Meatballs In Marinara Sauce: Meatball Marinara Recipe

meatball marinara recipe-spaghetti-3 (1)

When I think of easy weeknight dinners, I think of meatballs and sauce.

Not the kind of sauce that needs to simmer for four hours on the stove.

A quick and easy tomato sauce.

A classic Italian dish: pasta with marinara sauce.

This Italian recipe is super easy to make, and when it’s paired with an even easier meatball recipe, it makes for the most delicious weeknight dinner.

With a few simple ingredients, you too can be cooking like a chef of a five star Italian restaurant the next time your family is craving some flavorful meatballs and sauce.

What Goes Into Making A Simple Marinara?

A simple marinara sauce is made with a few simple ingredients, and is very different from your traditional Sunday sauce.

For starters, this one doesn’t use tomato paste.

It’s made from a base of garlic and onions, and uses whole peeled tomatoes.

Some simple seasonings are added to the mix, and the sauce is left to simmer on the stove for 30-45 minutes.

It’s quite simple to make, even for a beginner.

Pair it with the best meatballs you could ever have, and you have a meal that’s worthy of being from an Italian restaurant.

Here’s what you need to make everything!

What You’ll Need:

When you’re making this recipe, you’ll set your sauce on to simmer while you start making your meatballs. Because of that, this recipe requires a two step process.

You’ll be making the tomato sauce and meatballs separately, but don’t worry, everything will come out at the exact same time.

For the Marinara Sauce:

Whole Peeled Tomatoes: I like using San Marzano, but any kind of high quality tomato will work just fine.

Onions: I like using a vidalia onion for my marinara sauce, but if you can’t find any at the grocery store, sweet yellow onions work just as well.

Garlic: Make sure it’s freshly minced. This will make a world of a difference in the flavor and quality of your marinara sauce.

Seasonings: All you need for this is salt and black pepper. Less is more when it comes to making a homemade marinara sauce, no need to add a bunch of fresh herbs or anything like that. However, if you would like, you can always toss some fresh basil into the mix.

Olive Oil: Use a high quality olive oil.

For the Meatballs:

Meat Mixture: I like using a mix of lean ground beef, ground pork, and ground veal. When I’m cooking for 2-3 people, I find that one pound of meatloaf mix does the trick perfectly. If you’re cooking for more than one person, you might opt to use one pound of ground beef and one pound of ground pork. It’s entirely up to you.

Eggs: A good rule of thumb is one egg per pound of meat.

Grated Cheese: For me, I’m a pecorino Romano fan. But you can always use parmesan cheese instead.

Fresh Bread Crumbs: You can even use some older bread if you’d like. Soak the breadcrumbs in a little bit of water or milk for optimal results.

Fresh Garlic: Some minced garlic will be perfect in these meatballs. No need for onions or anything else like that, just some finely minced garlic.

Seasonings: All you need to season your meatballs with is salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and dry or fresh parsley. No need for Italian seasoning or other herbs.

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How To Make This Recipe:

In a large dutch oven or large saucepan, heat your olive oil over medium-low heat to medium heat. Begin to saute your onions, and season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Once your onions are translucent, add in your garlic. Saute for about a minute or until the garlic is fragrant.

Once your onions and garlic are ready, add in your whole peeled tomatoes. If you haven’t already broken them down, you can use a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes. Set your sauce to low, and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.

While your sauce is simmering, get started on making your classic Italian meatballs. In a large bowl, add all of the meatball ingredients together.

Using your hands or a stand mixer, mix all of the ingredients in the large mixing bowl thoroughly until fully combined. Using a cookie scoop or a large spoon, scoop out the mixture into your hands, and roll the meat around to form a ball. Repeat this process until all of the meat mixture has been used and you have a bunch of raw meatballs.

Next, you’re going to want to heat up some olive oil in a stainless steel pan or large skillet over medium heat or medium-high heat. Place each meatball in the hot oil, and fry on each side until the meatballs are browned, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°. 

Toss your meatballs in with the red sauce, and let everything finish cooking together. Serve with your favorite sauce, or load everything up inside of a bunch of sub rolls.

No matter how you choose to enjoy this dish, everything will taste incredible when cooked together this way.


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Q: I don’t eat pork. What should I replace this ingredient with?

A: If you don’t eat pork, just double up on your ground beef and season as normal. Everything will still taste delicious, and you’ll still have just as tender meatballs!

Q: I’m not a fan of red meat. Are there any other options for me?

A: Absolutely, chicken and turkey meatballs are popular for a reason! Get a few pounds of lean ground turkey or ground chicken, and season as you normally would. Be careful not to overcook, as these types of meatballs tend to dry out very quickly, and we all love juicy meatballs!

Q: What else should I add to my meatball marinara?

A: If you really want to get fancy, you can add some sweet Italian sausage. Brown the sausage on each side in some olive oil, remove from the pan, make your sauce as normal, and add everything back in once the tomatoes go in. It’ll be wonderful.

What To Serve With This Meal:

Appetizer: When it comes to an easy dish like this, I’m always a fan of easy salads. This caprese salad is the perfect option!

Vegetable: The best vegetable to serve with this recipe, in my opinion, is some easy roasted broccoli rabe. Rabe and pasta make for such a wonderful combination, all of the flavors compliment each other nicely.

Dessert: This bundt cake recipe has been a major hit in my house lately, and it deserves a spot next to your pasta and homemade meatballs.

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meatball marinara recipe-spaghetti-3 (1)

Meatballs In Marinara Sauce: Meatball Marinara Recipe

  • Author: Gianna Ferrini



For the Sauce:

  • 28 oz whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 vidalia onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ½ tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the Meatballs:

  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ½ tbsp black pepper
  • ½ tbsp crushed red pepper
  • ​⅓ cup grated Romano cheese
  • ⅓ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil


  1. In a large dutch oven, heat up the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Once the olive oil is hot, begin to saute your onions until translucent, adding garlic toward the end, and stirring until fragrant.
  3. When the onions and garlic have softened, add your tomatoes and seasoning. Simmer on low heat for about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. While the sauce is simmering, get started on your meatballs. Take all of the meatball ingredients besides the olive oil, and combine them in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Using your hands or a stand mixer, mix the meatball ingredients until everything just comes together.
  6. With your hands or a large spoon, scoop out the meatball mixture, and roll it around in your hands to form golf ball sized meatballs. Repeat this step until all of the meatball mixture is used up.
  7. In a stainless steel pan, heat up your olive oil over medium heat until hot. Place your meatballs in the oil, and brown on each side until cooked through.
  8. Remove your meatballs from the oil, and place them directly into the sauce.
  9. Let everything cook together until the sauce is finished, and serve with your favorite pasta dish.

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