Easy Eats

Meet the Meatballs

We had friends over yesterday to watch some football. Go Lions! (Nittany not Detroit obv.) Anyway, a good hearty appetizer was essential. I thought I would make something that is great in the Fall – especially with a cold beer: real meatballs. None of that frozen bagged stuff. These are serious.

But before we get to the meatballs, let’s make the sauce. I decided to make a very simple tomato sauce – basically a marinara. Of course, there are approximately 5 dozen different sauces you could serve with these. But let’s assume you want to be like me.

Onions swimming in oil.

Onions swimming in oil.

40 meatballs
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...


Basic Meatballs and Sauce


2 pounds ground lean beef
4 slices white bread
1 cup milk
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

The Sauce

1/2 white onion, chopped
28 oz. canned tomatoes
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Clove of garlic.
Fresh basil
Print Recipe  


1) For sauce, add the onions to the oil and saute for just a few minutes. You don’t want them to caramelize (turn brown). Throw in the garlic (chopped) after a few minutes too. Then you want to put in all of the tomatoes (chopped also if you didn’t buy them chopped).

2) Cook down over medium-low heat and season with salt and pepper and dry or fresh basil. I prefer fresh if you can get it. If you use fresh, add it right at the end. Simmer sauce for at least 30 minutes, but probably close to an hour.

3) For meatballs, soak bread in milk. Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl using your hands.

4) Shape meatballs into 1-inch balls. You should get about 40.

5) Bake meatballs at 400 degrees F. for about 12 minutes. Turn them once as they cook.

6) Serve meatballs as an appetizer with the sauce to dip in. You could also serve the meatballs over pasta!

You want to start by adding the onions to the oil and sauteeing for just a few minutes. You don’t want them to caramelize (turn brown). Throw in the garlic (chopped) after a few minutes too. Then you want to put in all of the tomatoes (chopped also if you didn’t buy them chopped).

Tomatoes join the party.

Tomatoes join the party.

You could use fresh tomatoes for this, but the canned work just fine. Also you have to make some judgement calls which I cannot make for you. Do you want a chunky sauce or a smooth sauce? Do you want it thick or a bit runny? I went with a thick, chunky sauce which in hindsight may have been too thick to actually use as a dip for meatballs. If you want it thinner, don’t cook it as long. If you want it smoother, chop the tomatoes finer. This isn’t rocket science.

One note: I probably should have taken the seeds out of the tomatoes. I forgot. Nobody called me out on it because it isn’t that important. Probably more important if you are using this as a pasta sauce.

In any event, you want to cook this down pretty substantially. If you are using dry basil add it at the beginning. Fresh basil you add at the end.

Simmer it down.

Simmer it down.

After about an hour, I ended up with like 2 cups of sauce.

The sauce is done.

The sauce is done.

Ok. That’s done. Let’s talk about the meatballs.

So let the bread soak up all the milk. Takes just a few minutes.

That bread can soak up a lot of milk.

That bread was thirsty.

The next step is easy. Just mix everything together in a bowl. Use your hands. It’s fun! The only note is to wring out the bread before you add it. You don’t want all of that milk to come along to the mix. Just what the bread can hold.

After you mix for a few minutes, just roll out little one inch balls. You can see that my recipe above makes about 40 meatballs. That’s a lot.

I like to make them all at once. These are ready to go.

I like to make them all at once. These are ready to go.

You can cook these a number of ways. You can bake them for about 12 minutes at 400 degrees. Turn them a few times throughout. You can cook them on the stove top in some oil turning a few times. Probably only takes 8 minutes to cook them that way.

I read from this book that you can even boil them but I didn’t want to try that. I went with the baking method.

Meet the meatballs!

This was a really great appetizer for a football game. Although I do think the sauce was maybe a bit too chunky and thick. That’s easy to adjust. And that is what’s important about cooking. It is rare that you will get everything right when trying something new. But that’s what it is about. It’s about making some small mistakes and realizing that it doesn’t ruin your meal.

Good food will stay good food even if it isn’t perfect food. Once you realize that you will be well on your way to getting some Macheesmo. If you have leftovers from this meal, that is fine. You have the ingredients to a perfect spaghetti and meatballs.

2 comments on “Meet the Meatballs

  1. Your Aunt Rita said you were brilliant, she was right. What a nice dinner with fresh baked 22 hour bread and a salad. Thanks!

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