Learning how to make moist meatballs isn’t difficult at all, even when using beef as your only meat. These all beef meatballs are healthier than standard recipes that use a variety of fatty meats.
All Beef Meatballs that Are Moist and Not Dry?
With this recipe, you will enjoy flavorful and moist Italian meatballs that are so easy to make you can have them on the table in less than an hour. (Wish you had this recipe before? Sign up to receive my emails where I announce when I have new recipes posted!)
My recipe not only uses all beef, nothing else like sausage or veal. You can serve portions of meat alongside, as was the case when I was in Italy when they served me tripe.
But in our house we use lean organic grass-fed beef, so when I finally learned the secret for making an amazingly moist meatball with the odds stacked against me I had to share it with you.
Spoiler alert – the trick is to use soaked bread instead of breadcrumbs! See my recipe below – you’ll be amazed how easy these are to make. Enjoy!
Can an all-beef meatball still be moist?
First, you’ll notice I never use any other meat except beef in my meatballs. It’s the only way my own Italian family and my husband’s Italian family makes them too.
And trust me, we take our meatballs seriously.
Yes! You can have an all-beef meatball that is moist by using slices of bread soaked in water and then squeezed to remove any excess liquid. I explain further down.
All Beef Meatballs Recipe – Super Moist!
- 1 lb ground beef I use organic grass fed 85/15
- 1-2 slices white bread artisan bread works too
- 1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp dried basil fresh is fine in season
- 2 tbsp dried parsley fresh is fine in season
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder or 3 cloves minced garlic
Soak the bread in a bowl of warm water
Squeeze out the water from the bread and mix together the bread with all the other ingredients in a bowl
Mix well and form into meatball size balls (about 1 1/2 inches diameter).
Place in baking pan and bake at 375 F (350F convection) for 35-40 minutes until fully cooked through.
- If you want to add the meatballs to a pot of sauce, you can reduce the baking time by about 10 minutes and finish cooking them with the pasta sauce for at least an hour or so.
- I’ve been asked if you have to use white bread or will whole wheat bread work just as well. I have only used white bread, and have not experimented with whole wheat. However, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be okay as long as the bread is not sweetened with honey which will alter the flavor.
- The last time I made these I used some homemade bread that was really dense (I think the yeast was old), and I just made sure to soak the bread until it was soggy and removed the hard crust. They still turned out great.
- The general rule of thumb is 1 slice per pound of beef, but you can certainly add more to help as filler and especially if the beef is really lean. It is the soaked bread that helps makes the meatballs become very very moist.
- Using breadcrumbs will not yield the same moist results. I do make meatballs with breadcrumbs as well, but I am using soaked bread more and more because we purchase very lean beef.
- I do not add other meats like pork or veal. This is an all beef recipe and it’s the only type of meat use when I make meatballs!
Will you lose flavor with an all beef meatball?
Some will argue to have a flavorful meatball you have to use the standard meat trio of beef, veal and pork. No. This is myth. It is not true, you do not need all three or any “mix” of meats. People add in pork because it’s got fat and it’s cheap which makes it a nice filler.
What you really need is quality ingredients. Yet with an all beef version of meatballs, you just might have a few obstacles to overcome. All which I had to as well.
Serve the meatballs with pasta topped with delicious homemade pasta sauce. Here are some options for how to make your own pasta sauce.
- meatless marinara sauce
- marinara sauce from tomato paste
- pasta sauce from cans of tomato sauce
- homemade spaghetti sauce
Obstacle #1: The Fat holds the flavor
Some will say that it’s the fat that gives a meatball its flavor. Sure, fat gives anything flavor but beef has less fat than pork thus making it leaner.
Do we have to sacrifice flavor? No. Keep reading.
Obstacle #2: Trying to make a healthy meatball with leaner meat.
In our home we try to attempt to be healthier without going vegetarian, thus we started buying leaner beef. No more 75/25, not even 85/15, I’m talking 93/7.
Yikes! 93/7?! This caused my meatballs to be more dry. Less fat means a less moist meatball.
And without the extra fat, it didn’t hold as much flavor either. It was like it just cooked away.
I’m not finished yet…
Obstacle #3: Make this recipe even healthier using Grass Fed Beef
To make matters worse, what if you want to use grass-fed beef? I have found this to be more lean as all grass cows are healthier and less fatty unlike grain fed cows that typically don’t roam around like their lucky grass fed brothers do.
In addition,some people complain that with all grass fed you have less flavor than grain fed, or that there are subtle changes in flavor due to the seasonal changes in the grass itself.
This is the problem I ran into when making meatballs when we switched over to 93/7 100% organic and 100% grass fed beef. Yikes!!!
How To Make Your Meatballs Moist… and Bake them in the Oven!
For each pound of ground beef, soak a slice of white bread in water and squeeze out the excess water. No breadcrumbs. Just a dip to get it wet is fine.You can even add MORE bread slices to make it even more moist. I’ve seen recipes where people use 4 slices just for a pound!
By adding the already moist bread slices you are actually allowing the meatball to retain more moisture! With regular dried breadcrumbs, those soak up the existing fat… which we are lacking when we have lean beef.
Baking vs. Frying Your Meatballs
Yes, sometimes you can fry them in a pan then transfer to the oven. I do not do this. I bake the meatballs from start to finish. I don’t even add olive oil to the pan in the oven. You don’t need to.
But if you sold on frying to give it that nice dark brown crust then go ahead and do your thing.
I go healthier and bake. And it’s easier. And cleaner.
As you can see in my picture, I use my Stainless steel Cuisinart 5 qt pan which works great! And yes, the one in the middle was my taste test. 🙂
Other Alternatives to Try
I tried using more olive oil, I tried adding milk, I tried doubling the eggs…. but now, I just soak the bread for a minute or so, squeeze out the excess liquid and mix it in with the other ingredients.
No more breadcrumbs. No more making last minute breadcrumbs by toasting bread at a low setting then trying to get them to cool down super fast.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love breadcrumbs and I will still use them, but not when I am using lean beef and I want really moist meatballs.
Do it. Try it. You won’t regret it!
I hope you enjoy this recipe and will appreciate the tips I provided. If you have your own tips, feel free to let me know!
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Thanks and keep up the tradition. I am a1st generation Italian 1/2 Sicilian 1/2 Neapolitan. My Nonna, Motherand Father have tought me all about Italian cuisine My Father being a professional Chef and Baker, taught me why you cook food a certain way. But it was my love for eating the best food in my entire life, that made curious enough at 8 years of age, to stay in the kitchen and watch my Nonna and mother cooking that’s unbelievably delicious food. It was the real reason I became a cook and Chef since 1958 at the age of 13. My family owned 3 Italian restaurants in Williamsburg Brooklyn and Queens New York.
The reason for all the background history is that I agree with those methods you use to achieve a moist delicious meatballs. Well done.
These are the best meatballs ever. Also it’s okay to use wheat bread or sour dough. I’ve tried both. It’s the soaking of the bread that makes them moist and the seasoning is spot on.
Thank you! So glad you liked the recipe!
I modified the recipe: used whole wheat bread soaked in broth and substituted ricotta cheese for the oil. This is a great base recipe to experiment with.
That sounds great! Thanks for sharing!