This homemade meatball recipe has been passed down in my family. Using a combination of beef, hot Italian sausage, and veal, then packed with herbs and aromatics. These meatballs are pan seared in the dutch oven and then finished in an easy made from scratch red sauce.
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.
If you’re in a rush you can use store bought red sauce (which I also do myself), but if you have the time to make a sauce from scratch it’s so fun and rewarding!
First, lets talk meatballs. So here is where you can choose your own destiny a.k.a. 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 meatballs, I use hot Italian sausage, ground sirloin, and veal. You can substitute whatever floats your boat, we are just looking for a meat combo that comes out to 1.5lbs.
Second, let’s talk size because size does matter when it comes to meatballs. 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, we are looking for 160 degrees F internal temperature to signal they are done. Also, I put olive oil on my hands prior to rolling so the mixture doesn’t stick to my hands.
Cooking the meatballs
Third, we have the most controversial meatball topic, cooking style.
I personally prefer to pan sear my meatballs and then I finish them in the sauce. Some bake the meatballs and 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 that 160 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 our starter.
Along with the flavorful bits the 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 aka 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 also 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 it blends into the sauce. Next, I break up the san marzano whole tomatoes as I go, but if you aren’t partial to having a chunky sauce you can use an immersion blender to thin it out.
Finishing the dish
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 meatballs with a delicious homemade sauce. The perfect meal to gather your family around the dinner table with. Make sure to watch the cooking video below!
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Meatballs & Homemade Sauce
Juicy homemade meatballs with flavorful red sauce made from scratch
- Prep Time: 30 min
- Cook Time: 30 min
- Total Time: 1 hr
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1/2lb ground sirloin
- 1/2lb hot italian sausage (or regular ground pork)
- 1/2lb ground veal (or lamb, or can omit veal, just make sure all meat=1.5lbs together)
- 1/3 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup garlic, minced
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup parmesean cheese
- 1/4–1/3 cup italian bread crumbs (start with 1/4, adjust if need more binding)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt & pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil for pan searing
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 anchovy filets
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 6 garlic cloves, grated (leftover ends put in sauce)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2–28 ounce san marzano whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- In the 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 1/2 cup olive oil). Using your hands mix the meatballs until ingredients are all combined. Form balls with your hands (I usually form mine into 1 1/2in balls) and place aside.
- Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in dutch oven on med/high heat. Add the meatballs and pan sear 2 sides for about 1 minute on each side. I did it in two 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, add the anchovies. Once they are dissolved, add the onions and sauté until they begin to soften about 3-4 minutes. Then add the grated garlic and carrots to the sauce, let cook another minute. Open 2 cans of san marzano tomatoes and add to the sauce. Mix in the sugar, 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. Now is the time if you do not want a chunky sauce to use the immersion blender. Then add the fresh basil, stir the sauce, and add the meatballs.
- Let the sauce and meatballs simmer for 30 minutes. The meatballs should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
- Serve alone, over pasta, as a meatball sub, or with 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
Keywords: meatballs, red sauce, homemade sauce, hot italian sausage, beef, veal