What goes into Maggiano’s Meatballs?
Meatballs are always a tasty treat. Spiced with assorted Italian seasonings and covered in marinara sauce, these Copycat Maggiano’s Meatballs are all you need for an impressive appetizer or main course.
The menu page for Maggiano’s meatballs isn’t too revealing. But that’s ok, I think we can puzzle these meatballs out.
Looking at the meatballs I ordered (below), it’s nothing too surprising. They’re nicely topped in a tomato sauce with fresh parsley and grated parmesan too. Cutting one open to look inside, they look like a normal meatball, though they seem to have a higher percentage of breadcrumbs than I think other recipes would add. And the final deconstruction step – tasting. These meatballs taste beefy, accompanied by the flavors of garlic, oregano, onion, and just a touch of spice.
Another note on the meatball’s appearance is that they are large. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Maggiano’s (or any restaurant), but this changes the math a little bit when making them at home. Not only will you need 2 pounds of ground beef, they will also take longer to cook. And while you might fry smaller meatballs to cook them, it would be very difficult to do that at this size. This sized meatball requires baking or simmering for an extended time in a sauce.
So how do I make Copycat Maggiano’s Meatball Recipe?
The most important thing to remember when making Copycat Maggiano’s Meatballs is that they need to be big. In fact they should be almost the size of your fist. For that reason, I use 2lbs of ground beef for this recipe to make 10 meatballs. You can easily scale the recipe down to 1 lb of meat if you need to make less.
Maggiano’s meatballs taste like a classic Italian meatball, and the standard breadcrumb for classic Italian meatballs are Italian breadcrumbs. These are fine breadcrumbs mixed with Italian spices, and those spices add additional flavor to the meatballs. I also added a little more breadcrumbs than I usually would, to best match Maggiano’s meatballs’ texture.
One important choice I made was to use 90/10 ground beef, meaning the ground beef is 90% lean, with only 10% fat. While meatballs can technically be made with just about any ground beef regardless of the fat percentage, these meatballs are baked, and when baking meatballs it is best not to use anything below 80% lean, since the fat gets released to the bottom and too much fat will cause the meatballs to fall apart while cooking. However, you can still make this recipe with 70/30 ground beef as long as you elevate your meatballs. I like to use the same cooling rack I use for cookies to bake my higher fat content meatballs so that the fat can drain to the bottom without the meatballs falling apart.
Now, why is it important that these meatballs are baked? I love pan-fried meatballs as much as anyone, but pan-frying such a large meatball would be next to impossible without burning the outside or leaving the center raw. Frying also would have left more of a crunchy crust around the meatballs, and I did not detect any of that when eating. But couldn’t you fry the meatballs until they’re crusty and then simmer in a sauce? Yes, you could, but that does not seem to be what Maggiano’s did. I suspect the meatballs were placed into the sauce in the serving dish and topped with additional sauce, otherwise there would have been bits of meat throughout the sauce at the time of serving. That lack tells me that these meatballs were baked and sauced separately before serving.
Tips and substitutions:
- What if I don’t have Italian breadcrumbs? Panko will also work in this recipe. Add the same amount of panko as you would Italian breadcrumbs, as well as 1 tsp of Italian seasoning (or a ⅓ tsp each dried thyme, oregano, and basil).
- Instead of cayenne pepper, consider using some gochugaru to give your meatballs an extra kick. Find the link in the ingredients list.
- If you don’t have dried oregano, you can use 2 tsp of dried parsley or Italian seasoning instead. The flavor will be different, but still very tasty.
- Turn this appetizer into a meal! I served these meatballs over spaghetti for a hearty Sunday dinner!
Other great Copycat Maggiano's Recipes
Maggiano’s always has a place in my heart. I love making Italian dishes, and love recreating Maggiano’s recipes. Check out my other copycats:
How to make Copycat Maggiano's Meatball Recipe
Copycat Maggiano's Meatball Recipe
- 2 lb Ground Beef - 90/10
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
- 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- Lightly beat the eggs, and then combine all ingredients in a bowl.
- Mix by hand until the ingredients are well mixed, you’ll no longer see pockets of breadcrumbs.
- Shape the meat into a large rectangle, about as tall as you want the meatballs. For this copycat, my rectangle was around 1 ½ to 2 inches tall.
- Split the rectangle evenly into 10 cubes. Roll each cube by hand into a ball, and place on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 425F for 25-30 minutes, or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 165F.
- Serve with sauce and cheese on top or with spaghetti.