Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

by Jan 14, 2016


Can we talk about San Marzano tomatoes?  Wow!  This sauce!  Simple ingredients, yet so rich and smooth.  (Perhaps simmering with 2 pounds of beef and pork had some influence…)  Don’t think about that.  If you’re a meat eater, you’ve got to try these.


Making the sauce and mixing the meatballs took me about 45 minutes, and at that point, into the oven for 30 minutes.    I served with Rustichella d’Abbruzo fettuccine and fresh Parm, but Dan Holzman, the chef behind the original recipe, serves his meatballs and sauce with potatoes. (Potatoes?!  Who would have thought?  He does own NYC’s Meatball Shop, so he probably knows what he’s talking about.)  Recipe printed in November 2015, Food and Wine magazine.


Leftovers?  Don’t bother with the freezer, you’re going to be dreaming about these meatballs until you get to eat them again.  Refrigerator will do just fine.


Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Yield: 6 - 8 servings


    Tomato Sauce
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into ¾ inch thick rounds
  • 3 garlic cloves, peel and crushed with the edge of your knife
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 28-oz. cans whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried red chile flakes
  • Meatballs
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ½ cup minced yellow onion
  • ½ cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs (plain, not seasoned)
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (1 oz.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground fennel or fennel pollen
  • ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
  • for serving: freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pasta (or potatoes!)


    Make the tomato sauce
  1. In a large dutch oven (or other large ovenproof pot with lid), heat the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic, and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until lightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the bay leaf, oregano, tomatoes, salt, and red chile flakes, and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix by hand until well incorporated. Using a large ice cream scoop (2 - 3 tablespoons), scoop 24 meatballs and roll into neat balls.
  3. Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and put pot in the oven to cook the meatballs until done (165 degrees F internal temperature of a meatball), about 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Serve the meatballs and sauce with pasta or potatoes, like Dan. Freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano is always nice.

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