Making homemade meatballs is a simple thing to do and so much more flavorful than buying frozen ones! Dust off your cast iron skillet and learn how to make your own italian meatballs from scratch.
MAKING CAST IRON SKILLET MEATBALLS
First off, you don’t need a cast-iron skillet to make these homemade meatballs.
If you’re finishing off the meatballs in the oven, however, I do recommend using an oven-safe pan.
The reason I recommend cast iron? Because I’m a hardcore fan and think cast-iron cookware is the bee’s knees.
It’s easy to work with cast iron, it lasts forever, and it’s toxin-free.
RELATED: How to Cook with Cast Iron
HOMEMADE MEATBALLS RECIPE VIDEO
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WHAT INGREDIENTS DO YOU NEED TO MAKE MEATBALLS?
Whenever I make meatballs and burgers, there’s always a simple formula I follow:
Pick a meat, any meat!
In the recipe below, I use beef, but you can use whatever you have on hand.
I encourage you to play around and build these meatballs into your own special creation.
Make your homemade meatballs with pork, lamb, turkey, chicken, venison, or whatever you darn well please.
Heck, you can even mix the ground meats!
I recommend mixing pork and beef together.
Breadcrumbs are optional, but I like how they bind everything together.
Panko breadcrumbs are an excellent option as well, but for the most part, I use homemade breadcrumbs.
I always keep a canister of stale sourdough bread that would otherwise be discarded and whirl it through a food processor.
If you want more nifty kitchen tips like that, check out my frugal kitchen rules.
Here’s my formula: one egg per pound of meat. Easy, right?
Unless you have an allergy or can’t stand the flavour, include some minced garlic or onion in the recipe.
This is where all the fun begins!
I sometimes crack open my Flavour Bible for extra inspiration.
I almost always include herbs in the mix. Fresh herbs are my favourite, whether that’s chopped up parsley, chives, dill, oregano, basil, or whatever moves my spirit.
If I don’t have fresh herbs, I have quite the herb and spice collection to keep me going.
Other seasonings I like to play around with include Worcestershire sauce, chilli flakes, ginger, mustard, hoisin sauce and capers, to name a few.
Heck, I even include cheese!
HOW TO MAKE MEATBALLS
Now that we have all of the ingredients assembled, let’s make some homemade meatballs!
PREHEAT THE OVEN (OPTIONAL)
This step is optional as there are two ways to finish the meatballs.
One is to transfer the skillet into the oven and bake them.
The second is to simmer the meatballs in tomato sauce for a half hour.
If you go the route of finishing the homemade meatballs in the oven, you’ll want to preheat it to 375ºF/190ºC.
MIX THE MEAT
Combine all of the ingredients together (save the cooking fat).
I hope you’re not afraid of getting messy!
FORM THE MEATBALLS
One pound of ground meat yields around 12 meatballs.
Of course, this all depends on how big or small you make them.
Smaller meatballs will have a shorter cooking time, and larger meatballs will need to cook longer.
I don’t really measure my meatballs.
I just grab a handful of meat and try to keep my meatballs as uniform as possible.
HEAT THE SKILLET AND BROWN THE MEATBALLS
If you’re using a cast-iron skillet, be sure to heat that beauty up before searing the meatballs.
You want that skillet good and hot, or the meat will stick!
For the cooking fat, use something that has a high smoke point.
I love using lard, but if you’re averse to using animal fats, avocado oil would be my next pick.
Refined coconut oil also does well with high temperatures, but it will impart its flavour to your meatballs.
FINISHING MEATBALLS IN THE OVEN
After the meatballs are seared, pop them in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
FINISHING MEATBALLS IN TOMATO SAUCE
Instead of baking the meatballs, another option is to simmer the pan-fried meatballs in tomato sauce for 30 minutes.
POSSIBLE FLAVOUR COMBINATIONS FOR HOMEMADE MEATBALLS
For me, the most classic flavour combination includes parsley, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.
It’s what I use in my cast-iron burger recipe.
Flavor themes are fun to play around with, too, for example, I have a pork and shrimp burger recipe that was heavily influenced by Asian flavours.
Both of these recipes can be easily turned into meatballs, but here are some other combinations to inspire you:
Beef: finely chopped pickles, mustard, onions and Worcestershire sauce
Lamb: shredded carrots, garlic, coriander, cumin, and thyme
Pork: bacon, garlic, oregano, and rosemary
Turkey: basil, feta, and shallots
ARE BREADCRUMBS NECESSARY FOR MEATBALLS?
As mentioned earlier, breadcrumbs serve to bind the meatballs.
That being said, you don’t need to use them.
WHAT CAN I USE INSTEAD OF BREADCRUMBS FOR MEATBALLS?
If you don’t have breadcrumbs or panko on hand, it’s not the end of the world.
Using fresh slices of bread is an option. In fact, the moisture in fresh bread will make your meatballs more tender.
Other options to help bind the meatballs include cooked rice and quinoa, as well as oats, for a gluten-free option.
DO I NEED TO PUT ONIONS IN MY MEATBALLS?
Some people argue that adding chopped onions make it harder for meatballs to hold together.
However, onions and garlic add big flavour to the meat, so I highly recommend including them.
If you want to hide the onion, or avoid chunks in the meat mixture, there’s a easy way around this.
Either grate the onion, or run it through a food processor to get the allium as fine as possible.
SHOULD MEATBALLS BE FRIED FIRST?
Frying the meatballs is the quickest way to cook them.
So if you want to save on cooking time, fry them first!
SHOULD MEATBALLS BE COOKED BEFORE PUTTING THEM IN SAUCE?
When I make my recipe for meatballs, I always cook them at least partially before adding them to the sauce.
However, I do have a girlfriend who adds raw meatballs to her tomato sauce.
The first time I saw her do this, I was appalled.
But do you know what?
They made for some of the most tender meatballs I’ve ever had.
The key is to gently simmer them for 40 minutes or so.
MAKING FLAVORFUL MEATBALLS
These homemade meatballs are awesome served on spaghetti or used for meatball subs.
If you’ve never made your own meatballs before, I hope you have fun with your first batch!
Whether you use my recipe, one of the flavour ideas, or create your own, I hope you’ll leave a review or tag me on Instagram.
Do you have any questions? Drop them in the comments below!
SHOP THIS POST
The Flavour Bible by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg
OTHER DINNER IDEAS YOU MIGHT LIKE
Kefir Brined Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner
Traditional Québecois Meat Pie (Tourtière)
Pan-Fried Chicken Caesar Salad
INGREDIENTS FOR HOMEMADE MEATBALLS
1 lb ground beef
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp cooking oil or fat
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CAST-IRON MEATBALLS
1.Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC.
2. Mix all of the ingredients together, save the cooking fat and season to taste.
3. Heat the oil or fat in a 12″ cast iron skillet.
4. When the skillet is hot, sear the meatballs.
5. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, you can also finish the seared meatballs by simmering them in a tomato sauce for 20-30 minutes.
PRINTABLE RECIPE CARD FOR MEATBALLS
- 12" Cast Iron Skillet
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2/3 cup bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp cooking oil or fat
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC (unless you finish the meatballs by simmering them in a sauce).
- Mix all of the ingredients together, save the cooking fat and season to taste.
- Heat the oil or fat in a 12″ cast iron skillet.
- When the skillet is hot, sear the meatballs.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, you can also finish the seared meatballs by simmering them in a tomato sauce for 20-30 minutes.
PIN IT FOR LATER
Love and gratitude,
These are basically the way I make them. So good too. I do use breadcrumbs, usually from a fail or the leftovers from stale bread. I love onions and garlic too. I only add 1 egg because I usually only make one pound at a time. Great post!
I stopped buying breadcrumbs the day I went to the store and looked at the label of a popular brand only to discover there was high-fructose corn syrup in it! I’ve been making my own ever since! Thank you for reading 🙂
Mom hack, my son HATED veggies when he was young so I would make meatballs using oatmeal rather than breadcrumbs and grated carrots, zucchini, onion so he couldn’t really tell it apart from the meat. I would also add low sodium V8 juice to the tomato sauce. I would make giant “Wedding Singer” sized meatballs on occasion. Always fun to keep them guessing!
Such a good idea! It’s such a struggle to get my son to eat meat these days, period. I can’t sneak in veggies via meatballs 😂
I may need your help. I tried many ways but couldn’t solve it, but after reading your article, I think you have a way to help me. I’m looking forward for your reply. Thanks.