Making Italian Meatballs at home is easy with this recipe. You’ll come back to it again and again when you’re craving comfort food because it’s beyond delicious. Baked Italian meatballs mean that both prep and clean-up time are simple and quick. Serve these on their own, smothered in melted cheese or over pasta for a hearty meal.
We didn’t order the meatballs and then I couldn’t stop thinking about them. In late June, Keith and I celebrated our twenty-first wedding anniversary with dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants, Trattoria Sbandati (you might remember this Slow Cooker Farro and Cannellini Bean Soup with Vegetables and Parmesan that they inspired). It’s a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall restaurant here in Bend; the chef is a first generation Italian from Florence.
I read the description on the menu, “Polpette: Traditional ground beef meatballs based on the chef’s family recipe. Cooked and served in tomato sauce, with melted mozzarella on top and a side of sautéed spinach.” We didn’t order it, but when it showed up at the table next to us, I wished that we had.
Luckily, a lazy Sunday afternoon showed up as they reliably do, and I thought, “meatballs!” I mention lazy because this is a perfect recipe for laziness. It comes together quickly and makes a large enough batch to last a couple of meals or even four meals if there are just two of you, like us.
I called for hot Italian sausage as an ingredient, but you can easily make your own with ground pork if you have a few extra minutes and some spices. If you want to make your own hot Italian sausage, you’ll find good recipes here and here.
So often I think of meatballs with pasta, but why not make them the main attraction? Especially when they’re tossed with a spicy, tangy sauce and smothered with melty mozzarella? Add a salad (or sautéed spinach 😉 ) and you have meal, simple and superb!
- 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 shallots finely chopped
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley finely chopped
- 1 pound ground hot Italian sausage
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 clove garlic smashed and peeled
- 1 28-ounce jar diced tomatoes with liquid
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella
- fresh basil leaves optional
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add first seven ingredients (bread crumbs through parsley) to a large bowl and stir to combine. Add sausage and ground beef, mixing well with your hands - but don't overmix, you don't want your meatballs to be tough.
Scoop mixture out onto prepared baking sheet in similarly sized ragged mounds with a 3-tablespoon scoop or heaped onto a standard tablespoon. Gently roll one mound into a ball between your palms. Repeat with remaining mounds, arranging the meatballs very close together, but not touching.
Bake 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
Meanwhile, make the Garlicky Tomato Sauce: Add garlic and tomatoes with juice to a blender pitcher; blend until smooth. Add olive oil and blend again. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. When meatballs are nearly done, heat sauce in a saucepan to simmer.
Remove meatballs from oven once they're cooked through, leave oven on.
Spread about 1/3 of tomato sauce into a large, oven-safe baking dish. Carefully transfer cooked meatballs to dish and pour remaining sauce over.
Sprinkle cheese evenly over meatballs and bake until cheese is melted, 5 to 8 minutes more.
Serve garnished with fresh basil leaves if desired.