor, fitted with the regular chopping blade. Pulse a few times until the bread breaks down into crumbs. They should look about like this:

Measure them. You should have about 2 1/2 cups. If you’re under, process another slice, etc., until you have enough.

Set the breadcrumbs aside while you deal with the meat.

Combine the meats
Put the ground pork and beef into a large mixing bowl.

Mix the meats together with your hands, until they form a uniform paste.

Combine the eggs, herbs, and spices
In a medium-sized bowl, put the eggs, salt, garlic, parsley, oregano, basil, onion powder, and black pepper. Whisk them together to combine well.

I add all these ingredients to the egg like this to help evenly distribute them through the meat. (If you toss the dry herbs right onto the meat, and then don’t mix it really thoroughly, you can wind up with tiny pockets of concentrated spice.)

Add the egg mixture to the meat
Pour the egg mixture over the meat.

Mix the egg and meat together by hand.

Keep mixing until all the egg is absorbed and you have a uniform consistency. Your mixture should look about like this:

Add the breadcrumbs
Toss in about half the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly with your hands. I mix in the breadcrumbs in two batches to help ensure evenness.

It should look about like this:

Add the rest of the breadcrumbs and mix to combine.

The finished consistency should be really kind of wet and sticky. That’s just what you want.

Fry a test meatball
Don’t skip this step. Trust me. It’s your last chance to correct the flavors and seasoning in your meatballs. (If you go through the trouble of making these by hand, then don’t like how they taste, you’ll be really sad.)

Grab a little bit of the meatball mixture and form it into a ball about the size of a golf ball. Roll it between the palms of your hands to get it nice and round (just like you would with Play-Doh.)

Put a little olive oil in a small frying pan, heat it over medium-high heat, and drop your meatball in.

Brown it on the bottom, then flip it a few times to brown most of the other sides.

Depending on the size of your meatball and how hot your stove is, your meatball should cook in about 5 minutes, give or take. It should be firm, and have a nice crust on most sides.

When you think it’s done, give it a taste. (Take note of how long it took to cook. That’s about how long you’ll cook the large batch.)

If you like it, keep moving on to the next step, and roll out the rest of the meatballs. If you think it needs something, rinse and repeat. (Re-season your meatball mixture, fry a test meatball, and taste it.)

Roll all the meatballs (a.k.a. assemble your meatball army)
Line a sheet pan with wax paper.

Roll out your meatballs, just like you did with the test meatball. Line the finished meatballs up on the sheet pan. Make them all about the same size, so that they cook evenly.

Keep going until you’ve used up all the meatball mixture. You’ll wind up with a small meatball army.

Cook your meatballs
Don’t cook the meatballs ’til you can give them your undivided attention for maybe 15 minutes. You’ll need to keep an eye on them, so they don’t overcook.

You want to fry them on all sides over relatively high heat to promote a good crust. By the time all the sides are brown, they should be just about cooked on the inside. Cook them for about as long as you cooked your test meatball.

Put a little olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet. I use a double-burner pan to maximize my stove-top real estate.

Heat the oil for maybe 20 seconds or so over medium-high heat. Add your meatballs to the pan.

Don’t crowd them. You want them to brown�not steam.

When they have a nice crust on the bottom, flip them over.

Turn the heat down a smidge at this point if the oil starts to spit and sputter.

When they have a good crust on the flip side, stir them around with a wooden spoon to brown the edges. When you think they’re done, test one to be sure.

Depending on how much fat your meatballs give off�and how you’re serving them�you may want to transfer them to a wire rack to drain for a minute or two.

Make a quick marinara
If you’ve got a half an or so before you’re going to eat, you can whip up a quick sauce. (Cover your meatballs tightly and keep ’em warm in a low oven.)

See this?

Don’t waste the flavorful oil and all those good brown bits that are left in your pan.

Pour the oil into a medium-sized saucepan (use as much or as little as you like) and use it as the basis for a flavorful, quick sauce.

To the oil, add a 28-oz. can of ground, peeled tomatoes. I like Pastene brand. Toss in 3 really fresh bay leaves. (Those came from my mom’s giant bay tree.)

Whisk to combine the oil and tomatoes. Add a little kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Stir to mix well.

Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat. When it starts to bubble, drop the heat to low. Cover the pot tightly and cook for 20 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. (The longer you cook it, the stronger the bay-leaf flavor will be.)

Serve with meatballs over pasta, or use as a sauce to make meatball subs.




Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse�/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. It's 10:56 pm right now and I am almost licking my screen. Jessie - this is the best post I have seen in a long time... WOW send me some meatballs these are killer!!! love it zesty
  2. They look really good.....colour is tempting. I make meatballs very often, but haven't tried it with grated potato. Do they taste different compared with those made with bread crumbs?
  3. First time in your blog and you have such a wonderful blog. I do make meat balls, but never made them like these and these looks so yummy delicious. Will try your recipe next time
  4. Mike--Thanks so much for stopping by! I usually use the Kitchen Ready, as that's what I stock at my house. The San Marzanos are good, but I usually prefer to add fresh basil (if the recipe calls for it). +Jessie
  5. These are pretty close to the recipe I use, which my mom got from an Italian NY politicians mother on TV. They're really good. Veal is also good to add, if you have the cash for it. You might also try adding wine and some low sodium beef stock to the sauce. Well, red wine and stock if you want a richer sauce, white wine alone if you want a lighter sauce. Tomatoes have flavors that are only released in the presence of alcohol. Clever using the pan fond as a base, I haven't seen that before with a marianna sauce, I'll have to try it.