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Prime Beef Meatballs

Prime Beef Meatballs

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This dish is hearty, features clean and authentic flavors, and is perfect for when the cool weather settles in. These meatballs are on the menu at RPM Italian, located in Chicago, where they're a popular dish with diners.


  • 1 1/2 Cup breadcrumbs
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 Cup cooked onions
  • 1 Cup whole milk
  • 3/4 Cups pecorino romano
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic confit*
  • 1/2 Cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 1/2 Pounds USDA Prime ground beef
  • 1 Cup tomato sauce
  • Grated Parmesan, to taste
  • Basil leaves, for garnish

Prime Beef Meatballs - Recipes

    1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
    2. Combine the ground beef, ricotta, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
    3. Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
    4. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.
    5. While the meatballs are roasting, heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often.
    6. When the meatballs are firm and fully cooked, remove them from the oven and drain the excess grease from the pan. Pour the tomato sauce over them. Return the meatballs to the oven and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.

    Reprinted with permission from The Meatball Shop Cookbook by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow with Lauren Deen. Copyright © 2011 by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow photographs copyright © 2011 by John Kernick. Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved.

    Daniel Holzman is executive chef at The Meatball Shop. He is an alum of Le Bernadin, San Francisco's Fifth Floor, and Aqua, among other highly acclaimed restaurants. He attended the Culinary Institute of America, where he received a full scholarship from the James Beard Foundation.

    Michael Chernow runs the front-of-house operations and the beverage program at The Meatball Shop. He has worked extensively in restaurants in New York and Los Angeles. He is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, where he earned degrees in culinary arts and restaurant management. He and Holzman met as teenagers when they worked together as delivery boys at the New York vegan restaurant Candle Café. Needless to say, the vegan thing didn't really stick.

    Lauren Deen is the author of the New York Times bestselling Cook Yourself Thin series and Kitchen Playdates. She is an Emmy award—and James Beard award— winning television producer and director. She is currently executive producer of food(ography) on the Cooking Channel.

    Steps to Make It

    Mix all ingredients together. Don't add all of the water at one time. The mixture should be moist but not so that the meatballs fall apart.

    Shape meatballs to desired size and place on the oiled rack of a broiler pan. Moisten your hands with water as you work to keep the meatballs from sticking. Alternatively, line a large baking pan or rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a wire cooling rack in the pan.

    Broil about 4 inches from the heat source for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the tops are nicely browned. Turn the meatballs over and broil the other side.

    When the meatballs are browned on all sides, add them to a medium saucepan with spaghetti sauce and simmer for at least 20 minutes.

    Serve the meatballs and sauce over hot cooked spaghetti, linguini or another kind of pasta.

    Glass Bakeware Warning

    Do not use glass bakeware when broiling or when a recipe calls to add liquid to a hot pan, as glass may explode. Even if it states oven-safe or heat resistant, tempered glass products can, and do, break occasionally.

    Tips for making the BEST Meatballs:

    • Meatballs can be made with a mixture of ground pork and ground beef, or just ground beef. I prefer to make mine with ground beef, which is what is in the recipe below. If you’re wanting to make them out of a mixture, simply use a 1:1 ratio. Half ground beef and half ground pork.
    • Using Italian style breadcrumbs adds wonderful seasoning and also the texture of the breadcrumbs is so fine that it blends into the meat while they cook. You can always sub the Italian breadcrumbs for plain breadcrumbs and control the seasonings on your own.
    • Prepare one small patty of meat and cook it up to test the seasoning of the meat prior to preparing all of the meatballs. This way if you need to adjust and add anything you can do so and not be surprised when you go to enjoy your meatballs.

    Make ahead and freeze.

    Make meatballs and bake according to instructions, but do not make the glaze yet. Allow meatballs to cool completely. Place on meatballs on a baking sheet, then freeze them for at least 30 minutes. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag, freeze for up to one month. Before serving, allow meatballs to thaw in the fridge overnight. Right before reheating meatballs, make the glaze. Reheat meatballs in a sauce pan on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. You will need to do this in batches to avoid over crowding the pan. Once warm, brush meatballs with glaze, garnish with sesame seeds and green onion, serve.

    Classic Beef Meatballs

    Adapted from Daniel Holzman | Michael Chernow | The Meatball Shop Cookbook | Ballantine Books, 2011

    Here they are—the top sellers at The Meatball Shop and sure to be a big hit at home. Most traditional meatball recipes call for Parmesan or pecorino cheese. While we’re big fans of these stronger cheeses, we prefer ricotta. It’s our secret weapon. The mild and creamy consistency of this fresh cheese gives the meatballs a unique, light texture. Beef has a subtle flavor, and the ricotta is a great way to add fat and moisture to the recipe without the overpowering flavor of a sharper cheese. These are quick to prep, and baking rather than frying makes this a fast comfort food even during the busiest of weeks.–Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow

    How to serve meatballs

    Remember that little ditty about somebody’s meatballs that some poor hungry soul lost when somebody sneezed? Well, there’s more ways to serve your meatballs than over pasta. Like in a sandwich. Or on pizza. Or, well, you tell us. Let us know in a comment below.

    Meatballs can be cooked a variety of different ways like – stovetop in sauce, in a slow cooker, fried, or baked in the oven. Baking them in the oven is a fast and easy way to cook a large batch.

    Simply add your balls to your parchment-lined baking sheet. This recipe makes about 12 meatballs. You could of course make more if you made them smaller.

    How To Know When They Are Done Baking

    Meatballs are done baking when they reach a temperature over 160°F. The easiest way to tell, is to stick a food thermometer into the center of one and check.

    Another way to tell if your meatballs are done baking is to look for a browned outer crust and that there are no pink juices running from them while cooking. They should only have clear juices running from them and be semi-firm to the touch.

    It’s okay if they are slightly pink on the inside. Just make sure they aren’t cool and/or soft on the inside. As a matter of fact, the best way to confirm they’re okay to eat is by measuring the temperature to ensure they are above 160°F when cooking.


    Step 1

    Place rack in top third of oven preheat to 425°. Lightly brush a large rimmed baking sheet with oil. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, vigorously stir eggs, panko, milk, salt, garlic powder, several cranks of pepper, 1 oz. Parmesan, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl until nearly a smooth paste. Mix in one quarter of meat (combining just a small amount of meat in the beginning makes it easier to incorporate the rest without overmixing). Add remaining meat and mix well to thoroughly combine, but don’t overwork it. Using oiled hands, form into 8 large meatballs and place on prepared baking sheet.

    Step 2

    Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers 160°, 5–7 minutes.

    Step 3

    Divide meatballs among plates and spoon some sauce over. Top with basil and more Parmesan.

    How would you rate Weeknight Meatballs?

    Freaking delicious. Easy to make & so flavorful. Well done, BA.

    Amazing! My new go-to for a meatball recipe. So tender and tasty.

    This is not JohnC this is his wife TinaC. My husband has made the best meatballs for the past 25-years, we have them every Christmas (it takes forever to make, I know I'm his su chef). When he found Chris' Weeknight Meatball Recipe and wanted to try it, I was skeptical. I am not skeptical now, they were easy to make and tastes GREAT! Thank you Chris!

    Way too many breadcrumbs. Otherwise mostly tasty. I'll do 3/4 cup panko next time and see how that works

    Made these for dinner and they were so easy and very delicious. Loved how straightforward the process was and the ingredients were minimalist. I made with all ground pork (that's what I had on hand) and they were so good- looking forward to trying with beef next time.

    We love these meatballs- they are tender and tasty and are done so fast. I often use Impossible Burger and almond milk and they come out great too. The texture is best when the panko and milk really come together to form a panade, then it will combine with the meat and keep them tender and juicy.

    Followed recipe exactly with leaner beef than called for and these still turned out super delicious, moist and not at all “bready” like some here are saying. Will make again!

    Too much Panko breadcrumbs!. I will definitely make this again, but the meat to Panko ratio has to be higher.

    These are prefect for when you have a craving and need meatballs immediately! I zhuzhed them up with red pepper flakes, twice as much garlic powder, and dried oregano. I also add about a cup of grated parmesan to give them a bit more of an umami kick. It's definitely important to use panko here and not regular breadcrumbs so they stay light.

    Appreciated how quick and easy this recipe was however the first bite was pretty bland. Next time I would add fresh garlic and parsley to the meatballs and do only 1 cup of bread crumbs.

    TERRIBLE! I am so embarrassed that I served these to my family. This recipe calls for nearly equal volume of meat and breadcrumbs. This should be called ɻread balls' instead of meatballs! I should have known something was wrong as soon as I put in the Panko, because it was so much! In good meatball recipes, the Panko is meant to add some texture and flavor, but should in no way constitute a significant portion of the meatballs. The silver lining of this experience - I learned a valuable lesson in recipe proportions.

    LOVE! This recipe has become my go-to for meatballs. works great with turkey which I always seem to have in the freezer. My partner is constantly requesting them and since they're so easy, how can I say no? (I always use the BA's best spaghetti and meatballs recipe for sauce since that's always delicious and simple as well!)

    Big hit tonight! Made these with some spaghetti and they were super easy to put together. I was suspicious of the amount of breadcrumbs, but my meatballs came together just fine and cooked well! Good texture and taste. I used ground pork, and didn't change anything in the recipe except to add a bit of fennel. Was worried the pork might be too salty as a sub for beef, but it was perfect!

    The flavor is nice and the meatballs are tender, but like others have said -- they are way too bready.

    Barbecue Meatballs Recipe Notes

    Not sure what to think of baked barbecue meatballs? I promise, this recipe is so easy and the ingredients are so simple, you’ll be a believer in this deliciousness in no time!

    • Keeping Things Cool: The secret to tender meatballs is simple: cold. You mustkeep the fat from breaking down (i.e. melting) before you cook the meatballs, so keep the onion and beef in the fridge when you’re not working directly with them, or try using a chilled bowl and chilled utensils
    • Mixing: The more you mix and handle your meatballs, the tougher they are going to be. Even consider using a fork to shape the meatballs! If you must use your hands, coat them in oil and form each ball quickly and gently.
      • I often use an ice cream scoop to form my meatballs, helping to ensure I don’t over-handle them and also guaranteeing that the meatballs have a consistent size.

      Sweet Meatballs Ingredient Notes

      From the sauce to the meat mixture, what secrets will help your meatball-making adventures go smoothly? I’m here to tell you!

      • The Beef: In homemade meat mixtures (like hamburgers, meatballs or even BBQ meatloaf recipes), I’ve found that using fresh, quality meat is especially important. Instead of buying ground beef in those tubes of plastic, look for/ask for freshly ground beef. I use and 80/20 blend.
        • For me, this ratio has just the right amount of fat to make the meatballs tender and juicy without being overbearing. If you want to reduce the overall fat in the recipe, just use leaner ground beef.
        • If you absolutely must use store-bought bread crumbs, go for Panko or generic Italian-style breadcrumbs. They tend to be lighter and make for better meatballs.

        Tools to Make

        You’ve got some options when it comes to tools! The basics are:

        • A baking sheet
        • Mixing bowls
        • An ice cream scoop (for measuring out your meatballs)

        But if you’d rather grill or cook your meatballs on the stovetop, here are some alternatives!

        • Start by browning your meatballs directly over the coals, then finish them in an aluminum pan over indirect heat.
        • Tip: Refrigerate the meatballs before you put them on the grill! If you put them on room temperature, the beef might sink into the slits on the grill. Keep your meatballs chilled right up until cooking!
        • Preheat your skillet and add oil. Saute until brown, but don’t assume they’re done when browned! Thick meatballs take time to cook all the way through, so you might want to invest in a cooking thermometer to make sure the insides come to temperature.
        • Tip: Don’t cook too many meatballs at one time. The meatballs need room to move around on the skillet, so cook in two or three batches when necessary.

        How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?

        Once fully cooked, you can store your meatballs in the fridge for up to four days. Don’t mess with meat longer than that! Toss any meatballs past the five-day mark. But these BBQ meatballs are super delicious, so I doubt you’ll have to worry about too many leftovers!

        Can You Freeze Them?

        Yes! You can either freeze your own meatballs — for up to four months! — or use store-bought frozen meatballs when making this recipe. Of course, making meatballs yourself is so much yummier, but it’s an option.

        If you froze your leftover meatballs, simply thaw in the fridge when you’re ready to eat!

        BBQ Meatball Recipe Make Ahead Tips

        My favorite make-ahead tip for this BBQ meatball recipe: make your meatballs ahead of time and let them chill in the fridge for up to two days before cooking! That way, your fat is chilled and cooks up perfectly, and you don’t have to rush around making meatballs. They’re ready and waiting for you!

        Serving Recommendations

        Now, the big question: what should you serve this BBQ meatballs recipe with? Is it a side or a main meal? Your choice!

        If you make these meatballs as a main meal, serve it with a matching soup, like my hearty beef tomato soup. The combination of the meatballs’ sweet-savoriness and the soup’s tomato tartness is divine!

        Or if you want the meatballs to be the supporting role, make up a big batch of my Mexican spaghetti recipe for the main dish! The zesty Mexican flavors will be the perfect finishing touch after delectable meatballs.

        I love serving them over plain rice, buttered noodles or, best of all, buttery mashed potatoes.