Italian Meatballs with Beef, Pork, and Italian Sausage

Super tender and juicy meatballs with lots of garlic, two types of cheese, and three meats including Italian sausage, ground pork, and ground beef. This will be the meatball recipe you keep coming back to. This makes a big batch so you can freeze some for later!
bowl of meatballs spaghetti and marinara sauce

Super tender and juicy meatballs with lots of garlic, two types of cheese, and three meats including Italian sausage, ground pork, and ground beef. This will be the meatball recipe you keep coming back to. This makes a big batch so you can freeze some for later!

bowl of meatballs and spaghetti and a pot full of marinara

Quick tips

  • Mix all other ingredients first before adding your meat to help prevent over-mixing.
  • Pulse stale french bread in a food processor to make easy homemade breadcrumbs.
  • Portion out meatballs with a cookie scoop for perfect sized balls.
  • Sear meatballs on all sides to add extra flavor.
  • Freeze your leftover meatballs to use later.
  • Simmer the meatballs in Homemade Hearty Marinara Sauce.


You don’t need any fancy equipment for this recipe, but here are a few items to make your meatball creation easier:

  • Large mixing bowl – you will need a big mixing bowl to mix up these meatballs, since this batch makes a lot.
  • Cookie scoop/Ice cream scoop – makes portioning out perfect sized meatballs super easy!
  • Cast iron pan – I love using the cast iron to make meatballs. Since it gets hot and stays hot, it will help you get a nice sear on all sides of your meatballs.
  • Silicone tongs – These come in handy for turning the meatballs while searing.

Ingredient notes

As I always say, you can’t end up with a quality product if you don’t start from quality ingredients. I use organic meats when possible. I recommend stocking up on them when they are on sale, and freezing the rest for use later.

What kind of meat to use for meatballs

Most Italian meatballs are made with a mix of beef and pork. I like to take this a step further and add in Italian sausage as well. The Italian sausage adds in extra seasonings and gives the meatballs a hint of fennel flavor.

  • Ground beef – I use ground chuck for my meatballs. Use an 80/20 mixture – 80% lean and 20% fat. As always use the best quality beef you can find. The Fresh Market has ground chuck on sale for $2.99 a pound every Tuesday!
  • Ground pork – Ground pork is usually made from pork shoulder aka Boston butt or pork butt.
  • Italian sausage – for this recipe you want to use fresh sausage, not smoked. Make sure you use an Italian sausage you’ve tried before and like, since all places make their Italian sausage a little differently. Squeeze the sausage out of its casing for this recipe. Looking for more Italian sausage recipes? Try this potato and sausage casserole.

Best cheese to use for Italian meatballs

Typically parmesan cheese is used in Italian meatballs. For this recipe I like to use a mix of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and Pecorino Romano. You can also use 1.5 cups of freshly grated parmesan cheese alone if you don’t have Pecorino Romano on hand.

I always recommend grating cheese yourself! Freshly grated cheese is always better than store bought grated or shredded. Store bought shredded cheese contains extra additives to prevent the cheese from sticking together. Plus you pay a little extra for them to grate it for you. Save a bit of money and grate the cheese yourself.


Salt is important in making any dish, even in sweets! Unfortunately, all salts don’t have the same level of saltiness. Iodized table salts will be saltier than a larger crystal kosher salt. For this reason I recommend picking a salt and sticking with it so you have consistency in your recipes.

I use Redmond Real Salt in the recipes on Feeding Our Faces. This salt is unrefined, unbleached, and tastes much better than iodized table salt.

meatballs and spaghetti with noodles and parmesan cheese garlic bread

Cooking tips

Here are a few tips to make your meatballs moist and tender, and absolutely delicious!

How to make meatballs from scratch?

Making meatballs from scratch is the way to go! Homemade meatballs take a little more effort, but the result is tender, moist, and flavorful meatballs you just can’t buy from the store.

Start by making a panade – a paste of breadcrumbs and milk. In an extra large mixing bowl, combine milk and homemade breadcrumbs, and let sit for 10 minutes, until all milk is absorbed. This mixture of milk and breadcrumbs will help your meatballs stay moist. You can use store bought breadcrumbs if you must, but making them from scratch is way easier than you think!

How to make homemade breadcrumbs?

I buy a loaf of french bread from the bakery at my local grocery store to make my breadcrumbs. Buy your loaf a few days ahead of time so it has time to get stale – aka it has time to dry out. Sometimes the bakery will be able to sell you day old bread that is already starting to dry out.

How to make breadcrumbs from fresh bread

If they don’t have any stale bread you can still buy it fresh. To use fresh bread for breadcrumbs, break up the bread into roughly 1 inch chunks, and lay out on a baking sheet. Bake the bread pieces in a 200 degree oven for 10-20 minutes. You don’t want the bread to start browning too much, rather just dried out so it crumbles easier. The bread should be cooked until it is crispy on the inside when you break it open rather than soft.

If you are using bread that is already stale, you can skip the oven step.

Add your dried out bread chunks to a food processor and pulse until larger bread chunks are broken down.

One loaf of french bread will yield about 2 cups of breadcrumbs.

How to make tender meatballs?

The number one key to making the most tender meatballs is DON’T OVER-MIX. The more you mix your meatballs, the tougher they will be. You should combine the ingredients for the meatballs until just mixed together.

There are a few things you can do to prevent over-mixing:

  • Combine all other ingredients first, then add your meat. Mix together breadcrumbs, milk, onions, garlic, eggs, cheese, salt, and pepper first. Then gently fold in your meat. This ensures that everything else is well combined so you are less likely to over-mix once your meats are added.
  • Chop your meat up prior to adding it to the other ingredients. Roughly chop your ground beef, sausage, and ground pork, then mix up the pieces. Once the meat is chopped, it makes it easier to combine with the other ingredients while using less mixing motions.

Another way to keep your meatballs tender is by using homemade breadcrumbs mixed with milk. The resulting panade will keep moisture in to help make them moist as well.

breadcrumbs soaked in milk in a bowl
Soak breadcrumbs in milk for 10 minutes until absorbed

The best way to mix together the ingredients is with your hands! Wash your hands, roll up your sleeves, and get mixing. Try to use only your fingertips to mix which will help prevent over-mixing.

How to roll out meatballs?

Once the ingredients for the meatballs are all combined, it’s time to portion them out. It is easy to do this using a 2 ounce cookie scoop. If you don’t have one, you can also use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to portion them out.

Gently roll the meatballs with your hands until just round. The meatball shape doesn’t need to be perfect!

Lay out your meatballs on a baking sheet with parchment paper so they don’t stick.

scooping meatballs onto a baking sheet

Sear your meatballs on all sides

Before you start searing the meatballs, you want to have a pot of sauce heated up so you can finish the meatballs in the sauce. Heat up your sauce to a low simmer.

I prefer homemade marinara sauce for this. If you want to use jarred sauce, my favorite is Rao’s homemade marinara sauce.

Now that your meatballs are all rolled out, time to sear them. Preheat your cast iron pan on medium heat. I always recommend preheating your pan for about 5-10 minutes to make sure it piping hot before adding your meat. Once your pan is sizzling hot, add a few teaspoons of vegetable or olive oil.

searing meatballs in a cast iron

Add the meatballs to the hot cast iron a few at a time. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Overcrowding the pan will make the meatballs steam rather than sear. You want to develop a nice browned crust on all sides of the meatballs.

Every few minutes, turn your meatballs so they can brown on all sides. As the meatballs are finished searing, add them to the pot of simmering Homemade Hearty Marinara Sauce. Cook meatballs in the sauce for about 20 minutes, until cooked throughout.

I like to use silicone tipped tongs to turn and transfer the meatballs. Be gentle with them. Since they are tender, they may easily break.

meatballs cooking in marinara sauce

How to make this recipe easier?

Making meatballs can take some time, but trust me they are oh-so-worth-it. To streamline your process a little, you can chop your onions and garlic, and grate your cheese the day before.

I would avoid chopping the parsley ahead of time, since it wilts quickly once chopped.

How to serve meatballs?

Now that you have created moist and tender meatballs, time to eat them! You can serve these meatballs with Homemade Hearty Marinara Sauce and pasta, which is probably the most popular way to serve them. Change it up by mixing the meatballs and sauce in with a larger pasta, such as rigatoni. Top the mixture with mozzarella and parmesan and bake in a casserole dish for a baked meatball pasta.

My favorite thing to do with leftover meatballs is making meatball subs!

up close bowl of meatballs and spaghetti with marinara


Can you freeze homemade meatballs

Absolutely! This recipe makes a large batch of meatballs so you can freeze some extra for later. Add meatballs to a quart size freezer bag or vacuum seal bag with a little bit of marinara sauce and freeze for up to 3-5 months.

What is the secret to good meatballs?

Use three kinds of meat – ground chuck, ground pork, and Italian sausage. Add in lots of garlic and fresh parsley, homemade breadcrumbs and milk paste, and don’t over-mix!

Why are my meatballs dry?

If your meatballs are coming out too dry, try adding less breadcrumbs and/or more milk. Combine the milk and breadcrumb mixture first to make a panade, then add the rest of the ingredients.

Why are my meatballs tough?

Over-mixing makes for tough meatballs. Mix all other ingredients first before adding your meats. Mix with your fingertips only to prevent over-mixing.

Related recipes

Any questions? I’d love to help! Drop a comment below or send me an email!

bowl of meatballs spaghetti and marinara sauce

Italian Meatballs with Beef, Pork, and Italian Sausage

Super tender and juicy meatballs with lots of garlic, two types of cheese, and three meats including Italian sausage, ground pork, and ground beef. This will be the meatball recipe you keep coming back to. This makes a big batch so you can freeze some for later!
4.88 from 55 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian-American
Servings 8 servings, 3 meatballs each
Calories 698 kcal



  •  PREP: In a large bowl, mix together milk and breadcrumbs and let sit for about 10 minutes until absorbed. Add in onions, garlic, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper, and mix well, then add beef, pork, and Italian sausage. Gently mix with fingertips, and do not over-mix. Portion out 24 2 ounce (¼ cup) meatballs ^^.
  • SEAR: In a preheated skillet, sear the meatballs on all sides, about 2-3 minutes on each side, until a browned crust develops.
  • COOK: Transfer the meatballs to sauce to simmer for 20 minutes, until cooked through. 
  • SERVE: Serve with pasta, or use for meatball subs.


*To make homemade breadcrumbs, break up a stale loaf of French bread and pulse in the food processor until you get a small crumb. If you only have fresh French bread, break it up into chunks and bake for 10-20 minutes at 200°F until the bread is dried out. 1 loaf of French bread should yield about 2 cups of bread crumbs. 
**Alternatively you can use 1.5 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese in place of pecorino romano and parmesan mix. 
***I use Redmond Real Salt in my recipes. Different Italian sausages are made up with different ingredients and levels of salt. You may have to adjust the salt accordingly. 
*^ Homemade marinara is best, but if you’re using store bought, Rao’s Homemade Marinara is the best. 
^^ Use a 2 ounce cookie scoop to make portioning out meatballs easier. If you don’t have a cookie scoop, you can use a ¼ cup measuring cup. 


Calories: 698kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 40gFat: 50gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 204mgSodium: 1659mgPotassium: 647mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 561IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 330mgIron: 4mg
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  1. 5 stars
    New fam fave. Full of flavor, easy to make, and freezes well. We doubled the recipe, browned the full batch, and froze half of it (not cooking the freezer batch all the way through). For a quick meal, we put the frozen meatballs in a pan with the marinara or sauce and heated together – perfection.

    1. This makes me so happy, Dawn! I’m glad you and the fam love it. I love to prep a double batch and have some ready to go in the freezer for lazy nights too.

  2. 2 stars
    Used store bought bread crumbs & 2% milk (that’s all I had) instead of whole milk then used the rest of the ingredients shown. Meatballs fell apart in the skillet & even more in the sauce, so I’m serving as a chunky meat sauce over pasta.

    1. Oh no! The meatballs are delicate, but I didn’t have this issue. The egg usually does the trick of helping them stick together. Getting the pan very hot before adding them, and also letting them form a crust before turning them should help. Next time you can try lightly rolling them in flour before searing to help them stick together even more.

4.88 from 55 votes (53 ratings without comment)

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