ITALIAN MEATBALLS AND SAUCE


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Growing up I used to help my mom make meatballs all the time. Spaghetti and meatballs was a regular dish in my house and always a favorite of mine. This recipe is my own take on the meatballs, inspired by my mom’s recipe. Nice and browned on the outside, flavorful on the inside and nuzzled into my easy homemade sauce recipe for the best comfort food. Give it a try when you’re in the mood for some home cooking!

Italian Meatballs and Sauce Ingredients

Onion & Garlic: Onion and garlic are commonly the base of tomato sauce because the provide great flavor and texture. Sweet yellow onion is best to use for this sauce. Be sure to cook your onion down until it is very soft and browning for best results.

Spices: The spices you’ll need for this recipe include salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning. These are pretty basic household spices that I include in many of my recipes. The red pepper flakes can be omitted if you’d like no spice, but the spice is subtle.

Tomato Paste: Tomato paste is used to thicken the sauce and reach desired texture, but it also adds a lot of depth to the flavor of the sauce. Be sure to let the tomato paste cook down for a few minutes before adding the crushed tomatoes to the sauce for best results.

Crushed Tomatoes: I always use crushed tomatoes for my tomato sauce. If you’d like more tomato chunks in yours, feel free to use stewed whole tomatoes and use your hands to break them down. You could also use a mix of diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes.

Basil: In addition to the Italian seasoning, the meatball mix calls for fresh basil leaves. These are used to make a mix with fresh garlic cloves and cashews that will replace the usual breadcrumbs and add more freshness.

Cashews: As mentioned, cashews are used to replace the usual breadcrumbs that are used in most meatball recipes. Process them in your blender or food processor until there are no large chunks to get a pasty breadcrumb-like mix.

Ground Beef & Pork: You’ll want to use a 1:1 mix of ground beef and ground pork for the meatballs. I have not tried this recipe with a different meat mix but feel free to get creative and experiment with things like veal or ground turkey.

Eggs: Two eggs are needed for the meatballs to bind everything together and add a bit of moisture so they don’t dry out. You’ll want to slightly beat the eggs before adding them to the meatball mix for best results.

Tapioca Flour: Tapioca flour is also used to bind the meatball mix together. You can substitute the tapioca for arrowroot starch for the same result. Regular flour or all purpose gluten-free flour will work as well, but the texture may vary.


How To Make Italian Meatballs and Sauce

Step One: In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent and browning. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Step Two: Reduce heat to medium and season the onion and garlic with the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant.

Step Three: Incorporate the tomato paste and cook down for 5 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and cover the pot. Cook for a least 30 minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the meatballs are ready.

Step Four: Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray a large baking dish with oil. Add the basil and garlic to a blender or food processor and blend until uniform. Add in the cashews and blend for another 1-2 minutes, until fine.

Step Five: Transfer the cashew mix to a large mixing bowl, then add in the beef, pork, eggs, tapioca flour and spices. Use clean hands to mix everything until fully incorporated.

Step Six: Use a cookie scoop to make 2-inch meatballs and place them in the baking dish (recipe makes about 16 meatballs). Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and pour the tomato sauce over all of the meatballs.

Step Seven: Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees and place the baking dish back in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove and serve immediately for best results.

If you try out this recipe, I want to know! Leave a comment with a star rating below if you love it. You can also snap a photo & tag @jenneatsgoood on INSTAGRAM. Your reviews help support this blog and make it possible for me to continue to create healthier recipes!


ITALIAN MEATBALLS AND SAUCE

Recipe by Jenn Lueke
Servings

5

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 
Diet

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo, Whole 30

Ingredients

  • TOMATO SAUCE
  • 2 tbsp olive or avocado oil

  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 32oz can crushed tomatoes

  • ITALIAN MEATBALLS
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, packed

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 1/3 cup cashews

  • 1 lb ground beef

  • 1 lb ground pork

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • 2 tbsp tapioca flour or arrowroot starch

  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning

Directions

  • In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent and browning. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium and season the onion and garlic with the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant.
  • Incorporate the tomato paste and cook down for 5 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and cover the pot. Cook for a least 30 minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the meatballs are ready.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray a large baking dish with oil. Add the basil and garlic to a blender or food processor and blend until uniform. Add in the cashews and blend for another 1-2 minutes, until fine.
  • Transfer the cashew mix to a large mixing bowl, then add in the beef, pork, eggs, tapioca flour and spices. Use clean hands to mix everything until fully incorporated.
  • Use a cookie scoop to make 2-inch meatballs and place them in the baking dish (recipe makes about 16 meatballs). Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and pour the tomato sauce over all of the meatballs.
  • Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees and place the baking dish back in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove and serve immediately for best results.

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