Make-Ahead Meatballs

June 26, 2013

My mom has told me that one of her regrets from her early days of motherhood was not making enough of her dinners in advance. Her mother always told her that whatever she could do in the morning to make the dinnertime witching hour easier would pay off. With this advice in mind, I’ve been trying to think up dinners I can assemble during naptimes and bake off at 6pm. The Chicken and Bean Bake was one. The first version of these meatballs was another.


The following make-ahead meatballs are stuffed with herbs…and fresh bread. So they taste a bit like Thanksgiving stuffing. Matt and I loved the chewier texture and bready flavor. If you’re looking for classic, tender meatballs, these are not them. The herbs and greens make them quite funky looking, but they are delicious and on the healthy side!


I included two farmer’s market ingredients: grass-fed beef and zucchini. Yay for summer squash!


This beef is local from Best of What’s Around. It is actually grown on land owned by Dave Matthews! He has 1261 acres under a protective land conservation easement and has turned the land into a certified organic farm. You can get the beef at the City Market and via CSA.


Just like the first version of these meatballs, it can’t get any easier: add ingredients to a big bowl, mash together with clean hands and form into balls, about 20 of them this time around.

I used 2 slices of Cville Crunch from Great Harvest that I crumbled with my hands. This provides the fresh bready taste that I loved and was super easy. No food processor to clean. {You could certainly use dried bread crumbs for a more traditional taste and texture.}


Local eggs


Lots of herbs from the garden


Plus spinach packed in for more nutrients and greens.

They went into the fridge for the day for bake-off at dinnertime.


To have everything prepped, I went ahead and cooked some whole wheat pasta and blanched the zucchini in with it in the last few minutes.


When it was time to eat, I baked the meatballs and then heated up the pasta and zucchini with some olive oil for a light sauce.


Out of the oven:


You can see how nice it was to have dinner ready and the kitchen completely clean at dinnertime!


Make-Ahead Meatballs

by Kath Younger

Ingredients (20 balls)

  • 1.5 cups fresh breadcrumbs (about 2 slices of bread, crumbled)
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 2 eggs, beat
  • 10 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic gold or 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/3 cup fresh herbs, chopped, such as oregano and basil


Preheat oven to 425*.

Mix everything together in a big bowl with clean hands and form into 20 balls.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and arrange meatballs.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until tops are brown and middle is done per a meat thermometer.

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And the best news is you’ll likely have leftovers so more easy meals on the way! The next night we had the last of the meatballs over salads with crusty bread.

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kaila @healthyhelperblog! June 26, 2013 at 8:13 am

Love the addition of spinach to these for some added nutrition! I’d swap out chicken or turkey and be good to go! :)


2 Sally June 26, 2013 at 8:14 am

Yum! I will definitely be trying these – how easy. Where did you get your cute blue napkins? Love them


3 KathEats June 26, 2013 at 8:15 am

they are from my sisters wedding!


4 Ali @ Peaches and Football June 26, 2013 at 8:19 am

I LOVE make-ahead and I LOVE leftovers too!

One of my friends recently had a baby and she said the best gift anyone gave her was pre-made frozen food. It made life so much easier to throw something into the oven and not have to worry about cooking. I also know some women who would double recipes the last few weeks of their pregnancy and freeze the rest so they would have meals ready to go – however I think that would work well for anyone on a busy schedule!


5 Alisha @ Gluten Free Perspective June 26, 2013 at 8:27 am

I recently started buying fresh, local meat and it makes all the difference! So worth the price tag on many levels!


6 Lauren @ The Highlands Life June 26, 2013 at 8:51 am

I totally have been wanting to make meatballs lately and this would be a great healthier twist. And with a 9 month baby to chase around, this is perfect to throw together with little prep! I love dinners like those these days. Speaking of, I just threw some seasoned flank steak in the crockpot for dinner tonight! So easy!


7 S. June 26, 2013 at 8:55 am

It baffles me how when you show pictures of your fridge, it always looks so empty. Do you go to the store multiple times per week and shop for only a couple days at a time?


8 Nancy June 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I agree, I noticed the empty fridge too! Mine never looks that way, even when heading out of town for a few days!


9 robin June 26, 2013 at 6:18 pm

it does me too!


10 Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries June 26, 2013 at 8:59 am

Looks great! I like the idea of making dinner earlier in the day. Right around 5-6 PM (when I want to make dinner), is Hunter’s fussy time which makes cooking dinner such a stressful event.


11 Kinsey Drake June 26, 2013 at 9:04 am

I love having make ahead dinners! They make the day go by much more smoothly. My favorite is green lentils with halved cherry tomatoes, swiss chard, balsamic vinegar, and garlic all in a big pot that bakes for about an hour at 350. I serve it with crusty bread or a grain for a super healthy and delicious meal!


12 Susan H @ The Food Allergy Chronicles June 26, 2013 at 9:10 am

My boys are teenagers now…but when they were younger, it was always easier to have something prepped for dinner that could provide leftovers for the next day. That time just before dinner was definitely the ‘bewitching hour’ in our house! :) Mom’s do know best! :)


13 Carly @ Snack Therapy June 26, 2013 at 9:26 am

Loooove meatballs! Especially healthy, easy, make-ahead ones. Although I wouldn’t be opposed to the huge, sauce-covered, cheese-loaded, meatballs at Italian restaurants.


14 Marisa @ Uproot from Oregon June 26, 2013 at 9:38 am

I love that you packed herbs and spinach into those meatballs- I will definitely be trying this out sometime soon! Wish I could get that beautiful beef from Dave Mathhews himself though : ) You should thank him next time you see him around town!


15 Crystal @ Simply Playful Fare June 26, 2013 at 9:41 am

These look beautiful! I love the idea of adding fresh herbs. I’ve never hear of making meatballs with fresh bread…I’m intrigued! :)


16 Joelle (on a pink typewriter) June 26, 2013 at 10:02 am

Yum! I love meatballs… I come from a big Italian fam so meatballs are always the right answer. :)


17 Bridget June 26, 2013 at 10:11 am

Mini muffin tins are an easy way to make meatballs, just use a cookie scoop and go!

…and if you ever want to make meatballs for a crowd, I just served meatballs for 44 at a recent Midsommar party (tips and tricks here!)


18 Anele @ Success Along the Weigh June 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

You had me at “they taste a bit like Thanksgiving stuffing.”


19 Lisa C. June 26, 2013 at 11:16 am

How nice to have your Mom to give you advice. I love the idea of make-ahead meals. Some days I get there, some days I don’t. It sure is easier on the days that I plan ahead!


20 Mom June 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm

My mom gave it to me and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I didn’t take it. It would have made my afternoons so much happier!


21 Tiffany June 26, 2013 at 11:17 am

Hey kath,

This is unrelated to this post but thanks so much for the info on buckwheat! I stirred some into my cold quinoa and berry breakfast this morning. Just like cereal with all that crunch! Hope you have a great day!


22 Emily @ Life on Food June 26, 2013 at 11:32 am

I cannot agree more. The other night we grilled corn and pork chops and had a salad all made up. There were no dishes but the ones we ate off of and the salad bowl at the end of the meal. It was the best!


23 Vivian Rowe June 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm

This is a great meatball recipe! I never tried making meatballs with spinach. It really looks tasty and easy to cook. I can’t wait to try this delicious recipe! :-)


24 Jill June 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm

These sound amazing! Do you have to use frozen, thawed spinach or could you use chopped fresh spinach? I guess the question is does it have to be cooked first?


25 KathEats June 26, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I think fresh would work well too


26 Kristi June 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I should do better about prepping meals during nap time. I love meatballs but I would be really sad with no tomato sauce!!! And the thought of chewy meatballs is a bit off-putting. But easy and nutritious is hard to beat.


27 Anna @ On Anna's Plate June 26, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I love making meatballs ahead of time– I went out of town recently and left my hub and baby home together, and meatballs were one of the things I made in advance so that he’d have some food at the ready! My daughter (1.5) LOVES them too, and I bet Mazen will soon too!


28 Joe June 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Your Mom’s a wise woman! I’m definitely sending a link to this to my wife, she’s always looking for ways to cut down on dinnertime stress while watching our little one.


29 Julie June 26, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I love prepping stuff so there isn’t as much to do at dinnertime!! Never done meatballs – what a great idea. Do you go to the grocery store multiple times a week? Your fridge is always so empty and spotless!


30 Chelsea Preedy June 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm

These meatballs really look fantastic! I love how you’ve taken such a classic food and put you’re own healthy spin on it. Fresh herbs and spinach really do make everything taste better and what a great way to sneak in some extra veggies. I know I will be making these soon.


31 Julie @ RDelicious Kitchen June 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm

love that you put veggies in the meatballs. There is always a way to sneak in more veggies throughout the day


32 Katherine June 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm

this recipe looks great!


33 cathy June 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Your Mom is on the money. I work full time, have two kids and recently opened a CrossFit gym. If i didn’t do meal prep on the weekend and utilize my crockpot we’d have to eat out or pick up takeout every night!


34 Shari June 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm

These look delicious! I would love to see more make-ahead meal ideas, this is something I am really struggling with right now.


35 Melissa June 26, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Your fridge looks so clean! And Empty…How often do you shop to restock?


36 KathEats June 27, 2013 at 5:22 am

Weekly plus markets in the summer and all meat is in the freezer.


37 Margaret June 26, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Yuuummm, they look delicious, I can almost smell them from here,
Yes, Mums do have some good ideas, after all they have ” been there, done that”
I think chewy texture would be a nice change, But if you want a tender texture, from your great recipe, just soak the breadcrumbs in a little milk or tomato sauce or red wine.
For some added crunch and vitamins, you could add some chopped pine nuts or pumpkin seeds. Meatballs are great as a quick cold snack anytime.


38 Maria Tadic June 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm

I love make ahead meals. Even with no kids, coming home to a starving husband (and self) getting dinner on the table quick is always good. I love making dishes on the weekend and freezing them. Defrost and bake – super simple!


39 robin June 26, 2013 at 6:20 pm

how much is the beef, just curious if its alot more then regular?


40 KathEats June 27, 2013 at 5:23 am

Usually about $6 per pound


41 Hillary | Nutrition Nut on the Run June 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm

We’re one in the same as I looove a very bare fridge :)


42 Alex June 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Dave Matthews beef, eh? Fancy :-)
The dish looks delicious. I love pasta so much but rarely ever cook some up. I’m literally too impatient for the water to boil…


43 Lisa @bitesforbabies June 27, 2013 at 5:03 am

Those meatballs look delicious! You’re mom is a smart women…the strategy really works to help ease the stress of the witching hour! I almost always have lunch and/or dinner (or at least half of it) ready in the morning…sometimes by 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock! It’s a busy morning with two kids (and I’m usually exhausted by mid-morning) but I wouldn’t have it any other way…dinner time is just too crazy to also be cooking meals from scratch at that time every day too 😉


44 Hope @ With A Side Of Hope June 27, 2013 at 6:04 am

Those meatballs look and sound yummy! I want to try them but with ground turkey since I don’t eat beef. :)


45 Shana June 27, 2013 at 6:15 am

I had to laugh when I read this because I’m going to see DMB this weekend and was actually listening to ‘The Best of What’s Around’ while reading the post!


46 KathEats June 27, 2013 at 6:17 am

Haha what a coincidence!


47 Christina June 27, 2013 at 8:05 am

I’m having trouble viewing the Vine sections. Any suggestions?


48 KathEats June 27, 2013 at 8:42 am

Hmmm…they are actually embedded Instagram videos. They work on my computer in Chrome- what browser are you using? Maybe that’s the problem?


49 Evelyn June 27, 2013 at 8:37 am

Kath, that fridge! So clean!! Ahhhh…how do you do it?!


50 chris June 27, 2013 at 11:05 am

OMGosh, my kitchen never looks that clean!! Did your little man love those meatballs? Ms C only has one tooth but still manages to eat everything in teeny tiny pieces.


51 KathEats June 27, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Yes he nibbled from them : )


52 Kaitlyn June 27, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Your fridge is freaking me out! :)


53 Neil Butterfield July 5, 2013 at 5:01 am

Make ahead meals are a great idea for busy parents. My mother used to do that when I was a kid.


54 Terese August 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Love this recipe! I have a meatloaf recipe that I add grated carrots and zucchini in addition to the eggs and bread crumbs, etc. It keeps them moist and ups the veggies everyone gets-like this recipe! I bet you could even make these meatballs, then freeze them on a sheet pan, transfer to zip baggies and then you could just thaw and bake off. What a life saver on a busy night!


55 Henriette November 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Loooove the herbs on the meatballs, I bet they taste delicious, definitely need to try this for dinner!


56 Diana November 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I made these meatballs last night and was quite impressed with them! I made a few substitutions: oats instead of breadcrumbs, and 1 tsp each of dried oregano and onion powder instead of fresh herbs. They had great flavor! Fairly quick to make up too!


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