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Tender Meatball Recipe

Titling this post “tender meatball recipe” does give me a little bit of a chuckle, but honestly there is no better way to describe these perfectly tender and delicious meatballs.

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The Story

I love meatballs. Love them.

For as long as I can remember my birthday dinner has been meatballs, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and cheesecake.

This particular meatball recipe came from the kitchen of my Grandma Betty. She was an incredible cook and I’ve talked about her often in my recipe posts so I won’t wax on too much about her.

If you’d like to hear more about her and read some of Grandma Betty’s other recipes then see caramel rolls, dumpling soup, and chocolate ganache waffle cookies.

What kind of meat should I use for meatballs?

Whatever kind of ground meat you have on hand will probably work fine! I’ve made these with just beef or just pork. I have also combined one pound of pork and one pound of beef. Both ways they turned out marvelous.

I have not tried this recipe with ground poultry or venison. But hey, I’d say it’s well worth a shot. If you try it let me know how it turns out!

ground pork recipe rough and tumble farmhouse

The Secret to a Tender Meatball

I thought about calling this section “the secret to a tender ball” and then saying to “start with a well aimed kick,” but thought that might be inappropriate.

But seriously, here is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING if you want tender meatballs.

Don’t handle them too much.

When I showed my friend Maree how to make these meatballs she was shocked at how lightly and little I handled them. Her mother had told her you really need to pack them in tight, like a snowball.

Nope!

Use a light touch and just barely form them into a ball, then stick those suckers in the frying pan. You’ll have to be gentle with turning them (I use tongs, check out the video below to see what I’m talking about) but it is well worth it.

tender meatball recipe rough and tumble farmhouse

Why are there breadcrumbs in meatballs?

According to our friends over at the BBC, filler items like flour and breadcrumbs absorb moisture and keep it trapped within the ball itself, rather than letting it all escape.

There is a fine line though. Too much bread crumbs or flour in the mix can give you a big lump of grossness. My mom once added twice the amount of breadcrumbs necessary and she ended up throwing the whole thing away, it was that inedible.

Don’t have breadcrumbs? Been there! If you have a bland cereal like cornflakes, those can be smashed up into crumbs and used instead.

breadcrumbs for meatballs rough and tumble farmhouse

Tools for Making Meatballs

  • Small Mixing Bowl
  • Medium Mixing Bowl
  • Frying Pan
  • Tongs
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Paper Towel

Ingredients for Easy Meatballs

  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 Tbsp Finely minced onion
  • 2 Pounds Ground Meat of Choice
  • Olive Oil for cooking

How to make the Best Ever Tender Meatball Recipe

We are going to be mixing up this recipe by hand, so start by getting all your ingredients measured out.

Additionally, I recommend taking your thawed meat out of the fridge a half hour or so before mixing to make it less cold on your hands.

Mix all the spices listed above in a small bowl along with one cup of breadcrumbs.

Mince up 3 Tablespoons of onion. This takes about 1/4 of a medium onion.

Measure out 1/2 cup of milk.

Next, smoosh up your ground meat so it’s all loose in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Crack an egg onto the meat mixture.

Sprinkle the herb/crumb mixture across the meat.

Pour 1/2 cup of milk over the top.

Now is a good time to pause and get your frying pan warmed up. I usually use my larger stainless steel pan with a coating of olive oil in the bottom.

Next, roll up those sleeves and mix up the ingredients by hand until they are fully incorporated.

Take out about a golf ball sized lump of meat and VERY LOOSELY form it into a ball. Make a whole batch of them, then place them into your frying pan all at once.

fried meatballs rough and tumble farmhouse

Using tongs or whatever kitchen tool you’ve got, flip the meatballs so they are nicely browned on all sides.

Remove from the pan and place them on a paper towel lined plate OR add them right to your sauce/pasta/what have you.

These meatballs are ready to eat as is! Or you can add a saucy baking options below.

How to Serve Meatballs

If you’d like to bake these meatballs there area a few options.

Marinara Sauce

Add these to a premade marinara sauce on the stove top or in the oven. I don’t have a marinara sauce recipe up yet but will this summer once the tomatoes are in.

BBQ Sauce

When it comes to barbeque meatballs I cheat completely. I use a bottle of whatever sauce I have extra of, pour it over the meatballs, then stick them in the oven for about twenty minutes.

Swedish Gravy

I don’t know that this is technically a Swedish gravy it’s just how my mom always made gravy for my meatballs.

Take a can of the midwestern classic, cream of mushroom soup, and pour it in a pan. Stir in some chicken broth so it thins down to more of a gravy consistency. Put in a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, add in the meatballs, and let it bake.

When you take it out of the oven add in about a half a cup of sour cream and stir it in. Voila! A rich, tasty gravy to go with your tender meatball recipe.

How to Store Homemade Meatballs

These will keep in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

If you’d like to freeze them for quick make-ahead meals, lay out a sheet of wax paper on a baking sheet. Place the room temperature meatballs on the baking sheet and put them in the freezer for about an hour. This freezes the meatballs and will keep them separate in the bag once you freeze them.

Skipping the above step will result in one giant frozen meat wad instead of individual balls you can take out as needed.

Next, place the meatballs in a ziploc freezer bag. Label and date.

Watch and Learn

To see the full method of making this tender meatball recipe, check out the YouTube video below.

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easy meatballs recipe rough and tumble recipe
easy healthy meatballs

Tender Meatball Recipe

Equipment

  • Small Mixing Bowl
  • Medium Mixing Bowl
  • Frying Pan
  • Tongs
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Paper Towel

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 Tbsp Finely minced onion
  • 2 Pounds Ground Meat of Choice
  • Olive Oil for cooking

Instructions
 

  • Warm a large frying pan with oil to coat over medium or medium low heat.
  • Mix all the spices listed above in a small bowl along with one cup of breadcrumbs.
  • Mince up 3 Tablespoons of onion. This takes about 1/4 of a medium onion.
  • Measure out 1/2 cup of milk.
  • Next, smoosh up your ground meat so it’s all loose in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  • Crack an egg onto the meat mixture.
  • Sprinkle the herb/crumb mixture across the meat.
  • Pour 1/2 cup of milk over the top.
  • Next, roll up those sleeves and mix up the ingredients by hand until they are fully incorporated.
  • Take out about a golf ball sized lump of meat and VERY LOOSELY form it into a ball.
  • Working in batches, cook the meatballs in the pan.
  • Using tongs or whatever kitchen tool you’ve got, flip the meatballs so they are nicely browned on all sides.
  • Remove from the pan and place them on a paper towel lined plate OR add them right to your sauce/pasta/what have you.
  • These meatballs are ready to eat as is! Or you can add to a sauce.

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