Juicy, flavorful, tender, and simple, meatball nirvana is cozy comfort food at its best, perfect for family dinner and quick midweek meals. This easy oven-baked meatball recipe is ready in 30 minutes and will leave you craving more.
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What is meatball nirvana?
Meatball nirvana is an easy meatball recipe made with lean ground beef and perfectly seasoned with a blend of different herbs and spices. The meatballs are baked in the oven and have a nice bite and spiciness.
Next time you’re looking for simple meatball recipes or want to prepare a special meal, try this hearty dish. These lean beef meatballs are little bites of intriguing herby spice flavors and are baked to tender perfection.
My family loves them as a main dish, served over tomato pasta or warm rice, or in hot dog buns for quick meatball subs. Versatile and packed with yumminess… and doesn’t get much better than that!
Where did meatball nirvana originate?
This recipe isn’t my creation. I got this easy meatball recipe from my cousin Linda, who got it from her sister-in-law, who found it on Allrecipes.
I looked high and low to find the original creator. Still, I couldn’t locate when and where meatball nirvana originated. Several users have uploaded meatball nirvana recipes to Allrecipes, and I couldn’t possibly tell you who was first.
If you know who came up with it, please let me know because I’d love to credit them. They created a truly great recipe.
Nirvana meatballs are such great food, and I’ll know you want to save them in your recipe box. See the printable recipe card at the end of the post for specific quantities and full recipe instructions. Here’s your shopping list:
- Ground beef: Unlike grandma’s meatballs, meatball nirvana is made of extra lean ground beef, not a mix of different meats. Be sure to buy the highest quality ground beef or ground chuck you can find.
- Onion: You need 1 small onion. I recommend chopping it into tiny pieces so the onion bits blend well into the meatball mixture.
- Garlic powder: You could also use freshly minced garlic, but garlic powder is easier and tastes great.
- Sea salt: Julia Child advised using 1 tsp of salt per pound of ground meat, which is exactly what we’ll be doing here.
- Italian seasoning is a quick way to introduce concentrated herbal notes and aroma.
- Dried oregano amplifies the herb flavor. Feel free to swap out oregano for dried parsley.
- Red pepper flakes add a bit of heat and spiciness.
- Worcestershire sauce helps to develop an amazing, complex flavor. You’ll need 1 to 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Hot pepper sauce: Feel free to use as much or little as you’d like. Frank’s hot sauce is my go-to, but you can use your favorite red sauce.
- Milk: Adding a little milk keeps the meatballs nice and moist. The original recipe suggests 1/3 cup skim milk, but any type of milk will do.
- Parmesan cheese balances out the other flavors. Freshly grated and pre-grated parmesan will both work well.
- Bread crumbs act as a binder and hold the meatball mixture together. The original requests seasoned breadcrumbs, but regular ones are fine, too.
Changes I made
I made one small change to the original meatball nirvana recipe, which calls for sea salt and garlic salt. Instead, we’ll use just 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. That’s simply because garlic salt is hard to come by where I live. Garlic salt is basically salt + garlic powder anyway.
However, with garlic salt available, skip the garlic powder and use 1/2 teaspoon sea salt + 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt.
To further simplify the recipe, you could also skip the dried oregano and use more Italian seasoning since Italian seasoning mix already contains oregano. And in case you don’t have hot sauce, increase the amount of red pepper.
How to make meatball nirvana
Time to get cooking! You need a rimmed cookie sheet to roast these sheet pan meatballs in the oven. See below for stovetop instructions.
Step 1: Preheat oven
- Preheat your oven to 400°F / 200°C / gas mark 6.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (baking paper). Set aside.
Step 2: Make meatball mixture
- Place the ground beef into a large mixing bowl. Season with salt, onion, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, oregano, red pepper flakes, hot pepper sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix until everything is well combined.
- Then add the milk, parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs. Stir until the mixture is evenly combined.
Step 3: Scoop into balls
- Using a cookie scoop, portion the mixture and roll into 1 1/2-inch meatballs (4 cm).
- Arrange onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing the meatballs 1 in / 2.5 cm apart.
Step 4: Bake
- Bake in the preheated oven until the meatballs are cooked through, browned on the outside, and no longer pink in the middle, for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Rotate the meatballs once throughout baking.
Step 5: Serve
- Enjoy the meatballs warm over pasta with sauce and garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese if desired.
Nirvana meatballs on the stovetop
If you don’t want to cook your nirvana meatballs in the oven, you can always pan-fry them on the stove. Follow these simple steps:
- Heat 3 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the meatballs and let them sear on all sides.
- Then reduce the temperature to medium and fry them until cooked through and browned.
- Don’t crowd the pan and occasionally stir so they don’t burn.
Tips for success
- Easy cleanup: Make things easy for yourself and use parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat. It’s a simple solution to avoid the meatballs sticking to your baking sheet.
- Don’t overcook the meatballs, as this will make them dry and tough. To get your meatball nirvana recipe just right, bake them for about 20 minutes. They are done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F / 74°C on an instant-read thermometer.
- Milder taste: If you’re sensitive to heat, omit the hot sauce and replace the red pepper flakes with ground black pepper.
Meatballs are one of the best main courses and make tasty snack foods. They taste delicious with tomato sauce and spaghetti or other pasta. Or enjoy a bowl of these meatballs with Worcestershire sauce over rice and roasted veggies. You can also serve them alongside a fresh green salad and crusty garlic bread rolls.
How to store meatball nirvana
Transfer leftover meatballs into an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Reheat them in a 350 degrees F / 180 degrees c / gas mark 4 oven for a few minutes or in the microwave for 1 minute.
Can you freeze meatball nirvana?
Yes, you can freeze the meatballs once the dish has cooled completely. Freeze them in an airtight container, and they will be good for 2 to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat, let them defrost in the fridge overnight and then reheat to serve.
Making meat nirvana ahead of time
You can definitely make meatball nirvana a day or two ahead of time. Store them in the refrigerator and reheat before serving.
Equipment for oven-baked meatballs
- Mixing bowl: A large glass mixing bowl is helpful for combining the ingredients.
- Cookie scoop: A cookie scoop ensures that you get evenly sized meatballs.
- Rimmed baking sheet: I recommend a rimmed aluminum baking sheet so the meatballs don’t roll off while baking.