meatballs in tomato sauce
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5 from 1 vote

Ultimate Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

These really will be the best meatballs you have ever had. But remember to plan ahead and make them the day before serving. Also, if you don't have a small cookie scoop for making the meatballs, I highly recommend you get one since this recipe makes between 50-60 meatballs. The cookie scoop will speed up the process a lot!
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 10 -12
Calories: 488kcal
Author: Good Dinner Mom


  • For the Meatballs
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup stale bread, regular or gluten-free, processed to a fine consistency
  • 1 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 1/2 pound ground beef, such as ground chuck
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons chunky kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 cups finely diced yellow onion, from about 2 small yellow onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for serving
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • Olive oil
  • For the Tomato Sauce
  • Two 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, roughly chopped with their juices
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bay leaf, optional
  • Special equipment: Small sized cookie scooper
  • Cook's note: I usually double the sauce recipe to have a lot for the pasta but that is just my preference. I also save the drippings from cooking the meatballs to add back into the sauce.


  • First start the sauce:
  • Heat a heavy, large saucepan or stock pot over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low to keep a steady simmer. Cook for 40 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free from the tomatoes. Stir occasionally. Discard the onion (or sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve on the side for a tasty treat. If making meatball sandwiches, slice the onion after removing and serve it on the sandwich!)
  • Remove the bayleaf.
  • Make the Meatballs while the sauce simmers.
  • Pour the milk over the breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Stir together and set them aside for at least 10 minutes so the crumbs can soften.
  • Mix the pork and beef together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the salt and a generous amount of black pepper, then add the cayenne and smoked paprika.
  • Stir in the chopped parsley, sage, onion, garlic and Parmesan. Mix with your hands until these are very thoroughly distributed through the meat.
  • Stir in the breadcrumbs and milk, as well as the eggs, and mix thoroughly.
  • Shape the meatballs immediately. Use that cookie scoop I talked about!
  • Note: You can also freeze the meat (in one large lump or as shaped meatballs) in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
  • Broil the meatballs: After shaping the meat and placing them very close together on a baking sheet, position an oven rack on the center position in your oven. Broil (high) for 15 to 18 minutes, turning halfway through only if you care whether the meatballs are kind of flat on the bottom. I don't turn mine.
  • Add the meatballs to the sauce and continue to simmer another 15 minutes.
  • Let meatballs with tomato sauce come to room temperature, then place in a container and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. The day of serving, return the meatballs and sauce to the pan and slowly heat to simmer, stirring occasionally. Let low simmer for about 15 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with extra grated or shaved Parmesan cheese.
  • Cook's note: If you're tempted to just cook the meatballs and sauce for a longer time the day you first make it and serve it later that same day, don't! I have tried that too, and it really is important to let this sit in your refrigerator overnight. Have I said this enough?