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Marinara Meatball Recipe

White Confetti plate with Marinara Meatballs and spaghetti

For meatballs that are flavorful and hold their shape, this recipe combines ground beef and raw Italian sausage. Prebaking them in the oven at a toasty 475 degrees until they are a beautiful golden brown eliminates the mess of frying. Using a 5 to 1 ratio beef to sausage plus a thick panade (milk and bread paste) gives them body.

For abundant tomato flavor, try frying the tomato paste to a brick red color before adding crushed fresh or canned tomatoes. Simmering the meatballs in the sauce for 15 minutes or so enhances the tomato flavor even more. These meatballs and sauce are delicious over steaming hot pasta or with warm crusty bread.

Orange spoon in a bowl with raw meat

Green tray with chopped onions, garlic and oregano

Blue spoon in a saucepan of chopped onions

Purple spoon in a saucepan with onions and tomato sauce

Blue spoon in saucepan of marinara sauce

Blue plate with Marinara Meatballs and spaghetti

Marinara Meatball Recipe Instructions

Marinara Meatball Recipe

Ingredients

Onion Mixture
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 minced onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Marinara
  • 1 (6oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 (48 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
Meatballs
  • 2 slices of bread, torn into large pieces
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef (at least 80%)

Directions

For The Onion Mixture
  1. Using a Dutch oven or similar pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shines.
  2. Add the onions and cook them until translucent, about 12 minutes
  3. Add the last three ingredients and cook about 30 seconds longer. You will be able to detect their fragrance.
  4. Put half of this onion mix into a large bowl and put aside.
For The Sauce
  1. Combine the tomato paste with the remaining onion mixture in the Dutch oven.
  2. Cook until the paste is a brick red color, about 60 seconds.
  3. Pour in the wine and cook for about 2 minutes. The sauce should have thickened slightly.
  4. Add the water and tomatoes and simmer over low heat for 45-60 minutes. The sauce should not be watery any longer.
  5. Put in the cheese and basil.
  6. Taste your sauce and add the salt and sugar to your taste.
For The Meatballs
  1. As the marinara simmers, move an oven rack to the upper middle position and preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Mush the milk and bread together in the bowl of reserved onion.
  3. When it is smooth, add all ingredients except the ground beef and continue to combine.
  4. When well combined, add the beef and knead the beef into the rest of the mix with your hands.
  5. Form the meatballs to the size you prefer (1 -2 inch balls) and put them on a baking sheet covered with foil for easy cleanup.
  6. Bake them for 15 – 20 minutes depending on their size. They should be nicely browned.
  7. Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook an additional 15 minutes before serving them over steaming pasta.
  8. If you like, serve the meatballs in a bowl and use a chunk of warm crusty bread to dip in the sauce.