Meatballs are a top-tier comfort food in any form, whether in a red-sauced Italian sub or in Swedish meatball form with cream sauce—and they’re a cinch to make even without a recipe (once you memorize some basic tips and formulas). But if you’re looking for a great, simple recipe for easy Italian meatballs in tomato sauce, we’ve got you covered.
Consider this more of a template than a rigid recipe; meatballs are fairly forgiving, so you can substitute ingredients depending on what you have on hand (especially when it comes to the meat and the bread binders). See tips on making meatballs with what you have, then try this classic Italian-American treat over spaghetti, in a sub, or however else you please.
Related Reading: 3 Tips for Perfectly Juicy Meatballs From an Italian Nonna Who Knows
These meatballs are not pan-fried first, which helps cut down on dishes and keeps the meatballs tender; just make sure your lidded saucepan, stock pot, or Dutch oven is large enough to fit all your sauce and meatballs before you begin.
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- 3 thick slices of French or Italian bread (enough to make about 3 cups of bread cubes)
- 56 ounces of tomato sauce (about 2 1/2 big cans) or the equivalent of Homemade Tomato Sauce
- two garlic cloves
- a handful of Italian parsley
- two large eggs
- a large handful of flour
- 3/4 pound ground beef, very cold
- 1/2 pound ground pork, very cold
- a handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
How to make meatballs in tomato sauce:
1. Remove the bread crusts and discard. Chop the bread into roughly 3/4-inch cubes and place in a small bowl. Pour in enough milk to just cover the cubes, and smoosh them down with your hands so they absorb the milk. Let stand 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, pour the tomato sauce into a large saucepan. You should have enough to come about 2/3 of the way up the side of the pan. If it seems too thick, add a little water. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat and gently simmer.
3. Finely chop the garlic and parsley; set aside. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat with a fork until just broken up; set aside. Put the flour in a small dish or on a plate; set aside.
4. Add the garlic, parsley, beaten eggs, and parmesan to the meat mixture. Season with a few large pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Using your hands, quickly mix until evenly incorporated. (Optional step: Form a tiny patty from the meat mixture and cook it in a frying pan to check the seasonings. Adjust as desired.)
5. Form the meat into 1.5-inch balls. If your hands start to stick to the meat, wet them with water. Roll the meatballs in the flour until they are lightly coated.
6. Carefully drop each meatball into the simmering sauce, cover the saucepan, and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Now that the meatballs have set, gently stir them, cover, and continue to simmer for 35 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for 5 minutes more.