Meatballs cooked in rich tomato sauce

Meatballs in rich tomato sauce

“Another meatball recipe?” I hear you say. Yes. Another one. Look, I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I love a good meatball. I’m always trying new ways of cooking them, different flavour combinations and always trying to make them even better. Well, my friends. I have succeeded. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever need another meatball recipe after making these.

Meatballs in rich tomato sauce

I decided to use a lot of herbs (A LOT) and very little other flavourings. I stayed away completely from any spices and simply let the herbs and beef do the talking. I also added some finely grated Pecorino which wasn’t an obvious flavour but definitely added a lovely depth which is only achievable if you add cheese to something. The stand-out quality of these meatballs however is the fact that they are so unbelievably tender and juicy. This is due to an old trick my gran taught me. You soak regular ol’ white bread in a little milk until all the milk has been absorbed and then add both the bread and the milk to the beef. My oh my does it make a big difference. Also keep in mind that you can be very generous with salt and pepper in any meatball or hamburger patty recipe. It needs it. And before I form the meatballs, I always fry a teaspoon full of the mixture in a hot pan just to make sure the seasoning is perfect.

Meatballs in rich tomato sauce

I first browned the meatballs in a hot frying pan to seal in all the deliciousness and then poached them in a very rich tomato sauce. The end result was absolutely to die for. I served the meatballs and tomato sauce over al dente bucatini but this would be great over polenta, mashed potatoes or simply just crusty bread to mop up all the rich tomato juices.

Meatballs in rich tomato sauce

Meatballs in rich tomato sauce

Meatballs cooked in rich tomato sauce

4.70 from 10 votes
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Course: Dinner, Italian, Meatballs
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Author: Alida Ryder
Servings: 4 -6


for the meatballs

  • 500 g beef mince
  • 1 small red onion peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • 2 large handfuls fresh herbs of your choice I used Italian parsley, basil, thyme and oregano
  • 2 slices white bread crusts removed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup approximately 50g pecorino, finely grated
  • salt & pepper to serve

for the tomato sauce

  • 1 large red onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 500 g ripe tomatoes chopped (alternatively use a can of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 cup passata tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 teaspoon sugar optional
  • salt & pepper to taste

to serve

  • bucatini or pasta of your choice, cooked
  • grated Pecorino/Parmesan
  • fresh basil leaves


  • To make the meatballs, place the beef in a bowl.
  • In a small food processor (or by hand), finely chop the herbs, onion and garlic.
  • Add the herb mixture to the beef.
  • In a small bowl, soak the bread in just enough milk to completely saturate the bread.
  • Add the soaked bread to the beef and onion mixture then add the cheese and season to taste.
  • Mix well and form golf-ball sized meatballs.
  • In a large frying pan, fry the meatballs in a splash of oil until browned all over. Set aside.
  • To make the sauce, fry the onion in a splash of oil in a saucepan until soft and translucent.
  • Add the garlic and fry for another 30 seconds.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and allow to come up to a simmer.
  • Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes uncovered.
  • Place the meatballs in the tomato sauce and allow to simmer gently for another 10-15 minutes until the meatballs are cooked to your liking.
  • Serve with cooked pasta garnished with a good grating of Pecorino and a few fresh basil leaves.


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  1. I’ve made these meatballs numerous times and they always put a smile on my family’s face, plus lots of verbal reactions!
    Such as; “oooh, yummy, yummy and delicious” 😂🤣 thanks Alida 🩷 your recipes never fail and they are honestly ‘simply-delicious’!

  2. I made the meatballs with fresh coriander, basil and parsley. I also substituted the rosemary with basil because my mom doesn’t like rosemary. Everyone loved it it was absolutely delicious. Thank you so much for making your recipes available to us.

  3. Sooooo good! I left ditched the pasta and served it with homemade rustic rosemary/garlic bread as the carbs and a green salad, and it may be the best thing I’ve ever cooked… (I also substituted my mom’s homemade whole wheat bread for the white bread since it’s the only kind we have in our house ;P)

  4. I swear!!!! You can make EVERYTHING looks SO YUMMY!!!!
    I don’t care it is another meatball recipe, I LOVE.. I LOVE 😀