Super Tender Homemade Meatball Recipe

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Last updated on October 12th, 2021 at 03:02 pm

You’ve been meatball-ed!

Or at least you can be after learning this recipe.

It’s not as easy as laughing at Jim’s prank and splitting the loot with Dwight, but once you’ve done it you’ll have it down pat. And if you didn’t understand any of that, please go and watch The Office immediately. It’s ok, I’ll wait.

A single meatball in red sauce help above a bowl full of meatballs

It’s in the eighth season, so it may take you a while to catch up, but I’ll still be here.

This meatball recipe, on the other hand, is so juicy-tender that you will not want to part with them. That tenderness is due in large part to making a panade. I think that it is one of my recipes that my wife loves the most. This and the chicken parm burgers that I will have to feature another day.

What the heck is a Panade?

It looks like I misspelled parade, but we are not watching giant floats go down Main street in order to make meatballs. From what I could tell, it comes from the Italian word panata. That word refers to a mixture of bread and milk (or other liquids). The milk/bread mixture is then incorporated into the meatballs, which helps lock in the moisture and lends a tender texture when cooked.

I came across this method after searching around the internet for a meatball recipe. My recipe here is based on the recipe from Fox Valley Foodie for meatballs that sparked my interest.

All ingredients for the meatball recipe set in a mixing bowl

Many recipes use breadcrumbs to help form the meatballs, along with the egg. These additions help give the meatball more structure and make it less prone to just crumbling to pieces while cooking. I have even come across some recipes that call for soaking the breadcrumbs in milk, which I guess is a pseudo-panade and would accomplish something similar.

But for our recipe, we soak milk in bread and mush it together to form a kind of paste. I know it doesn’t sound, feel, or look very appetizing now, but it will lead to a genuinely tender meatball recipe.

Forming the Meatballs

Meatballs require a delicate balance. You want to mix all of the ingredients well so that the herbs, spices, and flavor are everywhere and not just in one single meatball – like biting into a burrito and getting just rice. However, you also do not want to over-mix and cause them to be tough. One way to help avoid this is to mix all of the ingredients together separately from the meat. Once those are mixed together, combine them with the meat. So, don’t do it as I showed in the photo up above. But it does look better for the photo op.

Once it is all mixed together, we’re ready to form the meatballs. To do this I grab about 2 tablespoons of the meatball mixture and roll it gently between my palms. This makes a meatball about the size of a golf ball. And the recipe will yield about 25 of those golf-ball sized meatballs.

If you want, you can make larger or smaller meatballs. Just remember that whatever size you choose, make them as evenly sized as possible. Doing so will ensure that they all take around the same time to cook.

How to Serve This Meatball Recipe

For cooking the meatballs, you have the option of searing and simmering vs baking. Baking has the advantage in the fact that it is easier. Just set them on a pan and put them in the oven, turning once about halfway through. But I prefer the sear and simmer method.

First, you add some butter or oil to a pan on medium-high heat. Then add the meatballs to the pan and sear them on all sides. You can roll them around on the pan or pick them up and turn them. But once they are seared you add whatever finishing sauce you want to the pan and let the meatballs simmer in that for a while until they are cooked through.

Simmering the meatballs in the sauce keeps them so moist and tender it is unbelievable. And that is why it is my preferred method. Plus it adds a little more depth of flavor into the sauce while it simmers.

While making this recipe, I used a red sauce. I actually made a fresh sauce and had that simmering while making the meatballs. This is the sauce to use for the traditional spaghetti and meatballs dish. If you are looking for a good sauce, I highly recommend this pizza sauce recipe from Serious Eats. I use this as a base and throw in whatever I’m feeling to spice it up.

You can also use whatever other sauce seems good to you. Another common one is more of a gravy-type sauce. For this, you definitely want to sear the meatballs in the pan since you will deglaze the pan to make a sauce for the meatballs. If you would like to go this route, then take a look at the sauce portion of this Swedish meatball recipe from the Recipe Critic.

Freezing this Meatball Recipe

Instead of cooking them right away, you can refrigerate or freeze the formed meatballs. If you plan to refrigerate them, I recommend only making them a day in advance. Set the formed meatballs out on a baking sheet, loosely cover them with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge.

For freezing, you form the meatballs and place them on a baking sheet. Then put them, uncovered, into the freezer until they have frozen solid. I usually just wait until the following day. Then transfer them to an airtight, freezer-safe container until the day before you are ready to use them. Thaw them by putting the meatballs in the fridge a day before you are planning to use them.

The frozen meatballs will stay fresh for 1 to 2 months in the freezer.

Super Tender Homemade Meatballs

Recipe by Marc PetersonCourse: EntréeDifficulty: Intermediate


Prep time


Cooking time


Total time



Tender, juicy meatballs that go with any sauce for dinner


  • 2 cups sourdough bread, cubed, crust removed

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced

  • 1/4 cup basil, minced

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1 pound ground beef (80/20)

  • 1 pound ground pork


  • Combine the cubed bread with the milk in a medium-sized mixing bowl and use a fork to stir thoroughly, then set aside to let the milk soak
  • While the milk is soaking, take the time to chop, mince, and grate all of the ingredients as needed
  • Once the milk has soaked at least 10 minutes, use the fork to mash and stir the bread to break it up and ensure all of it has been soaked
  • Add all other ingredients except the ground beef and pork to the milk/bread mixture, and stir thoroughly to combine
  • Loosely crumble the ground beef and pork into a large mixing bowl
  • Gently mix the bread/seasoning mixture into the ground meats until just combined
  • Form the meatballs by scooping out as much as you would like for a single meatball (I use about 2 tablespoons) and gently rolling it between your palms just until it comes into the right shape
  • Cook the meatballs using your preferred method from below
  • Sear and Simmer (My Preferred Method)
  • Add 2 tablespoons of butter or oil to a frying pan over medium-high heat
  • Put the meatballs into the pan to sear, rolling them around in the pan or turning them over to sear all sides
  • Turn the heat down to medium, add your desired sauce to the pan, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the center of the meatballs read 160°F (72°C) on an instant-read thermometer – if you are making a pan-sauce gravy then remove the meatballs from the pan after searing and make the sauce and then add the meatballs back into the sauce to simmer
  • Baking
  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C)
  • Put the meatballs on a foil-lined or greased baking sheet and cook 15 to 20 minutes turning once about halfway through until the center of the meatballs read 160°F (72°C) on an instant-read thermometer


  • The size of your meatballs will directly affect their cooking times, my times are given for smaller golfball-sized ones – cook to an internal temp of at least 160°F (72°C)
  • Regular white bread may be substituted for the sourdough
  • 2 pounds of beef can be used instead of the beef/pork mixture

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  1. A panade, who knew? My meatballs are always hit or miss in moistness, I’ll give it a try. Thanks Marc!


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