Stove top Italian meatballs are made in just one pot. This quick stove top meatball recipe results in juicy and flavorful meatballs for your favorite pasta dish, meatball subs or pizza. A simple homemade meatball recipe with a red sauce that can be made on a weeknight for dinner or as a big batch to store later. A great recipe for when you’re doing a meal train or helping out a sick friend or loved one.
Tips and Tricks
How many meatballs does this recipe make? It depends on how big you make your meatballs. I measure mine out to be about two ounces so it makes 14-16 meatballs. You can easily double this recipe and make a big batch for the freezer.
Can you freeze the meatballs? Yes! I have frozen meatballs before cooking and after cooking.
To freeze the meatballs uncooked: mix and portion out the meatballs onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Ensure meatballs are NOT touching each other. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until frozen through (a few hours). Take the meatballs from the sheet tray and place into an airtight container. When you’re reading to cook, remove the amount of meatballs you want to use and thaw overnight in the fridge. Cook according to instructions.
To freeze meatballs that are already cooked: Allow them to cool for about 20 minutes and then freeze in usable portions with some sauce. When you want to eat them, thaw in the fridge overnight. Heat up meatballs and sauce in the microwave or in a pan on the stove until 165 F internally.
How do you store leftover meatballs? Store leftover meatballs either in the fridge in an airtight container for up to four days or in the freezer for up to six months.
Is it better to cook meatballs in the oven or on the stove? This depends on your preference. I find it easier to control the temperature of the meatballs on the stove and thus they aren’t overcooked and dry. I also like only using one pot for the stove top method. The stove top method also offers better browning and therefore flavor than the oven.
However, you can make a larger amount of meatballs in the oven and then toss them in sauce on the stove top and let them simmer.
Can you cook meatballs from raw in the sauce? I recommend searing the raw meatballs first before cooking them in the sauce since this gives you better flavor. You can then allow the meatballs to simmer in the sauce and cook to temperature (165 F).
How do you reheat meatballs? Reheat meatballs in sauce to avoid drying them out. You can use the microwave and heat them until warmed through. Another option is to heat them up on the stove in a medium saucepan with sauce. Cook on medium low until warmed through to avoid drying them out.
- Ground mixture of beef, pork and veal - sometimes called meatloaf or meatball mix
- Parmesan cheese - freshly grated is ideal but any grated hard cheese works
- Unseasoned bread crumbs - easier to control the seasoning of the meatball
- Garlic - freshly minced or garlic paste will work here
- Italian seasoning - dried
- Eggs - used for a binder
- Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (affiliate link) - if using another brand, use half the volume until you can do a taste test
- Olive Oil - any fat will work here including canola oil, vegetable oil or avocado oil
- Tomato sauce - use your favorite
See recipe card for specific quantities.
Why do you use a three meat mixture? It is the preferred mixture because of the fat content and flavor profiles. The ground mixture of pork, beef and veal gives a unique flavor and keeps the meatballs juicy. Typically you can find it at the grocery store as “meatball mix” or “meatloaf mix.”
What’s the best type of sauce to use? If I have sauce already made in the freezer, I’ll use that. Otherwise I just use two cups of Classico sauce (affiliate link) as a preference. Use any of your favorite jarred sauces.
How long do you cook meatballs on the stove in sauce? Cook the meatballs for three minutes on each side and then for five to ten minutes simmering in the sauce until cooked through.
How do you cook meatballs on the stove?
In a large mixing bowl add in all the ingredients except the oil and sauce. Mix well until all seasoning is well incorporated with your hands. Using your hands or ice cream scoop, portion out meatballs into two ounce portions (about the size of a golf ball). Roll gently between two palms and place in a single layer on a plate. Repeat until you run out of meatball mixture.
Preheat the dutch oven or straight sided skillet over medium heat. Next, add in about two tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan). In a single layer, add in six to eight meatballs, with space between each meatball. Brown on one side for two to three minutes. Flip using tongs and brown on the opposite side for another two to three minutes.
Once two sides of each meatball are brown, remove all meatballs to the original plate. If you need to, add the rest of the olive oil into the dutch oven. Repeat the searing process until all meatballs are seared on both sides.
Be sure to leave all the brown bits and oil in the pan and add all meatballs back into the dutch oven. Toss all the meatballs with your favorite tomato sauce. Cover the dutch oven or skillet with the lid and reduce heat to medium low. Cook the meatballs for five to ten minutes. The meatballs are done once they reach 165 F internally and/or are no longer pink in the center.
How do you know when meatballs are done on the stovetop? The best way to know when meat is done is by using a meat thermometer (affiliate link) like the Thermapen One to check the internal temperature. The internal temperature should be 165 F internally. If you don’t have a meat thermometer you can cut into a meatball and check that it isn’t pink in the middle.
How do you know if the seasoning is correct? For a lot of things, you can taste the seasoning to ensure it’s good to go. However, you shouldn’t eat raw meat. I usually make sure that the mixture LOOKS like there is plenty of seasoning. Don’t see any dried Italian seasoning? Probably not enough. The best way to check is to make a small patty of the meatball mixture and quickly pan sear it until cooked all the way through and taste it. That way you can adjust your seasoning to your taste.
How do you mix up the meatballs? With my hands. It’s the best way to mix them thoroughly without over mixing the meatballs. If you’re squeamish you can use gloves.
Do the meatballs need to be uniform in size? Ideally they should be roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. I like to weigh mine just to take the guesswork out, but you can eyeball them, use a cookie scoop or spoon to help you.
Do you have to pan sear the meatballs? Pan searing gives you a lot of extra flavor, so yes, I’d recommend pan searing/browning the meatballs on two sides. I use a dutch oven or straight edged pan to sear the meatballs and then the same pan to simmer the sauce on the stove top. This builds a lot of flavor that you can’t get with just seasoning. It is a step that is worth it.
What do I do if my meatballs won’t release from the dutch oven after browning them? They may need a little bit longer to finish browning. They will release once they are done browning. I usually take mine off between 2 and 3 minutes, it depends on the meatball and how much oil is in the pan. I also use tongs to help release the meatballs and flip them.
Should you remove the oil and brown bits from the pan before adding the sauce? No! This is where a lot of the flavor will come from and it’ll help a jarred sauce taste like it simmered for hours.
Hint: Cook meatballs in a single layer in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Smaller batches will result in more browning on each meatball and more flavor.
Can you use seasoned breadcrumbs? If that is all you have in the house, you can use them. However, it may change how much seasoning you need to add to the meatball mixture because they had additional salt and dried Italian seasoning incorporated. I suggest reducing the amount of salt at the very least until you can do a test meatball.
Can you substitute ground beef for the meatball mix? Yes, if you can’t find meatball or meatloaf mix, substitute 80/20 ground beef. The fat content provides flavor and keeps the meatballs juicy. Other ground meat like turkey or chicken may dry out using this method.
What’s the best pan to make this recipe in? I use a six quart dutch oven (affiliate link) to make meatballs but you can also use a large straight sided skillet (affiliate link). Use something that has a wide base, is deep enough to simmer sauce in and you have a cover that fits.
If the meatballs won’t release after three minutes of browning, let them go for another 30 to 60 seconds. Most of the time that means it isn’t done cooking on that side, they should release easily when browned.
Stove Top Italian Meatballs
- 1 ⅓ pounds mixture of ground beef, pork and veal 600 g
- ½ cup grated parmesan 30g or 1 oz
- ¼ cup unseasoned breadcrumbs 30 g
- 3 tablespoons fresh garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning 7 g
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt use ½ teaspoon if using table salt or other kosher salt, 4 g
- 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 to 2 ½ cups tomato sauce
- In a large mixing bowl add in the ground meat, parmesan, breadcrumbs, garlic, Italian seasoning, eggs and kosher salt (use ½ teaspoon if you’re using anything other than Diamond Crystal kosher).
- Using your hands, mix well until all seasoning is well incorporated.
- Using your hands or ice cream scoop, portion out meatballs into 2 ounce portions (about the size of a golf ball). Roll gently between two palms and place in a single layer on a plate. Repeat until you run out of meatball mixture (should make 14-16 meatballs).
- Preheat the dutch oven or straight sided skillet over medium heat.
- Once preheated, add in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan). In a single layer, add in 6-8 meatballs, with space between each meatball. Brown on one side for 2-3 minutes. Flip using tongs and brown on the opposite side for another 2-3 minutes. If meatballs won’t release, allow them to cook for 30-60 seconds longer or until they release easily.
- Once 2 sides of each meatball are brown, remove all meatballs to the original plate. If you need to, add the rest of the olive oil into the dutch oven. Repeat the searing process until all meatballs are seared on both sides.
- Be sure to leave all the brown bits and oil in the pan and add all meatballs back into the dutch oven. Try to keep the meatballs in a single layer, but it’s okay if they are touching. Cover all the meatballs with your favorite tomato sauce. Gently coat each meatball with sauce using tongs.
- Cover the dutch oven or skillet with the lid and reduce heat to medium low. Cook the meatballs for 5-10 minutes. The meatballs are done once they reach 165 F internally and/or are no longer pink in the center.
- Serve with your favorite pasta, in meatballs or on pizza.
Notes and Accommodations
- The mixture of beef, pork and veal is sometimes call meatball or meatloaf mix.
- If you can’t find a ground mixture of beef, pork or veal, use 80/20 ground beef.
- To use seasoned breadcrumbs, reduce the amount of salt until you can do a test meatball.
- Use ½ teaspoon of salt if you’re using anything other than Diamond Crystal Kosher salt.
- Make a test meatball if you’re unsure if the seasoning is enough.
- If you make your meatballs 2 oz each, one batch will make 14-16 meatballs.
- Cook meatballs in a single layer to get maximum flavor and browning.
- You can freeze the meatballs before or after cooking.
Originally posted on July 31, 2019. Updated with new photos, tips and tricks on August 19, 2022.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove