Recipe: Totally Tender Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

updated Jan 29, 2020
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

On a cold night, there’s nothing quite like a plate of hot, tender meatballs in tomato sauce. They’re pure comfort food. Here’s our go-to recipe for tender, flavorful meatballs with garlic, rosemary, and onion — broiled until brown and crunchy on the outside, then simmered in a tangy tomato sauce.

Meatballs are a little time-consuming; all that rolling! So when we make meatballs we make a lot of them and either have them four days in a row, or freeze them. Broiled meatballs like these are great straight from the freezer; just warm up in a little simmering tomato sauce. They’re a great freezer-to-table meal!

Also, you probably don’t need us to tell you that meatballs should really be made with the best meat you can find. If you can grind your own — great. If not, go to a reputable farm that slaughters their own meat, or to Whole Foods, where they grind it fresh. Ask a lot of questions about the meat: when it was ground, what parts are in it, and so forth. In this day and age of E. coli you really can’t be careful enough.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Totally Tender Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
serves 8-10

2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground lamb
2 onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup flour

Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 28-ounce cans peeled plum tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix together the beef, pork, and lamb. In a small food processor or chopper, blend the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and rosemary until it’s a fine paste. Knead thoroughly into the meat, then stir in the eggs and flour. At this point the meat mixture can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

Scoop the meat with a tablespoon or melon baller, and roll the meat into 1-inch balls. Place on two large baking sheets. (You’ll have about 60 meatballs.)

Heat oven to broil. Cook the meatballs on baking sheets for 20 minutes or until brown on top and just slightly pink in the middle. Turn once while broiling.

Meanwhile, heat a large deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and minced garlic. Cook the garlic until golden and fragrant — about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, crushing them with a spoon or your hands as you add them.

Add the bay leaf and balsamic vinegar and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook until slightly reduced and then taste and add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked meatballs and simmer on low until ready to serve.

Related: Meat/Un-Meat: Meatballs for Everyone

(Images: Faith Durand)