The BEST Authentic Italian Meatballs (with sauce recipe!)

Best meatball recipe cooked in sauce

These authentic Italian meatballs are so juicy and tasty, topped with a rich and delicious homemade pasta sauce. This is a recipe passed down by my Italian grandmother with a few tweaks here and there to make it EVEN better! This is really the only recipe you WILL NEED for both meatballs and sauce! Trust me.

Meatballs in sauce on a bed of spaghetti.

There is REALLY nothing better than juicy, tender and tasty meatballs covered in a delicious sauce with your favorite macaroni on a Sunday night! Or any night of the week, really, but I usually make this recipe on Sundays for my family for a special treat! This will be your new favorite Sunday sauce recipe.

Do you call it salsa or salsa? I honestly call it both depending on the situation or who I’m talking to, but I gravitate more towards salsa because that’s what my family has always called it. It’s practically etched into my brain to be called salsa. Sauce or sauce, who cares. It is a DELICIOUS sauce recipe. Hehe.

Meatball half bitten to reveal tender inside on a fork.

Why this is the best authentic Italian meatball recipe with sauce:

  • The meatballs come out SO soft and SO tender. There is nothing worse than struggling to cut a meatball with your fork. You want them to be soft so your fork just pushes through!
  • The best advice I have is to cook them until they are ALMOST well cooked. You want them to remain a little pink in the center when they’re ready because they’ll finish cooking in the sauce and be ultra tender
  • !

  • My meatballs have a combination of beef, pork and beef to ENSURE optimal tenderness! You can buy 1 pound of all three or you can cheat and buy 3 pounds of dumpling mix at your local supermarket. Sometimes I do this!
  • Both the dumplings and the sauce are anything but tasteless! I’ve been perfecting these recipes for so long that I KNOW you’re going to love it as is. However, with all recipes, play with the amount of seasonings to suit your personal taste and use my seasoning options as a guide to make YOUR perfect recipe. However, I guarantee you won’t change anything!
    • In my sauce, I always like to add a mixture of hot and sweet sausage to get even more flavor! This is optional, but it really adds another layer of flavor that we love and are delicious to eat along with the dumplings.

Italian meatball ingredients

  • Ground beef: Do not exceed 80-85% lean. You want some fat to keep the meatballs juicy and tender.
  • Ground pork: Provides the necessary fat for the most tender and juicy meatballs.
  • Ground Veal: Adds delicious flavor and an almost creamy texture to meatballs. Sometimes ground beef is hard to find, so you can also use a beef and pork mixture with great results. However, I recommend buying a meatloaf/meatball mix at the store, if you can’t find ground beef! Same delicious results.
  • Egg yolks

  • : I only use egg yolks in my recipe to produce maximum richness and flavor. Using whole eggs can make meatballs rubbery and whites really don’t have any benefit for meatballs.
  • Salt and pepper: To give it flavor. I make sure my meatballs are very well seasoned. You can adjust these measures to your liking.
  • Garlic powder

  • : Using garlic powder over chopped fresh garlic is just a personal preference of mine. You can absolutely substitute fresh garlic if you wish. I just don’t like the garlic chunks in my dumplings, but maybe you do!
  • Basil: Basil Lotssssa for flavor.
  • Parsley: Parsley Lotssssa for flavor.
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs: I like to use them for… you guessed it, extra flavor!
  • Whole milk: I recommend using whole milk for wealth, but you can also use 2%.

Meatball recipe tips:

  • If for some reason you can’t find one of the ground meats, you can buy meatloaf mix at the store, which is a mixture of all three. Sometimes I do this in a hurry and they come out the same. Sometimes ground beef is hard to find, so you can also use a beef and pork mixture with great results.
  • Make sure you don’t overwork the dumpling mix! This can make meatballs hard.
  • To ensure tender and SOFT meatballs, you can’t make your meatball mix have an almost moist texture. If the mixture feels too dry, add one more tablespoon of milk at a time to make sure it’s moist enough.
  • I like to use a tablespoon of cookies, to distribute my meatballs. I will normally use 1 1/2 tablespoons of my tablespoon of cookies. You can also use a scoop of ice cream to make large dumplings. Make them the size you want! Just make sure they are all close to the same size so that they cook evenly.
  • Be sure to flip the dumplings as soon as you see the bottoms browning so they don’t burn. If they brown more than desired, don’t panic too much because they should be fine and will soften a lot while simmering in the sauce afterwards.
  • Lightly grease your hands while forming meatballs to make it easier.

How to Make the Best Meatballs

  1. Add all the meatball ingredients to a large bowl
  2. .

  3. Mix until well incorporated. Add more milk as needed. You want the mixture to be moist and flexible to make sure you will have soft, tender meatballs.
  4. Roll into 1-2″ balls and place them on a prepared baking sheet. For ease, lightly grease your hands with cooking oil to roll them up.
  5. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, flipping halfway to ensure all sides brown evenly. If you are making sauce, add meatballs to the sauce immediately out of the oven.

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    sauce ingredients Olive oil:

  • Use extra virgin olive oil to brown meats and onions for the best flavor results
  • .

  • Onion: To give it
  • flavor.

  • Garlic: Chopped fresh garlic is best. You can never get enough garlic!
  • Basil, parsley, oregano: Spices that give so much flavor to this sauce. Play with the measurements, if you want.
  • Salt and pepper: For the taste. Use your personal taste to measure how much you want to use. I believe that the measures I have provided are the right amount.
  • Sugar: I use a small amount of granulated sugar in my salsa recipe to counteract the acidity of tomatoes. It makes a big difference, don’t skip it!
  • Crushed tomatoes: I think the texture and taste of crushed tomatoes give the best of both worlds. It’s thick and soft at the same time! The brand matters here too! Tuttorosso is my absolute favorite and the only brand I will buy!
  • Additional meats to add to the sauce:
    • Sausages: Hot or sweet sausages are great choices. I always use a mixture of both. I never, ever skip the sausage! It gives SO much flavor to the sauce that otherwise I wouldn’t be there without it. If you think your salsa recipe is missing that “something,” I bet this is.
    • Pork: Pork chops on the bone are my favorite to use. Discard bones before serving.
    • Beef ribs: Another delicious option. Be sure to discard bones before serving.

Baking or frying meatballs?

You can prepare them either way! In fact, I prefer to fry my meatballs (mainly because I love to eat the golden dumplings while cooking! Ha) but most of the time I’m pressed for time and they come out just as tender and delicious with A LOT less effort when putting them on a bordered baking sheet and baking them, so that’s what I do 99% of the time. Plus, this recipe makes a bunch of dumplings, so you’d fry them forever!

  • If you want to fry, simply fill a heavy pan with a small layer of olive oil and fry each side until golden brown. Put them in the sauce over low heat to cook to the end for 45 minutes-2 hours.
Pan-baked dumplings.

Freezing and reheating instructions

  • To freeze raw: Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet. Put the pan in the freezer to freeze quickly. Once frozen, remove from the baking sheet and put the dumplings in a large resealable freezer bag. They will remain for up to 3 months. To defrost: Remove from freezer and place meatballs on a bordered baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight. Bake as directed in the recipe instructions the next day.
  • To freeze cooked: Prepare and cook the meatballs. Store in a resealable bag for up to 3 months. You can also freeze the sauce with the meatballs! Pour the meatballs and sauce into a large resealable bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To defrost: Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and pour the mixture into a large pot to heat the next day.

What to do with leftover dumplings

  • Simply reheat in the microwave or on the stove and eat the food again for up to 3 days!

Make dumpling subs:

  • These dumplings are the best dumpling subs!
    • To prepare: Line your sub roll with meatballs and top with a good amount of mozzarella and/or provolone cheese. The trick is to make sure the cheese is around the dumplings, not just sprinkled on top. Roast them in the oven for a few minutes and serve.
  • Meatballs: Grease a casserole dish and fill it with leftover meatballs. Top with sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake @ 375 for 20-25 minutes or until heated and cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve on pasta or however you want.
Meatballs on a bed of spaghetti with grated cheese sprinkled on top.

What can I add to my sauce to make it more filling and tasty?

  • Sausage: You can use hot or sweet sausage or a mixture of both. Cut them and brown at first with the onion. They will be cooked in the sauce.
  • Pork: You can really use any type of pork you want. Sometimes I have pork chops that I have to use and I put them in my sauce, close them in the same step mentioned above and cook them until they melt tender in the sauce. Just be sure to remove the bones before serving!
  • Beef ribs: Seal them, like the previous ones, and cook them in the sauce.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think next! I would greatly appreciate it if you would leave a star rating and/or comment. Also, don’t forget to share a photo of your delicious finished recipe on Instagram or Facebook and give me a tag for me to see!

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If you loved this recipe, you’ll love it Culinary specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry.

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