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Classic Italian Meatballs

Now these are meatballs. I’m not talking Swedish meatballs, or Greek meatballs (although that recipe can be found HERE). I am talking 80/20 100% beef, melt in your mouth, classic Italian meatballs. You know the type you want to tower on a plate of spaghetti or stuff into a soft hoagie. Warning, if you stumbled upon this recipe hoping this was another one of my 20-30-minute dishes, it’s not. With that said this recipe in no way requires a ton of work, just a little time. Trust me they are worth it.

*This post is sponsored by Hamilton Beach, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for your support!

ingredients for classic Italian meatballs

Pillowy, Soft, and dare I say….Moist

No one likes a dry meatball. If you have ever had a dry meatball you know they are pretty bad, borderline inedible. Below are a few tips on how to achieve perfect and juicy classic Italian meatballs.

Slow Cook Them

The number one thing you can do to ensure a juicy meatball is to cook it low and slow. Sure, you can stick them in a very large Dutch oven and leave the stove on for several hours. Or you can do yourself a favor and put them in a slow cooker. If you don’t own a slow cooker (confession I didn’t either until recently), then you need to check out the Hamilton Beach 10 Quart Slow Cooker. Perfect for cooking for a large crowd or meal prepping for the week, Hamilton Beach is the only brand with a 10-quart slow cooker on the market. With 3 temperature settings, a clip tight sealed lid, and dishwasher safe stoneware crock this slow cooker has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

As someone who has never owned a slow cooker before it couldn’t have been easier to use. Just unpack the appliance, read the instructions, plug it in, and turn it on. The hardest part will be trying to narrow down what you are going to make in it… shall I suggest these meatballs which cooked like a dream. To learn more about this Hamilton Beach 10 Quart Slow Cooker and pick up one yourself check out on Amazon.

Grate, Grate, Grate

It might feel weird to grate onion and garlic, but when looking for a pillowy and soft meatball you want to avoid big chunks. For the onion I opted for a box grater, then gave it a quick pass with a knife. You can use the small grate on the box grater for the garlic, or use a microplane.

Don’t Over Mix!

The best way to manage this is to mix with your hands. I know, ew, but completely necessary. Mix until just combined, if you have a chunk of ground beef floating here and there that is okay.

rolled out and raw classic Italian meatballs

What You’ll Need for Classic Italian Meatballs

  • Ground Beef – Good old 80/20 (80% meat, 20% fat), which depending on where you are is standard. Yes, you may come across 85/15 or even 90/20, don’t buy this. These meatballs NEED fat to make them juicy. Reducing the fat content will result in some pretty dry balls.
  • Italian Breadcrumbs – Unseasoned or plain. These meatballs get plenty of flavor from fresh herbs and cheese. I find seasoned breadcrumbs can leave a weird after taste, and are just unnecessary.
  • Ricotta Cheese – Ah the moist maker. Seriously though not only does the ricotta cheese bind these meatballs together it adds so much moisture making them pillowy and soft. Choose whole fat ricotta.
  • Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated.
  • Onion – Also…grated. Weird as it sounds, you are going to grate the onion, then give it a once pass over with a knife. We are looking for an almost mushy consistency. While I would typically chop onions and put them into my meatballs, we aren’t looking for big or even small chunks of onion. Just the flavor. As stated above you can grate this on a box grater.
  • Garlic – Fresh only, grated on a microplane preferably.
  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Egg
  • Chili Flakes
classic Italian meatballs next to Hamilton Beach 10qt slow cooker

On top of spaghetti all covered with sauce…

classic Italian meatballs


Classic Italian Meatballs

Print Recipe
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 20 mins
Servings 5 people


  • 1 Slow Cooker



  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef 80/20
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs unseasoned
  • 2/3 cup ricotta whole milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
  • 4 cloves garlic grated or minced finely
  • 1 medium onion grated then chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil chopped
  • 1 tsp salt kosher
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes


  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 small yellow onion or 1/2 medium, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt kosher


  • In a bowl combine all the meatball ingredients. Mix with your hand until combined. Do not over mix!
  • Roll out into 10-12 equally sized balls.
  • In the slow cooker combine the sauce ingredients (crushed tomatoes, garlic, yellow onion, fresh basil, and salt). Mix.
  • Lay the meatballs in the sauce (preferably in a single layer), close the lid and turn the slow cooker on low. Cook for 4 hours.

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