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Cast iron skillet meatballs are so easy to assemble and cook entirely on the stove top. Tender, flavorful and perfectly seasoned for serving with pasta, polenta or meatball subs!
Spaghetti and meatballs isn’t the first dish that comes to mind when I think Valentine’s Day, but according to my kiddo, it’s absolutely perfect. “Duh, mom. Lady and the Tramp?!” Ahh…I get it now. So, we’re having spaghetti and meatballs, and I can’t resist making a few into heart shapes.
Ingredients for Cast Iron Skillet Meatballs
The Meat — My guys like the traditional flavor of beef meatballs, but I try to lighten things up a bit when possible. So, I use a 50/50 blend of 80% lean ground beef (I think grass-fed tastes the best) and 93% lean ground turkey.
Panko — I like the coarse texture of these Japanese style breadcrumbs. The panko is mixed with liquids and added to the mix to help keep the meat tender.
The Liquids — It’s pretty typical for breadcrumbs or fresh bread to be combined with milk to make a panade for meatloaf, burgers and meatballs. In this recipe, I add Worcestershire and coconut aminos (a substitute for soy sauce) along with the milk to soften the breadcrumbs.
Egg — One lightly beaten egg serves as a binder for the meatballs and other ingredients and helps keep their shape.
Onion — I use Spanish onions, aka a yellow onion, in most of my cooking and grabbed one for this recipe as well. Feel free to use your favorite type. Whichever you choose, be sure to finely mince the onion so you don’t end up with big uncooked chunks.
Garlic — You gotta have garlic! Finely mince the cloves or use a garlic press.
Italian Seasoning Blend — I’ve been playing with some new spice blends I bought from Grilling Gods, a small, family-owned business. I find their Slice of Heaven blend a perfect substitute for generic dry Italian seasoning, but use whatever you have on hand.
Crushed Red Pepper — This is optional, but I like a the subtle hint of heat this provides.
Parmesan — If you can swing it, I recommend freshly grated parmesan right off the block. This recipe only calls for 1/4 cup, but you can actually taste the fresh parm.
Tomato Sauce — How easy is it that you can simply add your favorite jarred sauce? I love pomodoro for it’s smooth texture and rich flavor, but feel free to use marinara, a spicy arrabbiata or vodka sauce…or any other sauce you’re in the mood for.
How to Make Cast Iron Skillet Meatballs
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The Meatball Mix
Combine panko, milk, coconut aminos and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Allow it to sit for a few minutes while the panko absorbs the liquids. You won’t end up with the paste-like texture typical of panade, but the crumbs will soften and grab on to all the umami flavor.
Add everything else except the ground meats and stir to distribute all the ingredients evenly. (Don’t you just hate it when ingredients clump together and you end up with some bland bites and other overly seasoned bites?)
Finally, add the ground meat and mix gently with your hands until it’s just combined.
Measure Out the Meatballs
I love using a small (2 tbsp) ice cream scoop to measure out meatballs. It sure beats weighing each one to achieve a uniform size. Measure out a scant scoop and deposit each one on a sheet pan or work surface. Once you’ve scooped them all, you can roll each with wet hands to get those perfectly round meatballs.
To achieve the heart-shaped meatballs, I simply pressed one meatball at a time into a 2” heart-shaped cookie cutter. (Too much?)
Cook the Meatballs
Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs to the skillet and allow them to sear on one side for about a minute. Roll the meatballs around to get a little sear all over. This should only take about 3 minutes. Remove them to a plate and repeat with the rest of the meatballs.
For heart-shaped meatballs, brown them on one side for a minute or so, flip and cook one minute.
Remove the skillet from the burner and turn the heat down to medium. Return the first set of meatballs to the skillet, then carefully add your tomato sauce. Watch your hands and clothing — the sauce may splatter if the skillet is still very hot.
Put the skillet back on the burner, cover it and cook the meatballs with the sauce for 15 minutes. Half way through, move the meatballs around in case there are hot spots in the skillet to ensure they each cook evenly.
Once done, garnish with freshly chopped parsley or basil.
Serving Suggestions for Cast Iron Skillet Meatballs
Obviously, these are going to be perfect with pasta! But, they’d be divine in some other ways, too:
- Over a cheesy, creamy polenta (or grilled polenta)
- In a meatball sub or as sliders with melted mozzarella
- Over rice (this would be awesome with Swedish-style or stroganoff sauce instead!)
- On a pizza
- With barbecue sauce instead of tomato
- Smoosh them into a grilled cheese
These meatballs are so flavorful and tender! Depending on your mood, switch up the spices or type of cheese in these Cast Iron Skillet Meatballs to achieve different flavors for use in your regional or international dishes!
Looking for More Comfort Food?
Spaghetti + meatballs are a favorite comfort food in our home. You might also enjoy these other comforting dishes:
- The Ultimate Lobster Mac + Cheese
- Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Pasta Bake
- Award Winning Chorizo + Black Bean Chili
- Kimchi Grilled Cheese
Cast Iron Skillet Meatballs
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp milk
- 2 tsp coconut aminos or low sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup onion finely minced
- 2 cloves garlic pressed or finely minced
- 1 tbsp Grilling Gods Slice of Heaven spice blend or dried Italian seasoning blend
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes or more, to taste
- ¼ cup parmesan freshly grated
- fresh cracked pepper to taste
- ½ lb 80% lean ground beef grass-fed
- ½ lb 93% lean ground turkey
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 24 oz jar of your favorite tomato sauce
- fresh basil or parsley finely chopped, for garnish
- In a large bowl, mix together panko, milk, coconut aminos and Worcestershire sauce. Allow it to sit for a few minutes until the breadcrumbs have absorbed the liquid.
- Add everything else but the ground meat and mix to evenly distribute.
- Finally, add the meat and mix until just combined, being careful to not overwork the mix.
- Measure out meatballs using a scant 2 tbsp scoop. Gently roll them with wet hands into spheres.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium high heat. Working in batches, add half of the meatballs to the pan. Allow them to get a good sear on one side, then roll them round to sear a couple other sides. This should take no more than about 3 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.
- Move the pan off the burner and reduce the heat to medium. Carefully add your favorite sauce directly to the pan (it may splatter). Return all the meatballs the pan, cover and return to the burner. Cook for 15 minutes, moving the meatballs around half way through in case there are hotspots in the pan.
- Garnish with fresh parsley or basil and enjoy!