How to Cook Meatballs on the Stove in Sauce

If you are making Italian meatballs and are wondering how to cook them, I have a pretty easy and delicious method. I consider myself an Italian meatball expert these days. I’ve made a ton of meatballs at the restaurant and for catering jobs. I made meatballs many different ways and I love the way I’m about to teach you.

Letting your meatballs cook on the stove in a simmering sauce is the way to go. You’ll end up with the most tender meatballs because as they simmer they soak up so much of that tomato sauce. You’ll also have really flavorful meatballs so make sure you use a good homemade tomato sauce or a quality red sauce from the grocery store. 

You will know the meatballs are ready when the internal temperature of the meatballs is 165 degrees. You can test the temperature of the meatballs by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the center of the meatball. 

There are so many different ways to cook meatballs. To be honest, I like all of the Italian meatball recipes that I’ve tried. With a really nice homemade marinara sauce, you can’t go wrong. 

You can bake your meatballs in the oven, fry your meatballs on the stove, deep fry your meatballs in a deep fryer, or cook your meatballs directly in a pot of tomato sauce. 

Some people like to drop the raw meatballs directly in a pot of Italian tomato sauce and let them simmer. Some people like to cook the meatballs in the oven first and then put the browned meatballs in the tomato sauce. 

Today I am going to give you a recipe on how to cook meatballs directly in a large pot of tomato sauce. This is a really delicious and easy meatball recipe that will create a beautiful rich sauce

I’m not saying it’s the best way to cook meatballs, but it is a great way to put together an easy meal that everyone will enjoy. 

With this simple homemade meatball recipe, you get about 2 dozen 2-inch meatballs. It’s really easy and only takes about 20 minutes of actual prep time, making it the perfect solution for a busy weeknight or a lazy Sunday afternoon. While the meatballs are cooking, pour yourself a glass of red wine and enjoy the aroma that fills the house. 

The Main Ingredients for Meatballs Cooked on The Stove in Sauce

Making great meatballs only requires a few simple ingredients. Here are all of the items you are going to need.

Meat: there are many different ways to make a meatball mixture. I am suggesting a meat mixture made of ground beef and ground pork. This combination of meats has always worked for me. 

You can make just beef meatballs if you prefer, but the pork adds a lot of flavors. You need enough fat to add flavor and moisture. 

I usually use ground beef that has a 20 percent fat content. Lean ground beef needs fat to give it flavor. 

Tomato Sauce: either make your own tomato sauce or buy a good quality tomato sauce at the supermarket. Italian-style meatballs need a great tomato sauce. 

a large pot full with tomato sauce, ready to cook some meatballs on a stove

Garlic: get some fresh garlic cloves and chop them up really fine. Take your time and make sure they are minced up well. You want the garlic to mix in well with the meat.

Parsley: you’ll need fresh parsley. I like using flat-leaf Italian parsley chopped really small. 

Grated Cheese: you want a good grated cheese for your meatballs recipe. Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese will work. Just make sure it’s a good quality cheese. 

Breadcrumbs: For this recipe, I am recommending using breadcrumbs because they are quick and easy to use. 

However, if you have the time, I suggest using some 72 hour fermented pizza bianca in your meatballs. Cut the pizza bianca into cubes and soak it in a little bit of milk in a small bowl. This is the best way to add some extra flavor to your meatballs. 

Eggs: you need some fresh eggs that will add as a binder for your meatballs. A good rule of thumb is one large egg for every pound of meat. So for 2 pounds of meat you will need 2 large eggs. 

Seasoning: all you really need is Kosher salt and black pepper. If you like Italian seasoning, you can use it, but I normally don’t. 

the ingredients for this meatball recipe

How to Make Your Meatballs 

Get a large bowl and add all of the ingredients except the eggs. A large mixing bowl is important because it will give you enough room to really work all of the ingredients together. 

Start mixing everything together so all of the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the ground meat. For the best results, use your hands to do the mixing. 

Add some beaten eggs and mix those in with the rest of the ingredients. 

When everything is mixed together it’s time to form your meatballs

The size of the meatballs you make is up to you, but I think the perfect meatballs are the size of a golf ball. When I make meatballs I use a 2-ounce cookie scoop. If you do the same, you will end up with a 2-inch meatball

Put your raw meatballs aside in a dish.

In a large skillet or pot, heat some tomato sauce on the stovetop. I usually start it out on medium-high heat and add my raw meatballs to the pan. When the sauce comes to a boil, I lower the stove to medium-low heat and let the meatballs cook slowly.

meatballs simmering in sauce on the stove

The meatballs will be completely cooked in about 30 minutes, but the cooking time can be longer. Allowing the meatballs to simmer in the sauce for a long time will give you a really nice sauce that you can use to toss with your pasta. 

Like I always say, use your sauce of choice. If you decide to make your own tomato sauce all you need is a little bit of olive oil, garlic and crushed tomatoes or tomato puree. Some people like to add tomato paste, but I usually don’t. Add some salt, pepper and your favorite herbs. Fresh herbs are recommended. I like fresh basil in my tomato sauce.

Make your sauce in a dutch oven, large sautè pan or frying pan and you have easy skillet meatballs.

meatballs in a skillet with tomato sauce

Meatballs Cooked on the Stove in Sauce FAQs

Q: Can I freeze my meatballs in sauce?
Yes. You can make a double batch of meatballs and freeze the leftovers. Put them in an airtight container and place it in the freezer. You’ll be glad you have them when you are in the mood for a meatball sub. 

Q: Can I cook the meatballs before putting them in the sauce?
Yes. You can fry or bake the meatballs before letting them simmer in the tomato sauce.

Q: Can I make meatballs with different types of meat?
Yes. This recipe will work with ground turkey and ground chicken. Chicken meatballs and turkey meatballs are a healthy option if you are looking for something with less fat. 

Q: Can I use this meatball recipe for meatloaf?
Yes. This meatball recipe will make a delicious meatloaf mix. Instead of forming meatballs, form a loaf and bake it in the oven on a sheet pan or deep baking pan. 

Q: How many meatballs should I prepare per person?
How many meatballs you should prepare per person depends on the size of the meatballs. In my experience, after catering many parties over the years, you can average 2-3 meatballs per person if the meatballs weigh about 2 ounces each. If you are making small balls, make enough to give every person 4-6 ounces of meatballs

Q: Can I use a slow cooker for this recipe?
Yes. If you have a tomato sauce already cooked, you can add it to a slow cooker and place in your uncooked meatballs. You can also add some Italian sausage which go great with meatballs and pasta. 

What to Serve with Meatballs Cooked on the Stove in Sauce

Pasta: Boil your favorite pasta shape and toss it with the tomato sauce you cooked the meatballs in.

Side Dish: I like a nice cheesy garlic bread to mop up the sauce on my plate.

Salad: A simple mixed greens salad with a red wine vinaigrette is a good choice.

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meatballs in a skillet with tomato sauce

How to Cook Meatballs on the Stove in Sauce

  • Author: Mortadella Head
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x



1 lb ground 80/20 beef 

1 lb of ground pork

5 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic

2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 eggs

1 cup plain bread crumbs

1 cup grated Romano cheese 

2 quarts of tomato sauce


  1. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. I like to use my hands because you can really get everything incorporated nicely. 
  2. Form the meatballs with your hands. I try to get the meatballs about the size of a golf ball. I think that size is perfect for soaking up the sauce and staying nice and moist. 
  3. In a large skillet or pot, heat your tomato sauce on medium-high heat. 
  4. Add your meatballs to the sauce and bring it to a boil. Turn the stove down to medium-low heat and allow the meatballs to simmer for about 30 minutes or longer.
  5. Enjoy!
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Category: Meatballs
  • Method: Cooked
  • Cuisine: Italian


7 thoughts on “How to Cook Meatballs on the Stove in Sauce”

    1. Hey..for a couple days later for the meatballs..before putting them back in the cooker on low and slow..can I drop them in frozen or should they be thawed first

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