These amazing Italian Beef and Spinach Meatballs made with ground beef plus I snuck some spinach in the mix, but I promise even the pickiest of eaters will love them!
Italian Beef and Spinach Meatballs
I wanted to lighten up my favorite Italian beef meatballs, and so these Beef and Spinach Meatballs were born. Adding spinach to meatballs adds volume and fiber so that you can eat the same number of meatballs with fewer calories. Plus, it’s a great way to sneak veggies into your picky kid’s meal. I also use 93% lean ground beef to help cut fat. You can see more ground beef recipes here.
My family thinks these are the ultimate meatballs. They don’t mind the spinach at all. I’ve tried them with turkey as well, but for this recipe, I prefer them with ground beef. If you’d rather a turkey meatball, try my Crock Pot Italian Turkey Meatballs. My eggplant meatballs or zucchini meatballs are great vegetarian options.
This recipe made 30 small meatballs, but only 25 made it into the sauce (my husband and I kept eating them!). They are moist and flavorful with or without the sauce. The bread soaked in milk or water keeps these moist. It is also important not to overmix the meat mixture. Over mixing results in less tender meatballs.
How To Cook Beef and Spinach Meatballs
First, you start by wetting the bread with water or milk and mashing it up. This wet bread mixture will help bind the meatballs while making the meatballs tender. Then, mix all the other ingredients together. It’s best to use your hands, but you can also use a spoon if you prefer. Just make sure not to over-mix them or they will be tough.
The next step is to roll out about 30 meatballs and brown them in a little oil on the stove. You can also bake them, but for this recipe I was trying to get as close to traditional as possible. Once they’re done, set them on paper towels to remove any excess oil.
For the sauce, cook the smashed garlic in olive oil until golden brown. Then add the rest of the tomato sauce ingredients, cover, and cook on low heat. Once your meatballs are ready, add them to the sauce and simmer for 1about 15 minutes.
How To Freeze Meatballs for Meal Prep
Meatballs are great for make-ahead meals, brown the meatballs, let them cool completely, and then transfer to gallon freezer bags. Take all the air out of the bag and freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat the meatballs, make the sauce and add the meatballs frozen. Cook until heated through.
If you cook the meatballs in the sauce and want to freeze your leftovers, let the meatballs and sauce cool and then transfer to freezer-safe containers. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat.
How To Serve Meatballs
For a traditional spaghetti and meatball dinner, serve these over your favorite pasta (whole wheat if you’re on the purple plan) or try them over zucchini noodles or butternut squash noodles for a healthier twist. Serve the leftovers for lunch on crusty whole wheat Italian bread for a meatball hero.
To make the meatballs gluten-free, swap the whole wheat bread for gluten-free bread and serve over gluten-free pasta or zucchini or butternut squash noodles.
More Italian Recipes You Will Love
- Italian Chopped Salad
- Slow Cooker Italian Beef Hoagies
- Spinach Lasagna Rolls
- Italian Tuna and Brown Rice Salad
- Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage, Escarole and Beans
Italian Beef and Spinach Meatballs
- Wet bread with just enough water (or milk) to wet and then mash up with your hands.
- Add to large bowl and combine with chopped beef, chopped spinach, egg, garlic, parsley, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients well until thoroughly combined.
- Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, measure meat and then divide in two so that each meatball is 1/8th of a cup. Roll into little meatballs.
- Make the sauceL In a large pot, add 1 teaspoon olive oil and heat on medium heat.
- When hot add smashed garlic.
- When garlic is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes add the tomatoes, onion, salt and pepper and cover, reduce heat to low.
- Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, add 1 tbsp olive oil on low heat.
- When oil is hot add as many meatballs that will fit, cook on low, turning often so that all side get browned. Cook until the centers are cooked through.
- When finished, place on a dish lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil. Drop meatballs into sauce and continue cooking the remaining meatballs, repeating the process. When all meatballs are in the sauce, simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Discard onion and serve.