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Kateโ€™s Amazing Make-Ahead Meatballs

Prepare in advance and pull out as many as you need for a quick, homemade weeknight dinner

By Kate Finlay Zimmerman, Publisher of Macaroni KID Pasadena, Calif. April 9, 2024

Here's a great way to serve your family a delicious, homemade meal in just minutes, even when you've had a rushed day! Make these easy meatballs to have on-hand later when you need a simple but wholesome meal without much prep time.

I recommend making a double batch of my Amazing Meatballs ahead of time and freezing. Then just when you need them, pull out as many or as few as you like, add your favorite tomato sauce, heat them up (on the stove top or in the microwave), boil some pasta, and you're ready for family dinner!


At Macaroni KID, we skip the fluff and get straight to the good stuff. No need to scroll through pages of unnecessary content — our recipes are easy to find. Now let's get cooking!


Kate’s Amazing Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef (80/20 blend is best)
  • ¼ lb. ground pork
  • 1 medium sized sweet onion
  • 2 to 3 whole carrots (scrubbed and trimmed)
  • 6 oz (about 1½ cups) panko
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic

Instructions:

  1. Place ground meats in a large bowl, breaking apart with a serving fork or large utensil, to allow them to come closer to room temperature.
  2. Chop onions and carrots into large chunks and grind them in a food processor to a consistent size. Add to bowl with meat, along with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Using a large utensil, mix the ingredients as best you can. Then, remove any rings you wear and with clean hands squish the mixture together, turning it over multiple times, and incorporating everything together until color and texture seems consistent throughout.
  4. Roll into roughly 1¼ to 1½ inch balls, placing each ball into the hollows of a mini cupcake tin, or aligning them, evenly spaced, on a rimmed cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees (using the convection bake feature on your oven if you have it) for 16 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and density of your meatballs and temperature variation of your oven. Turning the meatballs with a large spoon at the midpoint of cooking is helpful for avoiding crispy spots, but not necessary for the process.
  6. Remove from oven and place each meatball on paper towel or a wire cooking rack to both cool and drain excess fat at the same time.

Some notes to keep in mind:

  • If freezing, to keep the individual meatballs separated, be sure to freeze on a cookie sheet (or several plates) for an hour or more, then lay neatly in zipper bags, clearly label, and freeze solid overnight. Will keep well for several weeks.
  • Using a food processor to mince the onion saves time – and your eyes. Adding ground carrot has two purposes:
    1. Balance the acidity of the tomato sauce.
    2. Sneak vegetables into your unsuspecting children.  
  • Processing both vegetables finely allows you to appreciate the flavor they add without necessarily allowing them to reveal themselves.  Any larger pieces that slip through without being chopped finely enough can be easily removed during the hand mixing process. 
  • Mixing this much meat together requires some effort, but it’s worth it. Don't be afraid to get in there, using clean hands or gloves to blend the ingredients, as it's really the best way to evenly incorporate everything.

Kate Finlay Zimmerman is the publisher of Macaroni KID Pasadena, Calif.