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Best Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

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Italian meatballs in tomato sauce are perfect for spooning over a bed of pasta, tucking into a baked meatball sub, or serving with fresh bread. The easy meatball recipe can be frozen for later.

A skillet filled with meatballs and tomato sauce sprinkled with Italian herbs.

These Italian meatballs in tomato sauce are my favorite meatballs to add to homemade Italian wedding soup.

We love them so much, we started to make the meatballs on their own for adding to tomato sauce for pasta or meatball subs.

You can prep the meatballs and keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days. I love to make them on a Sunday afternoon for dinner later in the week.

You can also flash freeze them before transferring to a freezer bag for longer storage. It's a great prep ahead shortcut if you want homemade meatballs for a party or holiday gathering.

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Ingredients

The ingredients to make the meatballs are on the counter.

I love that when I want to make these meatballs, I only need to pick up two fresh ingredients from the store and the rest of the items come from my pantry:

  • Ground Beef
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Minced Garlic
  • Dried Parsley
  • Dried Basil
  • Dried Oregano
  • Onion Powder

The butter in the photo above was there because it is used when browning the meatballs, it isn't an ingredient in the meatball mix itself.

However, if you want to try a variation using venison instead of ground beef, you could also try this venison meatballs recipe.

Prep the Meatball Mixture

The ingredients have been added to a large mixing bowl.

Place all the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Use a fork to fluff the meat and incorporate all the ingredients.

To help avoid overworking the beef and making it tough, I usually use my hands to finish the mixing.

The fork helps break things up a bit, but it is much easier to work the seasonings all through the meat with your hands.

Once everything is evenly mixed, pat the meat into a solid portion so it is easier to pinch off the meatball pieces.

Roll the Meatballs

Roll the meatballs into a round ball shape that is just smaller than a ping pong ball.

Line them up in a clean baking pan or baking sheet as you work.

The rolled Italian meatballs are lined up in a baking pan for storage.

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Place the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes before you cook with the meatballs.

This gives the meat a chance to rest and firm up a little so they don't fall apart in the skillet.

Make Ahead and Freezing Tips

You could cover the meatballs in the fridge and keep them there for up to 3 days before you cook with them.

You can also place them on parchment paper on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer for 1 hour.

Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a zip top plastic freezer bag for longer term storage if desired.

To use frozen meatballs, place them in a single layer in a container and thaw in the fridge overnight.

How to Brown the Meatballs

This Italian meatball recipe makes about 60 meatballs. I only use 30 meatballs or so at a time for dinner for my family of 4.

If you want to cook all 60 meatballs at once, you may have to work in batches so you don't overcrowd the skillet.

You need room to be able to turn the meatballs as they cook.

The meatballs have been added to the skillet and the photo collage shows how to brown them.

To cook the meatballs, heat 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the meatballs to the pan and gently roll them around with the back of a spoon so they brown evenly on all sides.

Keep the meatballs moving or they will stick to the bottom of the pan.

If they do begin to stick, you may wish to use a spatula to gently scrape them up before flipping them over.

This helps prevent your meatballs from breaking.

At this point, the meatballs are browned but not fully cooked.

You'll want to simmer them in tomato sauce until they are cooked through or use them in a soup or other recipe to finish the cooking process.

Make the Tomato Sauce

A can of tomato sauce sits next to the meatballs skillet.

One of the most delicious and easiest ways to finish the meatballs is to simmer them in a tomato sauce.

You could use any prepared jar of spaghetti sauce that you love or make your own homemade tomato sauce using simple pantry ingredients.

Add canned tomato sauce to the hot skillet. As it bubbles, use your cooking spoon to scrape up all the browned bits clinging to the bottom of the pan.

Add 1 cup water to the pan to loosen the sauce a bit and help steam the meatballs.

A wooden spoon is ready to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan using the tomato sauce to help deglaze.

Sprinkle in dried Italian seasoning and garlic salt and stir.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Cook the meatballs for 5 - 10 minutes or until cooked through.

The meatballs are cooking in the tomato sauce and steam is rising up.

Serving Suggestions

This savory Italian meatballs in tomato sauce are the perfect thing to make homemade spaghetti and meatballs.

Or, if your kids are like mine -- substitute a short pasta like penne, farfalle, or rigatoni to go with this meatball recipe.

You could also use this meatball recipe to make my easy baked meatballs subs.

Keep the meatballs warm in a crock pot as an easy way to serve them buffet style. This is just one of my favorite easy crock pot sandwich ideas!

You could also serve bowls of Italian meatballs in tomato sauce alongside a basket of warm, fresh bread for dunking. My bread machine focaccia would be a perfect option.

Leftover Meatballs for Soup

If you don't want to cook these Italian meatballs in tomato sauce, they actually taste wonderful in my favorite Instant Pot Italian wedding soup recipe.

You can freeze the meatballs for making soup later or use them right away the day you roll them.

๐Ÿ“– Recipe

A skillet filled with meatballs and tomato sauce sprinkled with Italian herbs.

Italian Meatballs

5 from 1 vote
Make a batch of these easy Italian meatballs and you'll have enough to serve over pasta with tomato sauce one night and make a batch of Italian wedding soup on another night. The meatballs can be prepped and stored in the fridge for 3 days or frozen for later.
TOTAL TIME 38 minutes
PREP TIME 20 minutes
COOK TIME 18 minutes
YIELD 60 meatballs

Ingredients
  

For the Italian Meatballs

  • 2.2 lbs ground beef usually sold as the family/budget package
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup plain Green yogurt
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the Tomato Sauce (Pick One!)

  • 1 (24 oz) jar of your favorite prepared tomato sauce marinara, ragu, roasted garlic, etc.
  • 1 (15 oz) can of plain tomato sauce 1 - 2 tsp of Italian herb blend, 1/2 tsp of garlic salt

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients with a fork to fluff the meat as you go. You may need to switch to using your hands to work all the seasonings into the meat.
  • Pinch off slightly smaller than golf ball sized portions of meat and roll them between your hands to form the meatballs.
  • Set aside rolled meatballs in a clean baking pan or baking sheet. You should get approximately 60 - 65 meatballs from 2.2 pounds of beef.
  • Place the meatballs in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes before using.
  • After that time you can brown them in a skillet with a bit of olive oil or butter to use in a recipe
  • For freezing instructions, see the notes below.
  • Basic Cooking Instructions
  • To cook the meatballs, add 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the meatballs to the pan and brown them on all sides for 5 - 8 minutes.
  • Add the prepared tomato sauce or the canned tomato sauce with seasonings to the skillet and stir.
  • Let the meatballs simmer in tomato sauce for 10 minutes or until cooked through.

Recipe Notes

Freezing Instructions

If you plan to freeze the meatballs, you can skip the tomato sauce and freeze them right after they have been rolled.
Flash freeze them on parchment paper for 1 hour and then transfer them to an airtight container for freezing longer term, up to 6 months.
Thaw frozen meatballs in a single layer in the fridge overnight before using in your final recipe or use directly from frozen if the recipe calls for it.
COURSEDinner
CUISINEItalian-American

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The photo collage shows the Italian meatballs in tomato sauce next to a photo of them lined up to be frozen.

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