Italian Meatballs In Tomato Sauce {Baked or Pan-Fried}
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The Best Italian Meatballs In Rich Tomato Sauce

There is nothing you wouldn’t love about this classic Italian Meatballs. Soft, juicy bite-size nuggets cooked to perfection in rich tomato sauce.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4



  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 shallot , grated or finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 small eggs or 1 medium/large
  • cup Parmesan cheese , grated
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ cup milk + more if needed
  • Salt , pepper to taste

Tomato Sauce:


Prepare meatball mixture

  • In a large bowl add ground beef and crumble it with a wooden spoon or simply using your fingers.
  • Add finely chopped shallot. I like to use a microplane grater as it extracts all the juices to go with the meat and minces the shallot really well.
  • Add ground nutmeg, breadcrumbs, egg(s) and Parmesan cheese.
  • Mix everything well with your hands.
  • Slowly pour in the milk. Mix again until smooth and even texture.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • If the mixture feels too dry add some more milk, if way too soft, almost liquid-y - add more breadcrumbs.
  • An ideal meatball mix should be moist, easy to roll in your hands and hold the shape.

Roll and cook meatballs

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Pinch of about an ounce of meat and roll it between the palms of your hands giving it a smooth round shape with no cracks.
  • With an ounce of meat you’ll have medium size meatballs, think walnut size.
  • Of course you can make your meatballs smaller or bigger, depending your preference.
  • Place rolled meatballs on a baking sheet (see notes!).
    Line with parchment paper to avoid extra cleaning.
    Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Cook meatballs in tomato sauce

  • In a large skillet pan add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Add baked meatballs, tomato pure (clean the can/bottle with about a quarter cup water and add to the sauce).
  • Add garlic cloves crushed with a flat knife, handful of fresh basil leaves and generous drizzle of dried oregano.
  • Bring to simmer and cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes.


Can I fry meatballs instead of baking them?
Yes, you can! Fry meatballs in extra virgin olive oil or a mix of butter and extra virgin olive oil. Then add the tomato sauce and proceed with the last steps of this recipe.
Can I freeze meatballs?
YES, you can! Freeze them on a tray after baking in the oven, then transfer in a freezer bag. When needed remove from the freezer and cook in the sauce as described in the recipe (no need to defrost).