Are you looking for a way to make the best meatball with maximum tenderness? The key to making delicious baked meatballs is all in the technique. If you gently handle the ground meat mixture and with as little contact as possible, you'll end up with light, tender meatballs that are ready to eat right out of the oven.
Follow these tips to make the best-baked meatballs ever! In this blog post, we'll share with you the secret to making perfect baked meatballs that are both flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth tender.
If you enjoy a quick and easy classic oven-baked meatballs recipe with a marinara sauce, you can find it here, but with a chef's added touch.
Bake Meatballs' ingredients
The pairing of sweet and spicy exists in most worldly cuisines. Our recipe is very much like Italian meatballs, but better, you know, with added spice.
We took a classic recipe like our Italian meatball recipe found HERE, and turned up the flavor. I can hear an Italian accent now saying, “You don’t like a spicy meatball?”.
- Chuck Beef (80/20) 1 pound of ground
- Favorite Ground Pork Italian Sauage (Add more if you love sausage )⅓ pound of ground
Ingredients For The BASE
- Vidiala Texas Sweet Onion (Chopped / Use Yellow Onion if you cannot find them)½
- Poblano Pepper (Chopped / reserve some for garnish)½
- Garlic (Minced)1 tablespoon
- Italian Parsley (Chopped)1 ½ tablespoon
- Fresh Tomato (Chopped)½
- Jalapeno (Chopped/remove seeds)½
- Chipotle Powder (Use 1 teaspoon if you like spicy food)½ teaspoon
- Smokey Paprika½ teaspoon
- Dried Thyme¼ teaspoon
- Fennel Seed¼ teaspoon
- Tomato Marinara Sauce (3 Cups) 24 ounces
- Adobo Sauce (Chipotles in Adobo)3 tablespoon
- Pineapple Chunks + Juice (At Lease 8oz can - Or more)1 can
- Sea Salt
Start by using the highest quality beef you can find. I suggest using USDA Prime beef. It will offer more flavor. If you cannot find Prime beef, look for USDA Choice next.
Begin by using a box grater or handheld grater. Get the Vidalia onion cut along with the poblano and jalapeno pepper. Place into a large mixing bowl.
What we are doing at this point is creating a base for our ground beef and sausage. This combination of vegetables and our seasonings will make it easy to distribute evenly throughout the sweet and spicy meatball flavor profile. Sprinkling the seasoning over the beef and sausage creates uneven seasoning and small pockets of ingredients here and there.
What is Chipotle?
A Chipotle Pepper is a jalapeno pepper that has been smoked. When jalapenos mature, their color changes from green to red, giving them a special color. The peppers are canned with adobe sauce.
Adobo Sauce is the immersion of raw food in a stock (or sauce) composed of paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar to preserve and enhance its flavor. The Portuguese variant is known as "Carne de vinha d'alhos."
In a large bowl, add one egg, 1 T of minced garlic, chipotle powder, paprika, fennel seed, and dry thyme. (Be sure to crunch the thyme and fennel in the palm of your hand to release the flavors and oils).
Next step, we are going to add something fresh. This is how chefs think when creating recipes. The addition of a fresh element takes the recipe over the top.
Add the chopped Italian parsley, half of the fresh tomato (keep the other half of the tomato for garnish),
Optional Ingredient: Uncooked Rice
The addition of the rice reminds me of stuffed peppers or stuffed cabbage rolls. It offers a nice texture and creates a more tender meatball overall. One point to note is that the rice puffs up during the cooking process and pokes out of the sides of the meatballs. Not a big deal.
Once the meatballs are cooked, we will roll them around the sauce to ensure they are completely covered before we plate them. The sauce helps hide the rice.
Add 1 cup of Italian bread crumbs to the meatball, this acts as a binder. Adding parmesan cheese is always a welcome ingredient, as is Italian seasoning.
I like using an ice cream scooper to form the meatballs and finishing shaping using my hands. The heat from your hands will help seal the meatballs before baking.
Add the shaped meatball to a casserole dish with high walls. Another direction you could use is baking meatballs on a cookie sheet or baking sheet. Cook until meatballs are tender, place them under a broiler until golden brown, remove them from the oven, and add them to the casserole dish to finish cooking in the sauce.
Making the Sweet and Spicy Marinara Sauce
Making the best sauce possible starts with an excellent plain tomato sauce. I have the very best technique and the recipe you'll find anywhere on the internet right here. Just click the photo below or right here to get the recipe and technique.
Start with adding your tomato sauce to a large bowl
Then add chipotles in adobo sauce. This is where you can go in a few different directions. I only used the adobe sauce. If you like extra spiciness, add in some of the chipotles; just make sure to cut them up before adding them.
CHECKOUT Our Homemade Adobo Sauce Recipe >HERE
The next ingredient is our special ingredient. To some, this might sound odd, but I'm telling you you'll love it if you like pineapple. It's the ingredient that makes this sweet. When dinner is served, you'll fight over the cooked pineapple pieces.
Turbinado sugar is another ingredient to help balance out the flavors and spices.
Stir all the sauce ingredients together and taste. Does it taste good? Need more turbinado sugar? More adobe sauce? More chipotles? A bit of salt?
I would add a good pinch of salt to the sauce and sprinkle salt over the meatballs in the casserole dish.
Should I Sear Meatballs Before Baking?
Searing meatballs before baking them helps to give them a crispy outer crust. To sear meatballs:
- Cook them in a hot skillet over medium-high heat until they are browned all over.
- Transfer them to the oven and bake as directed.
- Sear meatballs just before cooking them for the best results.
While the meatballs are cooking, prepare some goodies to top the baked meatballs.
- Fresh onion
- Italian Parsley
Once out of the oven and before you plate the meatballs, I like to roll them around in the sauce to coat them evenly.
Plating: add some sauce to the base of the plate. Add the meatballs with onion, poblano, fresh tomato, and Italian parsley.
Why Are My Meatballs Tough?
There are a few reasons why meatballs can turn out tough. One possibility is that you used lean ground beef, which was too lean. When shopping for ground beef, look for a mix that is 80/20 or 70/30 (fat to lean ratio). The fat helps to keep the meatballs moist as they cook.
Another reason meatballs might turn out tough is that they were not cooked long enough. Meatballs need to be cooked until they are completely cooked through, which means cooking them until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of your meatballs in the oven before taking them out.
What Temperature Do Meatballs Need To Be Cooked To?
Meatballs need to be cooked at a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be safe to eat. This temperature will ensure that any bacteria present in the meat is killed and that the meat is cooked through. cook your meatballs at a lower temperature if you prefer them to be more moist and juicy, but keep in mind that they may not be as safe to eat if they are not cooked all the way through.
What Can I Use in Meatballs Instead of Breadcrumbs?
There are a few different things that you can use in meatballs instead of breadcrumbs. One option is to use oatmeal. Another option is to use crushed crackers. Finally, you could also use grated vegetables like zucchini or carrots. Any of these options will work well in meatballs and help to bind the ingredients together.
Can I Make This Recipe With Chicken Meatballs Instead?
Yes, you can make this recipe with chicken meatballs instead. Simply follow the same instructions but use ground chicken in place of the ground beef. Chicken meatballs are a great option if you are looking for a leaner alternative. Cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
What Is The Best Way To Store Leftovers?
Leftover meatballs can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months. When reheating, make sure that the meatballs are heated all the way through to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Post To Check Out
Instant Pot Beef with Cream Of Mushroom Soup
Best Beef For Jerky | Texas Jerky Recipe
Instant Pot Brisket Recipe - Texas Style
Reverse Sear: How to Cook a Steak Perfectly Every Time
📖 Recipe Card
Best Baked Meatballs: Max Tenderness
- 1 pound Beef (ground chuck meat 80/20) 80/20 fat to fat
- ⅓ pound Sauage (ground) Add more if you love sauage
Ingredients For The BASE
- ¼ teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1 Egg
- ½ Vidalia Sweet Onion hopped / Use yellow onion if you cannot find them
- 1 ½ tablespoon Italian Parsley Chopped
- ⅓ cup Parmesan Cheese
- ¼ teaspoon Fennel Seed
- 1 tablespoon Garlic Minced
- ½ Fresh Tomato Chopped
Spicy Ingredients (Optional)
- ½ Poblano Pepper Chopped/reserved some for garnish
- ½ Jalapeno Chopped/remove seeds
- ½ teaspoon Chipotle Powder Use 1 teaspoon if you like spicy food
- ½ teaspoon Smokey Paprika
- 24 ounces Tomato Sauce 3 Cups
- 3 tablespoon Adobe Sauce (/ Chipotles in Adobo)
- 1 can Pineapple Chunks + Juice At Lease 8oz can - Or more
- 1 ½ teaspoon Sea Salt
Making The BASE
- Add the egg first and whip it in a large bowl. Then add the onion (reserve some for garnish), the poblano (reserve some for garnish), and jalapenos. Measure out each dry ingredient. Chipotle, paprika. With the thyme and fennel seeds, be sure to crush them in the palm of your hand to release the natural oils. Mix everything, then add the parsley and tomato. Doing the premix helps preserve the tomatoes and parsley from being overworked.Add the beef, sausage, and rice next. Using your hands, do a quick mix to combine, then add in the Italian bread crumbs.Important TIP: You add the bread crumbs after mixing the meat so the base can get into the meat. The bread crumbs will suck up the base instead of the meat.
Making the SAUCE
- Add the fresh tomato sauce to a separate bowl, then measure out the adobo sauce ( add come of the chipotles if you like spicy food. Then add in the turbinado sugar and pineapple plus the juice. If using a larger can of pineapple. Use your best judgment on how much of the juice you think needs to be added. You can always ask me a question in the comments section for help.
Finishing & BAKING
- Spray a 9 by 13 casserole dish with cooking spray to help avoid sticking.I like using an ice cream scooper to shape the meatballs and then finish shaping them with my hands to create perfectly shaped meatballs. Your hands are the best tools in the kitchen. If the scooper is too large, no problem, you can still use one, just be mindful not to fill it. Try to repeat the same scoop on each meatball. Cover the meatballs with the sauce, ensuring every inch of the meatballs is covered.Add all of the pieces of pineapple into the sauce bowl. Distribute them evenly around the casserole dish.
- BAKE: @ 250 degrees for 2 plus hours. The key is you HAVE to cover the casserole dish.The low temperature is just like a slow braising. The meatball becomes very soft and tender.Using aluminum foil works to cover. Be sure to check on your meatballs along the cook in the oven to make sure everything is going well.
- Plating: Add some of the sauce to a plate first, then add a sprinkle of chopped poblano, onion, and tomato. Plate the meatballs and garnish with chopped Italian parsleyDon't forget the pieces of pineapple.
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