Lean and packing tons of flavor, these easy oven-baked meatballs made with lean pork and zucchini is a well-loved recipe, and it’s more than just my family. These meatballs come together quickly on a weeknight, or you can also make and freeze these pork meatballs ahead for an even faster weeknight dinner.
Learn how to make these meatballs, how to prep them ahead to make a fast meal even speedier, and how to make sure your meatballs are juicy and delicious.
*This post is sponsored by the Ohio Pork Council, but all opinions are my own.
I’ve been making these lean pork meatballs for years, literally years and they have always been a hit. People have been chasing me for the recipe. I’ve served them at my daughter’s birthday party twice and each time I had requests for the recipe.
Each time I’ve promised it to people and still never written it down. (Sorry Aunt Lyn!) Until now…. I’ve made a couple different variations on this recipe but this version is the all-time favorite.
I’ve added zucchini to this meatball as it both adds extra moisture and bulks up on the veggies. While I don’t hide veggies from my family or child, I have hidden the zucchini in these meatballs before.
Now you’re all wondering who I made sneaky meatballs for right? I’ll never tell, ha! Simply sauté the zucchini until it becomes soft and almost translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Then add it to your meatball mix and you can’t even tell it is there.
What Kind Of Pork Should I Use In These Meatballs
So one of the tricks that turns this meatball from good to wow is to use extra lean ground pork. Many meatballs call for other types of ground meat, and while I enjoy some of them, I’ve found using lean ground pork makes a super flavorful meatball. I prefer to get pork tenderloin if I can. The meatballs always come out moist and delicious with this recipe.
Where Do I Find Extra Lean Ground Pork
Many stores stock regular ground pork that has a little more fat, but I don’t always find the extra lean variety. Ask at your local meat counter for them to grind it fresh for you. Most grocery store counters and butchers will do it for you as long as it’s not late at night. I always specifically request tenderloin if they ask for a cut. It ends up being a very affordable option.
How Do I Make This Ground Pork Meatball Recipe Even Faster?
These meatballs are quick enough to make on a weeknight. I’ve included directions on how to cook some broccoli on the same pan, so all you’d need to add for dinner is some jarred pasta sauce and cooked pasta. They come together in about 30 minutes total if you shred the zucchini with a food processor.
How To Freeze Baked Meatballs
But if you want to make these meatballs go even faster? This recipe freezes like a dream. I double the recipe, bake them, and then freeze them on a cookie sheet.
Store these oven-baked meatballs in a freezer container, you can then easily grab a few (for a quick meatball sandwich) or a dozen for dinner. Pop the frozen meatballs in a little pasta sauce on the stove, and they are done in about 3-4 minutes or until they are warm all the way through.
Do You Have To Defrost Baked Meatballs Before Cooking?
If you are popping these meatballs in a sauce (like marinara) you do not need to defrost the meatballs before cooking. Simply add the meatballs to your sauce and heat at medium heat until warm all the way through.
I’ve also thrown these meatballs in a crockpot from the freezer in a red sauce. A small batch of them warms up in an hour and a full crockpot full may take two hours on high.
Looking for another great recipe you can freeze ahead? Check out these beef and veggie burgers.
What Should I Serve With Baked Pork Meatballs?
I like to serve these baked pork and zucchini meatballs over pasta with a vegetable on the side like broccoli. See in the notes of this recipe how to cook your broccoli on the same pan!
You can also serve a salad for a quick side or any other vegetable you like. I also love popping these meatballs into a red sauce (usually after freezing them) for a quick meatball sub night. Delish!
In the slow cooker is a great way to serve these meatballs for a crowd, holiday or birthday party. (I also like to serve this fun sweet snack mix at birthday parties!)
Why Do My Meatballs Fall Apart?
If your meatballs are falling apart it usually means you have too many breadcrumbs. You should be able to tell before you bake your pork meatballs if they will hold together. The meatballs will roll and hold if they are great.
I suggest adding an extra egg to the mixture, or using fewer breadcrumbs next time. ( I would reduce by a quarter cup) Sometimes the moisture in the zucchini or the pork can contribute to the recipe varying a little.
What Can I Use Instead Of Breadcrumbs In My Meatballs?
If you are gluten-free I suggest using gluten-free panko breadcrumbs in your meatballs. I use the same amount of panko breadcrumbs as any other breadcrumb and usually buy these gluten-free breadcrumbs.
In a pinch, you can also pulverize your favorite cracker or cereal to bits. I’ve used crackers and even whole grain unsweetened cereal both in a pinch. Pulverize your crackers or cereal in a bag or a food processor and use it cup for cup in place of breadcrumbs.
Looking for another fast idea for dinner? My good friend Deanna over at This Farm Girl Cooks has a super Easy Pork Stir Fry the whole family will love. The recipe even uses frozen veggies for busy nights!
- 1 large zucchini (shredded)
- 1 pound extra lean ground pork
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup breadcrumbs Can use panko bread crumbs, which makes it gluten free.
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion (or powdered onion)
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with Shred zucchini finely either with a food processor or a cheese grater.
- Using a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, remove all excess water from the zucchini. You want to remove as much liquid as possible for best results.
- Add lean pork to a large bowl, and then add zucchini, egg, breadcrumbs, and all of the spices. Mix well until combined. For best results mix with hands briefly.
- Roll meatballs into one inch balls and place on baking sheet. If desired, add broccoli onto the same pan.
- Bake for 17-20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked all the way through and no longer pink.
Add broccoli to the same pan for a quick side. Here's what you need:
- 1 medium head broccoli chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Toss chopped broccoli in olive oil and spices, then add to the pan. Cook for 15 minutes alongside the meatballs. I just add it to the pan after the meatballs have cooked for five minutes.
- Ask at the butcher or meat counter for extra lean pork for a super flavorful meatball.
- Dry the zucchini with a kitchen towel or paper towel to remove all excess moisture and allows your meatballs to form much better.
Serving Size:2 meatballs
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 132
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I hope you enjoy this pork and zucchini oven-baked meatball recipe as much as our family does. Making a double batch and freezing them ahead makes such a quick dinner! Rate this recipe so others know how much you enjoyed it, and leave me a comment about it too!