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Mozzarella stuffed meatballs are the upgrade you didn’t know your spaghetti needed. With gooey melted cheese in the center of each flavorful meatball, every bite is savory, delicious, and the best part is that they are ready in just around 30 minutes! These are great for meatball sandwiches, served as an appetizer, or with your favorite pasta!
I’m a huge fan of simple and incredible dishes and mozzarella stuffed meatballs and spaghetti is a fun twist on a classic. If you love Italian dishes, be sure to check out my popular and family-friendly Baked Spaghetti Casserole, Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, and One Pot Bruschetta Chicken Pasta next!
We love meatballs at our house! Whether they are baked Greek feta meatballs, my super popular Swedish meatballs, or more classic Italian spaghetti and meatballs, they are always a hit with the whole family.
These mozzarella-stuffed meatballs are a simple and exciting way to change things up from our regular approach to an easy spaghetti dinner. Serve them with a fresh, crisp salad with copycat Olive Garden salad dressing or my creamy parmesan peppercorn dressing and some homemade breadsticks and you’ve got a meal that your whole family will be raving about for days!
Mozzarella Stuffed Meatball Ingrediens
- Bread crumbs: Plain bread crumbs act as a binding agent inside the meatballs while also keeping them soft and tender.
- Milk: Milk helps to soak the breadcrumbs, adding flavor and moisture to these meaty spheres.
- Ground beef: 1 pound of ground beef is good. I like to use 80/20 or 85/15 ground beef as it’s not too greasy or dry.
- Parsley: Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley is preferred, but dried parsley can be used in a pinch.
- Seasonings: I use a combination of onion powder, garlic powder, dried basil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper to build flavor in these meatballs.
- Cheeses: Not only do we stuff the centers of the meatballs with cubes of mozzarella cheese, but there is also freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in the meatball mixture.
- Egg: This is another binder that helps to hold the meatballs together.
Spaghetti & Sauce
- Pasta: We need a 1 pound (16-ounce sized) box of spaghetti noodles, but of course you could add meatballs to any pasta you want!
- Onion: Adding this aromatic really makes sauces “come alive” with flavor.
- Olive oil: Just a little to help cook down the onions and garlic and keep the sauce from sticking to your pot. It also helps to add a great flavor to the sauce, so it works well for several reasons.
- Garlic: Freshly chopped garlic will add flavor to the sauce that tastes great.
- Crushed tomatoes: Canned crushed tomatoes will be our “tomato” for the base of this red sauce.
- Seasonings: We will need a combination of dried basil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.
How to Make Spaghetti and Stuffed Meatballs
- Soak bread crumbs: In a large bowl, soak your breadcrumbs and milk for 5 minutes.
- Mix the remaining ingredients in by hand: Add in the ground beef, herbs and spices, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and egg. Use your hands to mix everything together. Just squish it and flip it until the spices and cheese are evenly dispersed, but don’t overwork the mixture.
- Shape meatballs and stuff with cheese: Divide the mixture into 2 tablespoon sized scoops and place a cube of mozzarella in the center of each meatball. Shape into a round meatball, repeating until all the meatballs have been formed.
- Make the sauce: In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat a drizzle of olive oil, then add the onion and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant. Then add in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add meatballs to sauce and simmer until cooked through: The sauce should almost cover the meatballs. Cook for 20 minutes until meatballs are fully cooked, turning the meatballs partway through the cooking time so they cook evenly.
- Make the pasta: While the meatballs and sauce simmer, cook the spaghetti noodles in a large pot of salted water, according to the package instructions until al dente, usually around 8-10 minutes.
- Drain, combine, and toss: Drain the noodles and then toss them with the sauce and meatballs. Sprinkle some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped parsley on top before serving. Enjoy!
Tips on Storage and Shortcuts
- Bottled sauce: If you prefer to use bottled marinara sauce, I highly recommend the Rao’s brand, which tastes closer to homemade than any other I have found. I always have a couple of jars of this in the pantry for nights when I haven’t planned ahead and just don’t have time to make my own sauce.
- Make-ahead: These meatballs can be made a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. Or shape them and freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then throw them in a freezer-safe zip-tight bag for longer term storage up to 2 months.
Oven Baked Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
Personally, I love to cook the meatballs right in the sauce while it simmers on the stovetop. It means I don’t have to heat the oven and deal with getting another pan dirty, plus the meatballs absorb even more flavor from the sauce.
But sometimes it makes sense to cook the meatballs separate from the sauce, and in that case baking them is the way to go. To bake the meatballs, just cook them in a 400 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup.
How to make mozzarella stuffed meatballs in the oven
Prepare the round cheese stuffed meatballs as directed in the recipe card. Instead of cooking them in the sauce as directed, instead, place them on a lined baking sheet in the oven at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes until cooked thoroughly.
Can you freeze mozzarella stuffed meatballs?
If you do the oven baked method you can let your meatballs cool before placing in an airtight container or zipper topped baggie and freeze for up to 6 months. Then simply thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating or add to sauce as it’s warming and cook from frozen.
Can you make mozzarella stuffed meatballs with Italian sausage?
Yes, you can use and good ground meat as a replacement for beef if you’d like a more traditional feel. You can even substitute half of the ground beef for sausage or ground pork if you’d like to.
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- 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving
- 1 egg
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Soak the bread crumbs in the milk in a large bowl for 5 minutes. Add the ground beef, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and egg. Mix to combine.
- Divide into 2 tablespoon size meatballs. Add a cube of mozzarella in the center of each meatball and shape into a ball. Repeat with remaining mozzarella cheese and meat.
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the meatballs to the sauce. Simmer and cook, turning the meatballs partway if they aren't completely covered in sauce, until the meatballs are cooked through.
- Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti noodles in a large pot of salted, boiling water according to package directions until al dente (typically around 8-10 minutes).
- Drain and toss the spaghetti with the meatballs and sauce, then sprinkle with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped parsley to serve.
- Sometimes if I'm wanting to simplify, I will just use two 28-ounce jars of our favorite Rao's Homemade Marinara sauce instead of making my own.
- Oven-baked approach: If you prefer, you can bake the meatballs in the oven at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray.