Meet the juiciest meatballs you will ever eat. These are nothing short of great; crusty and dark brown on the outside, soft and moist on the inside. There are a couple key steps to help with the tenderness. In lieu of breadcrumbs, which can be drying, slices of white bread are soaked in grated onion that expand while the meatballs are cooking. I also used a combo of ground beef and ground pork, egg, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. This recipe for homemade marinara sauce to cook the meatballs in is one of my favorites, and blows any canned sauce out of the water. You end up with meatballs that are as tender as any you’ve ever had, with a sauce that’s rich and thick, packed with intense meaty flavor. All served over your pasta of choice and freshly chopped parsley. Go ahead, have a ball!
Slice the crust off of 2 slices of white bread and cut into small cubes. Using bread (even slightly stale bread), makes the meatballs much softer than using dried breadcrumbs. If you only have breadcrumbs on hand, however, use about 1/2 a cup. Add the bread cubes into a large mixing bowl and grate in 1/2 cup onion. I yielded that amount from about 1/2 an onion. All those juices from the onion will soak into the bread and make these meatballs tender and savory.
Once you’ve given your arm a workout from grating, add in all the rest of the meatball ingredients excluding the olive oil. I like to use ground beef and pork in a 2 to 1 ratio, respectively. It is absolutely fine to use all ground beef to keep things a little simpler, but adding in that slightly fattier pork makes the meatballs even juicier. There’s nothing that blends all those textures together like your hands, so get messy until everything is nicely combined.
Measure out a heaping rounded tablespoonful and plop the mixture down. Repeat until you’ve used up all the meat. Lightly wet your hands and roll each dropping into a ball with the palms of your hands. This method will make things go a little quicker.
Grab the largest skillet you can find and heat it over medium to medium high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and coat the bottom. Add in the meatballs and immediately start shaking the pan to brown on all sides. Avoid prodding the meatballs too much (they’re delicate), but use a spoon to gently flip if needed. Heat for about 5 minutes. You want the meatballs browned but not cooked through. Carefully transfer them to a plate and set aside.
In the same skillet that has now been coated with lots of great juices and flavor, add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the chopped onion and garlic to start the tomato sauce. Saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add in the remaining sauce ingredients. Stir and bring to a steady simmer, then reduce the heat so it bubbles gently rather than splattering everywhere. If you cannot find tomato passata, which is just pureed tomatoes, then buy a can of tomatoes and puree them yourself, or just use canned crushed tomatoes. If you do use crushed tomatoes, however, allow yourself another 10-15 minutes of cooking time. They take a little longer to break down into a tomato sauce.
Alter the spices to your preference. Double the amount of red pepper flakes, for instance, if you’d like a kick. For Italian seasoning, I like to use 1 teaspoon of each- oregano, basil, and thyme. And you might as well thrown in some parsley since you’re using it in the meatballs anyway.
Without splattering yourself or your walls, gently place the meatballs and their juices into the sauce. Let them cook for 10 minutes, stirring and flipping occasionally. Taste test the sauce to adjust any seasonings.
While the meatballs are cooking, prepare your pasta of choice. I’m a big fan of classic spaghetti and meatballs, especially thin spaghetti.
Serve these juicy Italian meatballs and sauce over the pasta, garnished with some extra freshly grated Parmesan and parsley.