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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
    When I read the ingredients I thought these “Italian” meatballs were having an identity crisis. I thought “she’s either lost her mind or knows exactly what she’s doing here”. Fortunately, it was the latter and these turned out to be the best meatballs I’ve ever had. Highly recommended especially with fresh pasta!

    1. Hey Justyna,
      Thanks so much for trying out this recipe, I am thrilled that you liked it! I hope you have a great week:) xTieghan

  2. 5 stars
    I have to admit I was skeptical of this recipe, cumin, gochujang and molasses in meatballs? Sounded very strange but I took the leap and made these and they were so amazing, literally the best meatballs I’ve ever made. I used 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 italian sausage, the wet bread is key to tender meatballs. The sauce was so good too! I can’t believe how easy the whole recipe was, love the method of baking at high heat and finishing the meatballs in the sauce. This will be my forever go to spaghetti and meatballs recipe. Thank you Tieghan!

  3. 5 stars
    I’m becoming your biggest fan! Had this tonight for dinner. Excellent! So flavorful! The family loved it! And easy to make.

  4. 1 star
    Made according to recipe. Had all the ingredients, even the odd ones. We like spicy food but this one was a bit too hot and we didn’t really like to overall flavoring. I love most of your recipes but not this one!

  5. 5 stars
    Wow. I just have to say thank you SO much for this recipe. This is now my go-to for meatballs (and I’ve used it for meatloaf too)!

  6. 5 stars
    These are the first meatballs I have made that actually turned out with food consistency and didn’t get mushy! Instead of tomato sauce, I used homemade pesto and it turned out good! Meatballs would be great plain too or even with bbq sauce! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Hey Adam,
      As stated, the Gochujang is optional, so you can just simply leave it out:) Let me know if you have other questions. Hope you love the recipe. Thank you! xTieghan

  7. 5 stars
    OMG upon coming across I couldn’t wait to make this recipe and it did not disappoint! I followed directions to a tee however I did use a little more than a pound of a hot sausage. I also added mushrooms and spinach to the mixture with tomatoes. Per the comments I didn’t add all of the sauce from the tomatoes to avoid the dish being watery. I added a couple additional spices simply because of the mushrooms and spinach addition. But everything from the Gojuchang to the molasses to the oregano made for the most amazingly flavored meatballs. But the KEY is the fresh mozzarella, the way it melts over the dish and that cheesy goodness upon serving, YUM!!! And it’s such an easy dish to make! You get a little messy when making the meatballs but otherwise this is quick and easy and to the table in no time. I served with spaghetti and a baguette. It tastes even better the next day! My kids loved it. This is now the third recipe of yours I’ve tried and yet another winner.

    1. Hi Erin! This was so amazing to read!! I am so glad this turned out so amazing for you, thank you for trying it!! xTieghan

  8. 5 stars
    Wow this recipe was a HUGE hit. I didn’t have pomegranate molasses or harissa so I subbed brown sugar for the molasses and a little bit of Louisiana hot sauce for the harissa. I chose bucatini for the pasta and I think it was perfect! Everyone went back for a second helping! Highly recommend! Thanks for a great recipe Tieghan!

  9. 5 stars
    These were DELICIOUS! So flavorful, sweet and aromatic. I didn’t use the chile paste (because I didn’t have any on hand!) and I used maple syrup instead of molasses. Will definitely make these again and try with the exact ingredients you listed! SO GOOD and so easy to make!

    1. Thank you so much Perrye!! I am really glad this turned out so well for you! I hope you love it even more with the molasses! xTieghan

  10. I just found this recipe in 2019 and I keep making it for all the men in the house. A favorite for sure! Your recipes are family friendly!

    1. Hi Stephanie,
      The recipe calls for 1 egg. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  11. 5 stars
    Just made this tonight!
    Didn’t have the Korean paste or harassa seasoning – but omg yes! The bread in the meatballs makes it! Great advice! Thank you!