Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Introducing our delectable Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce recipe: a classic dish bursting with rich flavors and comforting aromas. This traditional Italian favorite features tender meatballs simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce until they’re juicy and perfectly cooked. The tomato sauce is infused with garlic, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes, offering a hint of heat and depth to every spoonful.

The meatballs, made with a blend of ground veal, Parmesan cheese, and aromatic spices, are tender, moist, and bursting with savory goodness. Whether served with pasta, fresh bread, or blanched rapini, these Italian meatballs are sure to become a family favorite. Get ready to savor the irresistible taste of homemade Italian comfort food at its finest!

Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce


Tomato Sauce

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil

1 can (28 oz/769 ml) whole plum tomatoes


2 slices white sandwich bread

1/4 cup (60 ml) milk

1 lb (450 g) ground veal

1 1/2 cups (150 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/4 cup (10 g) chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground fennel

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes


Tomato Sauce

In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, lightly brown the garlic in the oil with the bay leaf and red pepper flakes.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes. When they begin to break down, coarsely crush the tomatoes using a potato masher.

Season with salt and pepper.

Keep warm.


Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the bread until the size of bread crumbs. In a large bowl, soak the bread crumbs in the milk for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and, using your hands, combine well.

Working with lightly oiled hands, shape each meatball using 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the mixture.

Place the meatballs in the tomato sauce, cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, turning them a few times during cooking. Uncover and continue cooking for 10 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve the meatballs with blanched rapini, pasta or fresh bread.


Choose Quality Ingredients: Opt for fresh, high-quality ingredients, especially when it comes to the ground veal, Parmesan cheese, and tomatoes. Fresh ingredients will contribute to better flavor and texture in your meatballs and sauce.

Customize Seasonings: Feel free to adjust the seasonings to suit your taste preferences. If you prefer a spicier sauce, increase the amount of red pepper flakes. Similarly, you can adjust the salt, garlic, or herbs according to your liking.

Soak Bread Thoroughly: Ensure that the bread crumbs are fully soaked in milk. This step helps keep the meatballs moist and tender. Allow the bread to absorb the milk for at least 5 minutes before adding it to the meat mixture.

Mix Meatball Mixture Gently: When combining the meatball ingredients, avoid overmixing the mixture, as this can result in tough meatballs. Use a gentle hand to blend the ingredients until just combined.

Consistent Meatball Size: To ensure even cooking, try to shape the meatballs into uniform sizes. This will help them cook at the same rate and ensure consistent texture throughout.

Test Meatball Doneness: To check if the meatballs are cooked through, insert a meat thermometer into the center of a meatball. It should register at least 160°F (71°C). Alternatively, cut into a meatball to ensure there are no pink areas in the center.

Allow Sauce to Simmer: Letting the tomato sauce simmer for the full 30 minutes allows the flavors to meld together and develop depth. Be patient during this step, as it contributes significantly to the overall taste of the dish.

Serve with Fresh Garnishes: Garnish the finished dish with freshly chopped parsley, grated Parmesan cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil for added flavor and visual appeal. These finishing touches elevate the presentation and taste of the dish.

Serve with Accompaniments: Consider serving the meatballs with pasta, crusty bread, or a side of vegetables to create a complete meal. The sauce pairs well with various starches and greens, offering a balanced and satisfying dish.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 300 calories | Protein: 15 grams | Carbohydrates: 150 grams | Fat: 15 grams

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I use ground beef instead of veal for the meatballs?

Yes, you can substitute ground beef for the veal if you prefer.

The flavor and texture will be slightly different, but it’s a suitable alternative.

Can I make the meatballs ahead of time and freeze them?

Absolutely! You can prepare the meatballs and freeze them before cooking.

Place them on a baking sheet in a single layer, freeze until firm, then transfer to a freezer bag or container.

Thaw in the refrigerator before cooking as directed.

What can I use if I don’t have a food processor to make bread crumbs?

If you don’t have a food processor, you can make bread crumbs by tearing the bread into small pieces and crushing them with a rolling pin or by grating the bread on a box grater.

Can I use canned bread crumbs instead of fresh bread for this recipe?

Yes, you can use canned bread crumbs if you prefer.

Use about 1 cup of canned bread crumbs in place of the 2 slices of white sandwich bread.

Adjust the amount of milk as needed to achieve the right consistency.

What can I serve with these meatballs besides pasta?

While pasta is a classic choice, you can also serve the meatballs with polenta, mashed potatoes, or crusty bread for a hearty meal.

Additionally, a side salad or steamed vegetables can complement the dish nicely for a balanced meal.

How do I know when meatballs are cooked through?

Meatballs are cooked through when they reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).

You can use a meat thermometer to ensure they’re fully cooked.

Can I use ground pork or ground chicken instead of veal for the meatballs?

Yes, ground pork or ground chicken can be substituted for veal in this recipe.

The flavor and texture will be different, but it’s a suitable alternative.

Can I use canned diced tomatoes instead of whole plum tomatoes for the sauce?

Yes, you can use canned diced tomatoes instead of whole plum tomatoes.

However, the texture of the sauce may be slightly different.

How long can I store leftover meatballs in the refrigerator?

Leftover meatballs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Make sure to store them in an airtight container.

Can I use dried parsley instead of fresh parsley for the meatballs?

Yes, you can use dried parsley instead of fresh parsley.

Use about one-third of the amount called for in the recipe since dried herbs are more concentrated in flavor.

Can I bake the meatballs instead of cooking them in the sauce?

Yes, you can bake the meatballs in the oven instead of cooking them in the sauce.

Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 375°F (190°C) for about 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through.

What can I substitute for milk in the meatball mixture if I’m lactose intolerant?

You can use lactose-free milk or a non-dairy alternative such as almond milk or soy milk in place of regular milk.

Can I freeze the tomato sauce for later use?

Yes, you can freeze the tomato sauce for later use.

Let it cool completely, then transfer it to freezer-safe containers or resealable bags.

It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Can I make the meatball mixture ahead of time and refrigerate it before shaping and cooking?

Yes, you can prepare the meatball mixture ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours before shaping and cooking.

Just make sure to cover it tightly to prevent drying out.

How can I prevent meatballs from falling apart during cooking?

Make sure the meatball mixture is well-combined and holds together when shaped.

Avoid overmixing, which can make the meatballs tough.

Additionally, lightly oiling your hands before shaping the meatballs can help prevent sticking and maintain their shape during cooking.

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