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Oh my gosh, you guys look.

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest

I made a meal my oldest brother would LOVE.

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvestSimple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest

When my brother comes to visit around the holidays, I always try to make the food he loves, but the rest of the year, I never make the type food he is into. My more usual fare has too many weird flavors, too many green things and never, EVER, enough beef.

BUT today I nailed it. Meatballs + pasta = Creighton food for sure. I only wish I could actually give him some to eat. I guess I will be making these around Thanksgiving… or Christmas, which kind of fits, seeing as the primary colors here are red and green.

Ok, sorry, no Christmas talk, but what about Halloween, can we talk about that yet?? This year I am more excited than most. I don’t know why, it’s not like I have crazy fun plans…or really any plans, but I don’t know. I think I am just SO happy that I have NO barn stuff to deal with this fall. Last year was beyond stressful, so this year I really want to do all the fun holiday things, and that means getting way too excited for Halloween!

Please tell me you guys are with me on this? Like can we just please pretend to be young kids and embrace that spirit that’s still alive within us somewhere?? Yes. <–DO IT.

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest

And speaking of Halloween. I think this would be a pretty amazing pre trick or treating dinner… or in our family’s case, an after trick or treating dinner (my family doesn’t do anything EARLY!). It’s just such an easy, hearty, and of course, totally cozy, meal. A great way to both start and finish the month….you know, tomorrow is October first after all!

So here’s the deal. Aside from Creighton, no else is very big on meatballs. The idea of ground beef rolled into a ball just isn’t our thing, BUT, I found a way to make it our thing. Instead of ground beef, I really love using spicy Italian sausage. It just adds SO much flavor and the meatballs never come out dry. Another little secret of mine? Wet bread.

Yup, wet pieces of white or whole grain bread. I learned this trick from my grandma, who learned it from her mom. Both my grandmas make an amazing meatloaf. It’s probably my brother Creighton’s favorite meal. I have been saying for SO long now that I am going to make a meatloaf, but I just haven’t gotten the chance yet. I’m pretty sure my grandma has told me how to make it like five time now, and I still have yet to actually muster up the courage to try it out.

I think I’m kind of afraid to. I mean, you hear all these horror stories about meatloaf, bland, dry and tasteless meatloaf. Eeww! Who want’s that? Plus, most of the food I make, I make for the blog, and well I’m kind of scared to make meatloaf, and even more than a little horrified to photograph it.

YIKES.

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvestSimple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest

My point? If there’s one thing I have taken away from my grandma’s instructions on how to make her meatloaf, it’s that wetting your bread prior to mixing it with the meat is KEY for moisture. Trust me, the first time she told me this I literally said, “wait, what?”.  I had just never heard of actually putting bread under running water and squeezing out the excess water, seems weird, right?

Kind of, but it works, and it works really well. I used this same method for making my meatballs, and they turned out SO good! I do believe it’s all because of the bread. It’s magic guys!!

Ok and maybe all that oregano and sausage in there helps a little too!

Now let me tell you the bestest part about this dinner. It requires almost no effort. You mix your meatballs together, roll them into balls, place them in a baking dish, bake for a little, add your tomato sauce, add your cheese (and then a little more), bake a little longer, and… DONE. Yep, and only one pan – no frying the meatballs, no completely messy stove top and no broken, crumbly meatballs. Prayers answered, right?!?

And um, then – just add pasta!!

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings: 6 Servings
Calories Per Serving: 553 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground spicy Italian Sausage may use ground beef if preferred
  • 2 slices thick soft whole grain or white bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano chopped OR 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses may use regular molasses
  • 1 tablespoon Gochujang Korean chile paste, optional
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced or grated
  • 1 (28 ounce) can san marzano tomatoes crushed by hand
  • 2 tablespoons harissa optional
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced
  • 4 ounce provolone shredded
  • pasta for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with olive oil.
  • Add the ground sausage to a mixing bowl. Take the bread and run it under water until dampened, but not soaked. Gently squeeze the excess water out of the the bread and then crumble the dampened bread into pieces and add to the bowl with the sausage. To the bowl, add the egg, oregano, cumin molasses and Gochujang. Coat your hands with a bit of olive oil, and roll the meat into 2 tablespoon size balls (will make 10-12 meatballs). Place the meat balls in the prepared baking dish and place in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until the meatballs are crisp on the outside, but not yet cooked through on the inside.
  • While the meatballs are baking, combine the olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, harissa (if using) and a pinch of salt + pepper in a bowl. Once the meatballs are ready, pour the sauce over them. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes longer or until the meatballs are cooked through. Remove the foil and add the cheese. Place back in the oven until the mozzarella and provolone cheese are melted and golden, about 10 minutes. Serve with fresh oregano and your favorite pasta!

Notes

*Gochujang (Korean chile paste) may seem odd in this recipe but it adds a great unique flavor and if you have some, give it a try!
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Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs = Happiness!

Simple Baked Italian Oregano Meatballs | halfbakedharvest.com @hbharvest

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The meatballs were delicious. I was happy to finally use the pomegranate molasses I’ve had sitting unopened in the cupboard. It smelled great, too. Thank you Tieghan for an easy recipe.

  2. 5 stars
    I didn’t think I would ever find a better meatball recipe than Anne Burrell’s “Excellent Meatballs”, but just did! These were seriously the best meatballs I’ve ever had. Hubs agreed! He’s still talking about them from yesterday lol.

  3. Wow!!! Just wow!, Super cool twist on a classic dish. This will now be in the staple rotations of our family favorites menu. Love the combo of ingredients. Was a huge hit. Me & kids loved! I think my boyfriend likes my cooking< he keeps coming back for more & i think it's your fault. LOL!!!

  4. 4 stars
    This recipe is amazing except for the cumin. It was overpowering and I couldn’t taste any of the oregano. I wondered if 2 teaspoons was a typo, but I think next time I’ll just skip it all together.

  5. It is storming today here on PEi and I am surfing your page for cozy food ideas. Your recipes and photos are inspiring me to cook again with new creativity and desire to eat beautiful, nutritious food. Thank you!

  6. 5 stars
    Just made this for the umpteenth time and it is a truly a great recipe. It is the day before grocery day and I only had ground beef and parmesan not mozzarella. I even forgot to put in the garlic! In the past, I have used a mix of ground pork or Italian sausage along with ground beef and all work. I say the test of a true recipe is that the “footprint” holds even when you switch it up a little. Thank you so much for this gem!!!

  7. 5 stars
    Loved this!!! So easy, so tasty. Great spice cobination. I had ground beef and no beef so I used panko instead of bread. Also added 1/2 grated zucchini and 1 grated onion. Will certainly make it again! (with a little less harissa) Thanks!!!

  8. 5 stars
    I made this recipe a few nights ago. I usually tweak (even new recipes) knowing what I like and don’t like. I made this one exactly to your specifications and I, must say, my husband and I both decided this is recipe is a keeper. I was a little unsure about using the Gochujan but I had a tube in the fridge and added that as well. A great recipe to warm your heart on a cold Maine night. Thanks for sharing and I’ve found more of your recipes I’m inspired to try.

    1. Hi Sharon! I am so glad this turned out so well for you. I hope you love the other recipes you try as well! Thank you!

  9. 5 stars
    That’s ok ! I love the round shallow bakers. Very hard to find ! Your recipe was swell – this will be a new go to for us when the men of the house are craving meaty pasta. Thanks so much.

    1. HI! That’s an old baker of my dads, so saldy I do not have a link to provide. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe. Thanks so much! xTieghan

  10. 5 stars
    HI! Made these last night for my son’s “welcome home from summer camp” dinner. They were awesome! I’m loving the HBH cookbook – pictures are so beautiful – they inspire me to want to cook. Thank you!

  11. Traditionally, you soak the bread in some warmed milk. It tastes best that way. Water if ok, too, but milk adds flavour. I even once saw a Roman recipe, where they soaked the bread in wine. Or was it medieval? Don’t remember any more.

    I don’t know where all this nonsense with the breadcrumbs came from, it tastes awful. Breadcrumbs are for coating stuff you want to fry, not for putting into stuff.

  12. 5 stars
    I stared at the pictures of this dish for a couple months, it looked so delicious. Then I ordered the pomegranate molasses, Harissa, and Gochujang so I could make it according to your recipe. A year later when I say it’s “Cheesy Meatballs” for dinner the entire household get’s giddy and despite my efforts to cook extra for leftovers, that has not happened. This dish, as is, is party for the palate! I make a double batch of meatballs and freeze some for the next time. Thank you so very much!

    1. Wow thank you so much Erin! I am so glad you and your family loves this dish and I hope you continue to love others as well!