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These meatballs in tomato sauce are the ultimate comfort food! Juicy homemade meatballs are simmered in a thick tomato sauce, then served any way you like. It's an easy recipe that uses simple ingredients, and it's ready in just 35 minutes!
These meatballs in tomato sauce are the best on cold weather nights when you want some easy comfort food at home. They're flavorful and hearty and taste especially delicious served over your favorite pasta noodles.
We use simple methods and simple ingredients to make them, too. We start by adding some olive oil and garlic to a pan, followed by the other sauce ingredients. While it simmers, we use our hands to mix and roll the meatballs. Then we gently add them into the sauce and let it all simmer until the meatballs are cooked through.
It's a dish that freezes really well, so while you're at it, make a double batch; You'll thank yourself later! Leftovers taste great warmed up, or tucked into a meatball sub or sandwich for lunch on the go.
It's easy enough for weeknights and the whole family will love this straightforward take on traditional Italian meatballs in tomato sauce!
Meatballs in tomato sauce ingredients
This recipe is made with simple ingredients that you're likely to find in your kitchen. Heck, you might even save yourself a trip to the grocery store!
Here's what you'll need for the tasty tomato sauce:
- Garlic sauteed in olive oil
- Italian seasoning – we use our homemade Italian seasoning blend but you can use store-bought or a mix of a few Italian herbs like oregano, parsley, and thyme.
- Whole tomatoes – whole tomatoes give this sauce a nice thick texture.
- Honey – to add a bit of sweetness and balance out the acidity from the tomatoes.
- Salt + pepper
This is everything you'll need for the meatballs:
- Ground beef – we use lean ground beef which has less fat but still keeps these meatballs flavorful and juicy.
- Egg – works as a binder to keep everything together.
- Breadcrumbs, quick oats, or almond flour – all three work great for softening the meatballs. We find that quick oats make the softest meatballs, so they're our favorite to use.
- Chicken stock – we usually have some of our homemade chicken stock in the freezer, but you can use store-bought.
- Grated onion – grating the onion is a secret trick we use for meatballs. Grating it into tiny pieces helps it incorporate well into the meatballs for evenly dispersed flavor.
- Parmesan cheese – for a bit of bold cheesy flavor.
- Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper – our homemade Italian seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning.
How to make meatballs in tomato sauce
This meatballs in tomato sauce recipe is actually really easy and quick to make. We simmer the meatballs in the tomato sauce which makes them extra juicy and tender. Plus, it adds flavor to the sauce. Here's how it all comes together in a few simple steps:
- Start by making the sauce. Heat your pan, then add some olive oil, followed by the garlic and Italian seasoning and sauté for just a minute. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer on low.
- Meanwhile, make your meatballs by combining all the meatball ingredients together. Use your hands to incorporate everything really well, then roll into 12 even-sized balls. An ice cream scoop works great for measuring the meatballs!
- Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and cook them for 2 minutes. Carefully turn them over (they're soft!), then cover them with a lid, and continue to cook until they're done (about 15 minutes). Serve the meatballs over your favorite cooked pasta noodles, zucchini noodles, or even tucked into a meatball sandwich!
Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.
How long do you cook raw meatballs in tomato sauce?
For this recipe, we cook them for a total of about 17 minutes. It all depends on the size of your meatballs. To be sure they're cooked, check that they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Can you freeze cooked meatballs in tomato sauce?
Absolutely! This is a great recipe to freeze for quick weeknight meals. Once the meatballs are cooked and cooled, transfer it all to a reusable silicone bag or freezer-safe container.
How long do they keep in the fridge?
They'll keep in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.
Can I make this recipe in a slow cooker?
To make this recipe using a slow cooker, you'll need to start by making the sauce on the stove. Transfer the sauce to your slow cooker, then add the raw meatballs and cook on high for 4-5 hour or on low for 8-10 hours.
How to serve meatballs in tomato sauce
Naturally, these meatballs in tomato sauce pair well with pasta. In the pictures, we serve them over spaghetti noodles, but you can use a shorter noodle like fusilli or penne if you prefer. For a lighter, low-carb meal, serve them over zucchini noodles or baked spaghetti squash.
Or, pile the meatballs into a banquette for a homemade meatball sub.
You can also form these into bite-sized meatballs and serve them on a platter with toothpicks for an easy party appetizer.
They're the perfect addition to any Italian-inspired dinner menu. Just don't forget a glass of red wine to wash them down!
Italian sides that pair well with meatballs in tomato sauce
More meatball recipes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon EACH: salt and pepper
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs, quick oats, or almond flour (see notes)
- ½ cup chicken stock
- ¼ cup grated onion (use the juices)
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon EACH: Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and saute for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, honey, salt, and pepper and simmer the sauce, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Lower the heat if the sauce begins to splatter.1 tablespoon olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon EACH: salt and pepper
- Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands to mix everything together. Divide the meat into 12 portions and roll it into balls.½ cup breadcrumbs, quick oats, or almond flour, ½ cup chicken stock, ¼ cup grated onion, 1 lb lean ground beef, 1 large egg, ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon EACH: Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper
- Place the meatballs into the tomato sauce and let them cook for 2 minutes. Turn them over in the pot then cover the pot with a lid and let them continue to cook for 15 minutes.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.