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This meatball recipe uses a combination of beef, hot Italian sausage, veal, and aromatics for the most tender, juicy meatball. These homemade meatballs are pan-seared in the dutch oven and then finished in an easy-made from scratch red meatball sauce!
What are homemade meatballs?
Meatballs just scream family and comfort food. Although these meatballs and homemade sauce are not traditional (please don’t judge me, real Italians), this recipe is so flavorful and perfect for a Sunday night meal with the ones you love.
These meatballs are completely homemade. From the combination of three different types of meat to the spicy red pepper flakes and aromatic Italian bread crumbs, these meatballs are bursting with flavor!
You can make them as large or as small as you want. They can be the main part of a meal or mixed in with your favorite pasta.
Why this homemade meatballs recipe works
- It’s a make-ahead meal. Meatballs freeze easily, or you can keep them in the refrigerator.
- They are easy to customize. Change the size, spiciness, or sweetness with just a few tweaks.
- You can serve them separately. Save the meatballs and smother them in BBQ for a different meal. Add the homemade sauce on top of the ravioli. There are so many options!
What type of meat to use in homemade Italian meatballs
This is the fun part. You can use any type of ground meat that you want!
- Ground beef
- Hot Italian sausage
- Ground veal
Together, they made meatballs that are lower in fat, not as greasy, and have a lot more flavor.
If you use ground chicken or ground turkey, I suggest adding more spices.
If you’re in a rush, you can use store-bought red sauce (which I also do sometimes myself). But, if you have the time to make a sauce from scratch, it’s so fun and rewarding!
Here’s everything you will need to make the meatballs and sauce:
- Ground beef
- Hot Italian sausage
- Ground veal (or lamb)
- Yellow onion
- Parmesan cheese
- Italian bread crumbs
- Fresh parsley
- Red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt & pepper
- Olive oil
Homemade sauce ingredients
- Olive oil
- Anchovy fillets
- Yellow onion
- Garlic cloves
- Dry red wine
- Red pepper flakes
- San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
- Fresh basil leaves
- Dried oregano
How to make homemade meatballs
First, let’s talk meatballs. You can choose your own destiny (the meats) that go into a meatball. Typically you see combinations of beef/lamb/pork/veal, but people have different preferences.
I love spicy, so with my homemade meatballs, I use hot Italian sausage, ground sirloin, and veal.
You can substitute to your preference; just ensure the meat combination comes out to 1.5lbs.
How to form the meatballs
Mix the meat with the rest of the ingredients.
Then, roll the meatballs into your preferred size. I roll mine into about 1 1/2 inch balls, which are perfect for meatball subs, by themselves, over pasta, etc. You can make them smaller but remember, cook time will differ.
Regardless of size, 160F degrees internal temperature to signal they are done.
I put olive oil on my hands prior to rolling so the mixture doesn’t stick to my hands.
Do not overwork the meatballs when mixing/rolling, or they will come out tough and dense.
Cooking the meatballs
I personally prefer to pan-sear my meatballs and then finish them in the sauce. This helps give the meatballs that golden, seared look and helps give it a nice texture!
Some bake the meatballs, then put them in the sauce, or just fully let them cook in the sauce.
After searing the meatballs, I let them finish cooking in the sauce jacuzzi for about 30 minutes. I don’t like them to be dry in the center, so just be mindful when cooking them. (Remember: we are looking for 160F degrees.)
Making the sauce
So how do you get that delicious flavor into your sauce? By searing the meatballs in the dutch oven prior to making the sauce, you have the leftover bits and flavors that are left behind.
This is going to be our starter!
Along with the flavorful bits the homemade meatballs leave behind, I love starting with anchovies (please don’t immediately close the tab, hear me out).
When you put anchovies in hot oil, they dissolve and give your sauce so much umami (flavor bomb!). Please don’t write them off so fast and try it at least once – I promise the sauce doesn’t taste fishy at all!
I use carrots in the sauce, which is not traditional, but I grate them into the sauce for texture. I also grate my garlic, so the max flavor comes out and blends into the sauce.
Next, I break up the San Marzano whole tomatoes as I go.
If you aren’t partial to having a chunky sauce, you can use an immersion blender to thin it out!
How to serve homemade meatballs and sauce
Place your meatballs back into the sauce and allow them to finish cooking. I leave them in for 30 minutes.
While they are cooking, it’s the perfect time to make my homemade garlic bread! This is perfect for scooping up all the delicious sauce.
What are we left with? Flavorful, moist homemade meatballs with a delicious sauce made from scratch. The perfect meal to gather your family around the dinner table with.
Make sure to watch the cooking video!
Love Italian? Check out these other recipes:
- Hot Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers
- Meatball Pasta Bake
- Chicken Milanese
- Baked Chicken Parmesan
- Hot Italian Sausage White Bean Soup
Made this recipe and loved it? Leave a star rating below!
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound hot italian sausage
- 1/2 pound ground veal (or lamb (see note #1))
- 1/3 cup yellow onion (chopped)
- 1/4 cup garlic (minced)
- 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
- 1/4-1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs (start with 1/4, then adjust if mix is too wet)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (can omit if you don’t like spicy)
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt & pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil for pan searing
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 anchovy filets
- 1/4 cup yellow onion (chopped)
- 1 large carrot (grated (about 1/3 cup))
- 6 cloves garlic (grated or pressed (leftover ends put in sauce))
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 56 ounces San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (chopped)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Freshly chopped basil
- Grated Parmesan or ricotta cheese
- Homemade roasted garlic bread
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- In a dutch oven, over medium heat, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and sauté onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add all the meatball ingredients (minus the olive oil). Using your hands mix the meatballs until ingredients are all combined (see note #2 and #3). Form balls with your hands (I usually form mine into 1 1/2in balls) and place aside.
- Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in dutch oven on med/high heat. Add the meatballs and pan sear sides for about 1 minute on each side or until browned. You will have to do this in batches. Set aside on a pan and start the sauce once all the meatballs have been pan seared.
- Leaving the oil in the dutch oven, lower the heat to medium and add the anchovies. Once they are dissolved, add the onions and sauté until they begin to soften about 3-4 minutes. Next, add the grated garlic and carrots to the sauce, let cook another minute. Pour in the red wine and allow the liquid to reduce by half (about 4 minutes).
- Open 2 cans of San Marzano tomatoes and add to the sauce. Mix in the red pepper flakes, oregano, and fresh ground black pepper.
- Using your cooking utensil break up the tomatoes in the sauce and bring to a boil. Once it begins to bubble lower the heat to simmer. If you do not want a chunky sauce you can use an immersion blender or laddle into a heat safe blender. Add the fresh basil, stir the sauce, and add the meatballs.
- Cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Let the sauce and meatballs simmer for 30 minutes. The meatballs should reach an internal temperature of 160F degrees.
- Serve alone, over pasta, as a meatball sub, or with my homemade garlic bread
- Top with additional parmesan cheese, basil, and red pepper flakes
- You can use whatever combo of meat so long as it equals 1.5lbs. (Sirloin/lamb, lamb/pork, all 3, etc.)
- When making the meatballs, put some olive oil on your hands, so the mixture doesn't stick to your hands
- Do not over-mix or overwork the meat when rolling the meatballs. This will result in tough and dense meatballs.
- Use an immersion blender to puree your sauce!