These easy baked meatballs in homemade marinara sauce are perfect for busy weeknights!
Servings 4 - 6 people (about 21 meatballs total)
For the Meatballs:
- 1 lb. ground “meatloaf mix” (a combination of ground beef, pork and veal) (see my note below for substitutions)
- ¼ cup Italian-style bread crumbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or sub with ½ teaspoon dried basil)
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
For the Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar (reduce to 1 tablespoon for a less-sweet sauce)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Optional, for serving: cooked pasta, bread, additional fresh herbs, additional Parmesan cheese
Make the Meatballs:
In a large bowl, use your hands or a fork to gently combine all of the meatball ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. If time allows, cover the bowl and chill for about 1 hour (this is optional, but will make the meatballs easier to shape).
Bake the Meatballs:
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Use a scoop to shape the meat mixture into 1 ½-inch balls. Tip: rub your hands with a little bit of oil to prevent the meatballs from sticking. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Make the Sauce:
While the meatballs bake in the oven, prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste; cook and stir for 1 minute.
Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, brown sugar, parsley, basil, salt, Italian seasoning and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper or sugar, if necessary.
Add baked meatballs to the sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 more minutes so that the meatballs can absorb the flavors from the sauce.
- Double the Recipe. Using 1 lb. of meat yields about 21 meatballs. If you'd like to prepare a larger batch to feed a group or to save leftovers in the freezer for another meal, just double all of the ingredients.
- Use other Meats. I prefer the "meatloaf mix" because the blend of three different types of meat yields meatballs with so much flavor! That said, you can substitute with a 50/50 blend of ground beef and ground pork, use all ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork. Just make sure that the meat totals 1 lb. and is about 85% lean. If using chicken or turkey, cook the meatballs to an internal temperature of 165°F instead of 160°F.
- Instead of preparing the marinara sauce shown here, take a shortcut and toss the meatballs in a jar of your favorite store-bought sauce (we like Rao's brand).
- Include ½ cup finely-minced fresh onion for moisture and flavor in the meatballs.
- Add crushed red pepper flakes for spicy meatballs.
- Combine the meatball mixture with your hands -- not with a wooden spoon. The more gentle you can be, the more light and tender your meatballs will stay. Don't overmix, or you'll end up with tough, dense, and dry meatballs.
- If you have some extra time, chill the meatball mixture for at least 1 hour before shaping. I don't always do this (it's not necessary), but it does make the shaping easier if the mixture is more firm.
- A cookie dough scoop helps form even meatballs that cook in about the same amount of time. Scoop, roll gently in your hands, and then fry!
- Coat your hands with a little bit of olive oil periodically as you're shaping the meatballs. The oil prevents the meat from sticking to your hands, and also helps the outside of the meatballs brown when they're in the oven.
Serving: 4meatballs and ⅕ of the sauce | Calories: 385kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 101mg | Sodium: 1862mg | Potassium: 1213mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 1666IU | Vitamin C: 34mg | Calcium: 187mg | Iron: 7mg