Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Dan Holzman of NYC's Meatball Shop skips browning his meatballs to make the dish easier. Instead, he simmers them right in the delicious tomato sauce. Slideshow:  More Meatball Recipes 

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Photo: © Nicole Franzen
Active Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs
4 to 6


Tomato Sauce

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)

  • 2 carrots, sliced 3/4 inch thick (3/4 cup)

  • 3 large garlic cloves, crushed

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 6 oregano sprigs     

  • Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes with their juices, crushed by hand

  • Pinch of crushed red pepper

  • Kosher salt


  • 3/4 pound ground chuck

  • 3/4 pound ground veal

  • 3/4 pound ground pork

  • 1/2 cup Italian-style dry breadcrumbs (2 1/2 ounces)

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (1 ounce)

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup minced onion

  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel

  • Grated Grana Padano cheese, for serving


Make the tomato sauce

  1. In a large ovenproof saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until lightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the bay leaf, oregano, tomatoes and crushed red pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 15 minutes. Season with salt and keep at a bare simmer.

Meanwhile, make the meatballs

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the Grana Padano and mix by hand until well incorporated. Using a 1 1/2-ounce ice cream scoop (3 tablespoons), scoop 24 meatballs (1 1/2 inches in diameter) and roll into neat balls.

  2. Add the meatballs to the simmering tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Braise in the oven until firm and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and oregano sprigs. Serve the meatballs and sauce with Grana Padano on the side.

Make Ahead

The meatballs can be refrigerated in the sauce overnight and rewarmed before serving.

Suggested Pairing

Concentrated, medium-bodied Italian red.

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