These Italian meatballs in sauce are tender, packed with flavor, and made with simple ingredients to deliver the best flavor! Serve these over pasta for a hearty, authentic Italian meal!Jump to Recipe
Meatballs in sauce
If you grew up Italian, you know that when there are get-togethers, there will definitely be meatballs in sauce served! Yep, even at Super Bowl parties. They were usually simmering in a slow cooker and were always super tender and juicy. The thought alone is making me drool.
Italian meatballs in sauce is an easy to make dish that you can simmer in the slow cooker, freeze, or serve it up piping hot! This is the perfect meal to prepare ahead of time to save time in the kitchen but still serve up a delicious, healthy meal.
The meatballs are made with three kinds of meats- ground veal, pork, and beef. The meats all have their own flavor and when they are combined.. woah! It’s so delicious and they are insanely tender.
Italian meatball ingredients
- Meat– Ground veal, pork, and beef are used to create the perfect texture of meatballs.
- Eggs- Use eggs to help bind the meatballs together so they are tender, but hold their shape when cut.
- Bread crumbs– Italian bread crumbs are seasoned perfectly and help further season the meatballs.
- Onion– Grated onion is the secret ingredient in these Italian meatballs. Use a grater to grate the onion so it adds liquid back to the meatballs. If you chop the onion, it’ll be harder for the meatballs to bind and they will not be as tender and juicy.
- Garlic– Finely chopped garlic is used in both the meatballs and the sauce, so make sure you grab a couple of bulbs!
- Herbs– Parsley, basil, and oregano really boosts the flavor in this dish!
- Crushed tomatoes– Use your favorite brand of crushed tomatoes to make a quick and delicious sauce for the meatballs to simmer in.
Bring the best flavor forward
There are a few extra steps you can take to make sure these are the best meatballs you have ever had. These steps are not necessary, but they certainly enhance the flavor and texture all around.
- Use 85% lean ground beef. Beef with a higher fat content will produce meatballs with a bolder flavor and they will be juicy!
- Use fresh herbs. Fresh herbs always have more flavor than dried herbs, so use fresh herbs to maximize the flavor!
- Use bread crumbs or milk-soaked bread. You can use either Italian seasoned bread crumbs or you can use sandwich bread that is soaked in milk (to help retain moisture in the meatballs). Both of these ingredients are used in authentic Italian meatball recipes, and both produce the same juicy, tender meatballs.
- Simmer the meatballs in the sauce. If you want to really elevate this dish, bake the meatballs until they are halfway done, then plop them in the sauce and simmer them for an hour (or more!). This is my favorite way of cooking them because the meatballs infuse their delicious flavor with the sauce.
Make Italian meatballs and sauce ahead of time
These meatballs are super easy to make ahead of time to enjoy later on. You can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days.
Bake the meatballs until they are full cooked. Once the meatballs have cooled, place them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge until you are ready to make the sauce.
Once the sauce is simmering, add the meatballs to the sauce and continue to simmer until you are ready to serve. Easy, right?!
Make Italian meatballs in the slow cooker
You can easily make these meatballs into a slow cooker meal! You can place the raw meatballs into the sauce and cook it on low for 6-8 hours, but I prefer to pan sear the meatballs in a cast iron pan before I place them in the crockpot.
Pan searing the meatballs first is not necessary, but it creates a perfect texture on the outside while keeping the inside juicy and tender.
How to make Italian meatballs and sauce
- Make the meatballs. Combine the ground beef, veal, pork, breadcrumbs, grated onion, chopped garlic, parsley, eggs, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Combine the mixture until everything is incorporated well. Roll the mixture into 1 1/2 inch thick meatballs. Place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Bake the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the meatballs in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- Make the sauce. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Sautè the garlic and onion in the olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the fresh parsley, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and the crushed tomatoes. Stir the sauce, then add the meatballs and continue to simmer for at least 20 minutes.
- Serve. You now have to make a tough decision, do you eat these meatballs as is, over pasta, or as a meatball sub? Mangia!
How to freeze meatballs and sauce
You can easily freeze these meatballs and sauce for a later, delicious meal! You can freeze the meatballs and the sauce separatly, or together!
To freeze the meatballs by themselves, allow them to cool after they are done baking. Place them in the freezer in a single layer until they are frozen. Once they are frozen, you can place them in a freezer safe bag or container.
You can freeze the sauce separately by pouring the sauce into a freezer safe container and placing it in the freezer. Make sure the sauce is room temperature before placing it in the freezer. If the sauce is still hot, do not place the lid on the container in the freezer until it is frozen and do not overfill the container.
Freeze the sauce and meatballs together
Place the meatballs and sauce in a freezer safe container once it has cooled. Freeze the meatballs in the sauce and defrost in the microwave before cooking again.
Meatballs in sauce can be stored in the freezer for 3-4 months.
Can you put raw meatballs in sauce
You have two (delicious) choices to choose between. You can absolutely cook raw meatballs in sauce or you can brown the meatballs in a pan, then simmer them to cook them all the way.
These cooking methods are simply personal preferences, browning the meatballs will create a nice crust on the outside of the meatball and will still result in super tender meatballs.
Allowing the meatballs to simmer in the sauce allows the meatball flavor to infuse in the sauce and yields super tender, juicy meatballs.
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Italian Meatballs In Sauce
These Italian meatballs in sauce are tender, packed with flavor, and made with simple ingredients to deliver the best flavor! Serve these over pasta for a hearty, authentic Italian meal!
- 1 lb ground veal
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb ground beef
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 yellow onion grated
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley finely chopped
- 8 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
For the sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 yellow onion finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cracked pepper
- 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
Make the meatballs. Combine the ground beef, veal, pork, breadcrumbs, grated onion, chopped garlic, parsley, eggs, parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Combine the mixture until everything is incorporated well. Roll the mixture into 1 1/2 inch thick meatballs. Place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the meatballs in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Make the sauce. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Sautè the garlic and onion in the olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the fresh parsley, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and the crushed tomatoes. Stir the sauce, then add the meatballs and continue to simmer for at least 20 minutes.
Serve. You now have to make a tough decision, do you eat these meatballs as is, over pasta, or as a meatball sub? Mangia!
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