What to Serve with Italian Meatballs: 24 Side Dishes

If there’s one thing that I never get tired of, it’s meatballs. I love any type of meatball … Swedish meatballs, chicken meatballs, barbecue meatballs and the little spicy pork meatballs they put inside of the Asian dumplings. Give me some chopsticks and a small bowl of soy sauce and watch me go to town!

It makes sense that just about every culture and country has their own version of meatballs. They were even eating meatballs back in ancient Rome. It’s in an ancient cookbook called Apicius. Look it up!

But, as I’m sure you can guess, my favorite meatballs are homemade Italian meatballs. I could probably eat classic Italian meatballs everyday.

Meatballs are always a family favorite and the perfect comfort food. Who doesn’t feel good when they think about a dish loaded with classic spaghetti and meatballs?

They are great with a pasta dish. Buy a couple of French baguettes and make some classic meatball subs. Arrange them on a platter, get some toothpicks and you have the perfect hors d’oeurves or finger food.

Not every Italian meatball is the same. There are so many different ways to make homemade meatballs. Some are baked, some are fried and some are braised in a pasta sauce. Lots of people love making meatballs in a slow cooker.

They usually all have some key ingredients that make them so good.

Key Ingredients You Need To Make Italian Meatballs

Proper Italian meatballs will usually have some version of the following simple ingredients that you can easily find in your grocery store:

Ground beef: You want a good amount of fat for flavor. The fat will also give you juicy meatballs.

Pork: I think this is important for the perfect meat mixture. Ground pork, Italian sausage, pancetta, mortadella, and prosciutto can all result in a delicious meatball.

Bread: Most people use bread crumbs or stale white bread as a binder to hold the meatball together. I like to use a Roman pizza bianca made with a 72-hour dough recipe. That adds great flavor. You can also use sourdough bread for a great flavor. If you use bread, soak it in milk or water. This will help soften the texture of the meatballs.

Herbs: My favorite meatball recipe uses fresh parsley. Fresh herbs are better in my opinion, but fresh or dry will work. We made an Italian seasoning blend that’s really good.

Aromatics: Garlic and onions add lots of flavor.

Cheese: Use a strong aged cheese like pecorino Romano or Parmesan.

Spices: I just use salt and black pepper but I know guys that use cumin and paprika. Try some different recipes and see what you like.

What’s to Love About Meatballs

I think people should be eating more meatballs. They’re the perfect meat dish for a lot of reasons, beside the fact that they taste great.

Meatballs Are Really Easy to Make

I love an easy meatball recipe. You know…the kind of recipe you can’t screw up.

Get your ingredients, dump them in a bowl and mix them together.

Now it’s time to form your meatballs. This is the best part. Put a little olive oil on your fingers so the meat mixture doesn’t stick.

Make them big or small. I like medium size meatballs. I usually make them 2 ounces each. I think that’s the perfect size. You get a good ratio of flavor on the outside from the sear and the soft inside.

Cooking them is really easy too. You can bake them in the oven on a baking sheet. You can fry them on the stove top at medium heat in a large skillet with some olive oil.
You can make them in a crock pot filled with marinara sauce.

They are inexpensive to make

Meatballs are a great way to feed the whole family if you’re on a budget.

You don’t need fancy ingredients that cost a lot of money when you make them. You are usually using cheaper cuts of meat. They grind it up so it won’t go to waste.

You can make a lot of meatballs at a time

a picture of many many meatballs ready to be baked and served

When I make meatballs I like to make a big batch. I know I’m going to eat them at some point, so why not get the work out of the way? You can ball them up and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to eat them.

Some people freeze their meatballs raw, which is fine. I like to cook my meatballs first and then freeze them. You can even freeze them right in the tomato sauce.

Meatballs are also one of the best foods to reheat.

Meatballs are made to be reheated. They actually taste better in my opinion when they are reheated. I think it allows the flavors of the ingredients to intensify. It also gives the meatballs more time to soak up a sauce.

Meatballs can be reheated on the stove, in the oven, or in the microwave. After a busy day at work, when I’m tired and don’t feel like cooking, it’s nice to have a bunch of beautiful meatballs waiting for me in the freezer.

I never get sick of meatballs because there are so many side dishes you can eat them with. They go great with just about anything. So please, don’t think that you’re stuck with spaghetti every time you want meatballs.


Here’s 24 Of The Best Side Dishes To Serve With Italian Meatballs.

Add any of these to a plate of delicious meatballs and you’ll have a complete meal!

1. Quattro formaggi lasagna

what to serve with meatballs - quattro formaggi lasagna

This lasagna is the perfect side dish with your meatballs. I like making my Quattro Formaggi Lasagna with homemade fresh pasta sheets. Just think of extra-wide egg noodles layered with slow-cooked marinara sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan cheese. Once it all melts together you’ll understand why it’s a great option as a side dish with meatballs.

2. Lasagna bolognese

Once again, lasagna is something that goes great with meatballs. This Lasagna Bolognese already comes loaded with a slow-cooked meat ragu and tons of cheese. Put a few meatballs on the side of this lasagna loaded with a savory sauce made with beef and pork and it’s the perfect Italian meal for someone who loves meat.

3. Vegetable lasagna

For people who aren’t in the mood for too much meat, a Vegetable Lasagna is a delicious side dish. The earthiness of the vegetables in the lasagna is a great balance for a hearty meatball. Try making a white vegetable lasagna with a creamy sauce similar to an Alfredo.

4. Manicotti

This is another classic dish made with fresh pasta sheets, lots of cheese, and tomato sauce. When you take your manicotti out of the oven and see the gooey cheese bubbling, the first thing you’ll want to do is dip a meatball in it. You can stuff your manicotti with anything from ricotta with Bolognese sauce to ricotta and spinach. Whatever you stuff it with you can’t go wrong.

5. Garlic Bread

Meatballs and a side of garlic bread is a match made in heavan. This is such a quick and easy recipe. Get a nice loaf of crusty Italian bread and slather it in roast garlic, butter, grated Romano cheese and parsley. Pop it in the oven for a short time and you’ll start to smell it. I like using Roman Pizza Bianca for my garlic bread. The flavor is out of this world.

6. Roman Pizza Bianca

The 72-hour dough recipe allows so much flavor to develop that it only makes sense to have it with your meatballs. Make a meatball sandwich out of it or use it to soak up the tomato sauce that the meatballs were cooking in.

7. Gnocchi Sorrentina

The best thing about this dish is that it’s so easy and tastes so good. The soft pillowy gnocchi are light and fluffy from the mashed potatoes they are made with. The tomato sauce is bright and fresh with the perfect amount of basil. Put a couple savory meatballs on the side and you have an Italian dish some people only dream about.

8. Eggplant Parmesan

eggplant parmesan is a perfect side dish to serve with meatballs

Another vegetable dish that’s so good it probably doesn’t belong in the vegetarian category. It’s got fried eggplant, tomato sauce and loads of cheese. Add some fresh basil for a little freshness and you’ll consider becoming a vegetarian… until you bite into one of those awesome meatballs.

9. Baked Ziti

pasta dishes to side with meatballs

Baked Ziti and meatballs just belong together. Don’t you think? The best thing about Baked Ziti is that it’s so easy to make. Boil your pasta, throw it in a bowl with a bunch of cheese and bake it in a large pan. There’s a little more to it than what I just said, but you get the idea. If you want a great Baked Ziti recipe we have one that people love.

10. Eggplant Involtini

This is a delicious recipe that can be an appetizer, an easy side dish or an easy dinner. My favorite method is to fry up my eggplant, stuff it with ricotta cheese and anything else you really like, roll it up tight and bake it. Lots of sauce and lots of cheese really make it nice.

stuffed eggplant

11. Sauteed Escarole

Now we’re getting to the veggies. If your’e feeling a little fat and want to slow down with the carbs, eat some vegetables. Clean your escarole really good and saute it with some olive oil and garlic.

12. Sauteed Spinach

Heat up a saute pan, add some olive oil, garlic and a little dried Calabrian chili flakes. These are the flavors that will make the simplest bag of spinach taste like a dream. Grab some meatballs, a loaf of crusty bread and get to work. The spinach will make your doctor happy.

13. Roasted Broccoli Rabe

I can’t say enough about this side dish. You need lots of garlic, olive oil, grated Romano cheese and a little elbow grease. Massage all of those ingredients into the broccoli rabe before you roast it. The bitterness of the broccoli rabe goes great with rich beef meatballs. Check out our “13 Francesca sub” at Mortadella Head if you want to try it out.

 Italian Meatballs-Roasted Broccoli Rabe

14. Sauteed Chicory

Chicory is a bitter green that gets sauteed with garlic and olive oil. It’s really similar to dandelion greens and is really popular in Rome. The last time I was in Rome I had a sandwich made with pizza bianca stuffed with meatballs and sauteed chicory.

15. Sauteed Broccoli

I’m sure you can tell by now that I like my green vegetables with my meatballs. I recommend blanching your broccoli and then tossing it in a saute pan with lots of garlic, lots of olive oil and lots of grated parmesan cheese.

16. Pepperonata

This side dish is great. I like making it with red and yellow bell peppers because they are the sweetest. The longer they cook, the sweeter they get. If you want to try something really good, get a sub roll topped with sesame seeds, fill it with meatballs and the pepperonata and hit it with some grated Romano cheese.

17. Giambotta

This hearty vegetable stew is great. You can make it in advance and freeze what you’re not going to use. You can load it up with zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and anything else you have laying around. This is a great side dish to make at the end of the summer when your garden is bursting at the seems with fresh produce.

18. Caesar Salad

This classic is always perfect with just about anything. The crisp Romaine and the creamy dressing are something everyone loves. I make a really nice creamy Caesar salad dressing with parmesan cheese, anchovies, and Worcestershire sauce. I also like using our 72 hour dough recipe to make awesome croutons to put on the salad.

19. Arugula Salad

When it comes to arugula salad I like to keep it simple. I use a good olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Toss it, coat every arugula leaf and you’re done.

20. Mixed Green Salad

 Italian Meatballs-Mixed Green Salad

I think a simple mixed green salad is the perfect match for great meatballs. Get a nice leafy lettuce, slice some red onion really thin and cut some cherry tomatoes in half. In a large bowl toss it with some red wine vinegar and olive oil. Put it on a plate and place meatballs next to it. I have dreams about this combination.

21. Caponata

If you like eggplant, you’ll love this side dish. This side dish originates in Sicily. It’s sweet and sour at the same time or “agrodolce” as they say. It’s has a really nice flavor profile to go along with meatballs.

22. Vegetable Frittata

A vegetable frittata is a great way to clean out the fridge. Load up a frying pan with any vegetables you have laying around, add some eggs and cheese and you have a side dish that goes with just about anything. Why not meatballs?

23. Stewed Green Beans

I’m a big fan of green beans when they are cooked really slowly with tomatoes, onions and garlic. If you ever want to make a versatile side dish that goes when with chicken, pork or meatballs…give it a try.

24. Zucchini Noodles

If you are looking for another low-carb option, zucchini noodles are perfect. Toss them in a tomato sauce just like you would spaghetti and add some grated cheese.

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