Italian Meatballs with Marinara

Italian Meatballs with Marinara - a delicious, classic recipe that always brings rave reviews!

Do you have any recipes that are always a huge hit?

You know the kind. The family consistently requests these favorites for special occasions.  Friends are excited all day when they’re on the menu. And at the dinner table, all you hear is mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm…

I’ve got a few of these winners, and this recipe for Italian Meat Balls with Marinara is right near the top of the list. I’ve been making this Italian classic for over 25 years, (see the recipe for tricks I’ve learned after many repeat performances) and it never fails to bring rave reviews and requests for second (or third!) helpings.

Italian Meatballs with Marinara - a delicious, classic recipe that always brings rave reviews!

A while back, our daughter, Cait, shared a post on The Café, featuring this Best Ever Marinara Sauce that I always use with these meatballs . Simmered for hours, it’s thick, rich red and loaded with amazing flavor. It’s fabulous on it’s own, and can be used for just about any Italian dish that calls for a red sauce. It’s perfect for manicotti, lasagna, eggplant Parmigiana and more, but our favorite way to serve it is combined with these wonderful Italian meatballs.

Cait uses this sauce to make a fabulous Chicken Caprese, with boneless chicken breasts. She just buries them in a pan of this flavorful marinara and adds a topping of fresh mozzarella. After a short stint in the oven, (perfectly cooking the chicken and melting the cheese) she adds a scatter of fresh basil. It’s an easy and delicious dinner.

Italian Meatballs with Marinara - a delicious, classic recipe that always brings rave reviews!

The cast of characters is what makes these meatballs so delicious; lean ground beef, Italian sausage, fresh bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley, garlic, basil and oregano.

Making meatballs, a few tricks.

After mixing and shaping into balls, (I use plastic gloves*** to mix the ingredients and an ice cream scoop to scoop up the meat mixture), the meatballs are baked until golden, then finished with a brief simmer in the flavorful marinara.

Making meatballs, a few tricks.

Making meatballs, a few tricks.

This is not a 30-minute meal recipe, but it’s great for a stay-at-home day. While you’re busy with other tasks, the amazing sauce will simmer away, filling your home with the aroma of a delicious, authentic Italian Ristorante.

Making meatballs, a few tricks.

Often, I double the meatball recipe and, after adding them to the marinara, freeze meal-size portions. On busy days or when I’m expecting guests, I’ll pull a container or two out of the freezer early in the day. We have a fabulous dinner that evening, with minimal effort for me.

In addition to serving over pasta, these tasty meatballs make the best sandwiches, piled into crisp baguettes and topped with melted fresh mozzarella. I’ve also served them in pocket pitas and as a fun topping for pizzas.

This is a keeper-recipe, for sure. Try it, I have a feeling it will become one of your favorites that’s requested again and again!


Italian Meatballs with Marinara

Italian Meatballs and Marinara - a delicious,l classic recipe that always brings rave reviews!

5 from 10 reviews

A delicious, classic Italian favorite. This recipe always brings rave reviews!

  • Author:
  • Yield: Makes 18 1/4 cup size meatballs
  • Category: Main
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • 1½ pounds ground beef, lean
  • ½ lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs*, see note below
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dry basil
  • 1- 1 ½ teaspoons salt** see note below
  • ½ teaspoon pepper, fresh ground
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Best Ever Marinara Sauce


  1. Combine all ingredients except oil in a large bowl. Mix with your hands until well combined**.
  2. Form mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. (An ice cream scooper works great to scoop up the meat.)
  3. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Place meatballs on a sheet pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil to save on clean up. Drizzle oil over meatballs and turn to coat. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until lightly browned (parmesan cheese will be oozing a bit. Remove and let drain on paper towels.
  4. Add to Best Ever Marinara Sauce and simmer for 20 minutes.


*I like to use a good quality baguette for this (The bread doesn’t have to be super fresh, a bit stale is fine). I just break it in pieces and use some long pulses in food processor till the crumbs are fairly small. About 1/4 of an average size baguette will yield 1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs. You can also use (the same quantity of) dried bread crumbs but the meatballs will be a bit more dense.
** It can be difficult to get the right amount of saltiness in meatballs. Everyone’s taste is different and each brand of Italian sausage is different in salt content. I like to start with a smaller amount. of salt After I have all the ingredients mixed together, I form a small ball (about 1/2 inch in diameter). I fold a paper towel in quarters and wrap the little meatball inside. A 20-30 second stint in the microwave is all it takes to cook the meatball. I let it cool a bit then taste it to see if it more salt is needed.
*** It’s difficult to mix up meatballs unless you use your hands. I always hated the mess and my hands got so cold. I decided to try using dishwashing gloves and keep a pair just for making meatballs (I mark them with a laundry marker just to make sure they’re not used for anything else. When I’m done, I wash my hands (with the gloves on) with lots of soap and rub till they’re squeaky clean. I dry my (gloved) hands well with a paper towel and store the gloves in a zippered plastic bag till my next meatball adventure.


44 thoughts on “Italian Meatballs with Marinara”

  • I made those tonight. My husband just told me these are “the best meatballs” I have ever made. (I have made a lot of meatballs in our 16 year marriage.) All the others got a “It’s all right”. I did change my meat up. Ground turkey ground turkey sausage. Almond flour (because of my high blood sugar) and an extra egg because almond flour absorbs more moisture than regular bread crumbs. Be said these were so “light and flavorful” These is high praise from a picky eater who groans when I say I’m trying something new.

  • I am dying to try this recipe for my son coming home from college soon! Do you add the sausage to the Marinara sauce if you are serving with the Italian meatballs? In the picture, it is hard to tell. Beautiful website! You must be passionate about good food.

    • Hi Amy,

      The sausage adds wonderful flavor to the sauce, especially as it browns and creates a bit of a “frond” on the bottom of the pan which is absorbed when you make the sauce. You can either use the sausage with the meatballs, which is what I do or you can leave them whole and use them for Italian sausage sandwiches. Both are wonderful. I went back and tried to clarify this in the recipe. Thanks for asking!

  • I think the meatball recipe sounds fabulous, but because of an allergy I can’t use cheese in the recipe. Do you suggest increasing the bread crumbs to make up the difference? Thank you. I want to make this for my grandkids!

  • yummmm. Your website is wonderful! All your dishes look amazing and your writing is delightful. too!
    I’m so happy I found you and cannot wait to cook some of these recipes.

  • I am making this as I type. We are in the last hour of cooking. My three children are dying for dinner to get here because the house smells so good. My daughter used the term ‘heavenly’ (she’s 12). The hack with the dish gloves has really changed my life–thanks for that!

  • It is definitely one of my favourites as well Chris. I think spaghetti and meatballs was one of the first dishes that ever came out of my own kitchen back in the day. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  • I just made these tonight for dinner and they were AMAZING! Hands down best meatballs I have made and had yet. Thanks!

  • I tried your Italian Meatball and the Best Ever Marinara Sauce today and we loved both! My husband and son loved the meatballs – they were delicious just by themselves. The taste and texture of the meatballs was perfect! Thanks for always having recipes that inspire me and that I can trust will be delicious.

  • Meatballs and Spaghetti have been one of my favorites since I was a child.! I love baking the meatballs instead of frying as my mom did….nice combination of ingredients….

  • These meatballs are making me so hungry – I wish I could eat them right now! I hate touching raw meat with hands too! Because then I feel like I can never wash out the greasiness and my hands continue to smell like meat for a while, LOL! I’ve started using very fine plastic bags on my hands whenever I make beef patties or anything that has to do with touching meat.

  • What a great recipe. So clever to have some in the freezer. I am trying these as soon as our weather cools down. Pretty hot here yet. We had a restaurant here that served meatball sandwiches – on a bun that looked like a hotdog bun, topped with mozz cheese and kissed under the broiler. To die for. I’m getting hungry.

    Scott, great pics. Your probably tired of hearing it, but really it seems you could reach right out and touch the food. Better than magazine photos.


  • I remember these delicious meatballs one Christmas – so sorry I didn’t get to catch the gloves
    that help shape them —– and your:)

  • Dear Chris, looking at your amazing Italian Meatballs with Marinara Sauce recipe – I think I will send my whole gang over to your place for lunch today – this look amazingly delicious, dear friend! I would like a huuge portion right now and it is not even 9 a.m. yet.
    Liebe Grüsse,

  • In one of your pictures, it looks like you put the spaghetti on top of the sauce. I actually think this is a good idea even if I am not seeing right.. This way, the spaghetti does not get loaded with too much sauce.

  • I am picky meatball… I have eaten many but only a few I can say I enjoyed… I am ready to try yours! I am crazy for pasta. Just the name makes me smile large.
    The showcase of the 2 dishes in one single bowl was clever because one can see very well both the pasta and meatballs… They are not all mixed together.

      • Thanks..i thought about 20 judging by the all made pic..Forgot to say..Love the gloves..I wear the ones in bulk..disposable..I hate touching meat ..weird n’est-ce- pas?
        So I will double..
        You are a delightful perfectionist..Pre testing the meatballs in the micro is NIckel..(I have been using this word a means perfection in France)..

  • Chris your post is so time appropriate..we have one pot of my frozen sauce left and I am making a huge recipe this weekend..with meatballs..I have made Mama’s meatballs..:) Papas meatballs..countless ones and had pinned some recently..I like to try different ones..
    I have so much wonderful fresh basil and garlic..I have to make it all this w/e..

    So guess what?
    Mais oui..will try yours this weekend..PRINT and PIN..
    Thank you~

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