Homemade Meatballs with Marinara

Spaghetti and Meatballs


Fear Conquered: Let me be a Meatball

I want to be a meatball.

It all started three years ago. I was working for a large corporation and exercising my first taste of authority. Angie, the much more seasoned project manager assigned to my team, was skillful at leveraging my eagerness to lead.

"What do you think about getting the team together for a few hours on Saturday to really try and knock out this project?" Angie asks. "We're really approaching that deadline fast and I just don't see hours available during the week."

Inside, I cringe. Because I know Angie is right. We really do need to knock out the project. And there just aren't enough hours in the work week. So I glance around the table. Poker faces. Silent, grim poker faces.

I can feel the crushing weight of leadership. And the dark realization that I'm now the man. Nobody - not even me - is going to volunteer to give up a Saturday. And it won't be Angie who makes it happen. I sigh. I rub my face. I stare up at my laptop calendar. At that deadline. I am the man.

"Angie's right," I say. And I try to sound gentle but firm at the same time. Because I don't want to be the man. But I am supposed to be the team lead. The one who takes initiative and keeps the ball rolling. "Let's plan to meet on Saturday and wrap this up."

Poker faces all around, but there's a collective shuffling and squeaking of chairs. Feeling guilty of my crime, I try to cheer them up. "I'll bring in breakfast," I say. "Does everyone like bagels?" Blank, wordless stares. Like bagels will somehow absolve me from forcing work on a Saturday.

The much more seasoned Angie is ready. "I'll bring in my Swedish meatballs," she says. "It's not much, but it's the one thing I know how to make."

Spaghetti and Meatballs Closeup

Poker faces suddenly melt all around the table and little smiles emerge. Followed by cheerful nodding of heads. Angie smiles at me knowingly - and moments later, we all agree on hours for Saturday. Because really, if there's meatballs involved, how terrible can it be?

Turns out, it wasn't terrible. The team was in good spirits, we knocked out the project and no one muttered a word about working on a Saturday. I'd like to attribute everyone's positive attitude to my flawless leadership - but little styrofoam plates of warm meatballs accomplished more than I ever could.

The truth is, I wish I could be a meatball. They're nothing to look at - round and dull and often misshaped. But they're packed with flavor and seasoning. Meatballs are never trendy and fashionable - and the humble and unpretentious mix of ingredients doesn't try to be. Meatballs are never fussy or demanding and they rarely overwhelm or dazzle. Yet a meatball is more comforting than all the fussy and pretentious food on the planet. A meatball never fails to comfort and cheer. Because if there's meatballs, how bad can it really be?

Spaghetti and Meatballs Closeup

I can learn so much from a simple meatball. To strive not to vainly obsess over my appearance. To stop being fussy, demanding and overbearing. To stop seeking fame and spotlight. To instead be humble and unpretentious. To be perfectly seasoned with the right attitude and words. To be ready to bring cheer to those who need it. And above all, to always be filled with comfort and love.

In short, let me be a meatball.


Photo Tutorial

Freshly Ground Bread Crumbs
You will need 1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs. I used my food processor to easily grind chunks of bread into crumbs.

1/2 Cup Vegetable Stock
Measure 1/2 cup of homemade vegetable stock (or chicken stock).

Soaked Breadcrumbs
Add the breadcrumbs to the stock and let the crumbs absorb the stock for at least 5 minutes.

Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
You will need 7 ounces (approx 1 cup) of freshly grated parmesan cheese. I use my food processor to easily grind the cheese. Reserve 1/2 cup of the ground parmesan for finishing the meatballs at the end.

Diced Onion
Finely dice 1 medium yellow onion.

2 Cloves Garlic with Garlic Press
Mince or press 2 garlic cloves.

Large Handful of Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley
Chop 1 large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley.

Ground Fennel Seeds in Grinder
Grind or crush 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds.

Meatball Ingredients Combined in Large Bowl
In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef, 1/2 pound ground pork, 1 egg, diced onion, minced garlic, soaked breadcrumbs, remaining ground parmesan cheese, ground fennel seed, 1 Tablespoon dried oregano, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

Meatball Ingredients Mixed with Fork
Mix all of the ingredients together with a fork until well combined. This takes about 3-5 minutes of mixing.

Meatballs Formed on Baking Sheet
Form 20x 2-inch diameter meatballs between your palms and space on a baking sheet. Refrigerate the meatballs for at least 1 hour before frying.

Olive Oil in Large Saute Pan
To fry the meatballs, add 3/4 cup of olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat.

Meatballs Added to Hot Olive Oil
Add up to 10 chilled meatballs to the hot oil (watch out for splashes) and cook the meatballs for 15 minutes.

Turning Meatballs in Olive Oil
Turn the meatballs every 5 minutes.

Meatballs Transferred to Plate
Transfer the meatballs to a plate and repeat frying the remaining 10 meatballs if desired.

Oil Drained from Pan
After removing the last of the meatballs from the pan, drain out the olive oil.

Marinara Sauce Added to Pan
Add 3 cups of homemade marinara sauce to the pan. If you are only making a half batch (10 meatballs), you will need 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce.

Meatballs Coated in Marinara Sauce
Return the meatballs to the pan and turn them in the sauce.

Simmering Meatballs in Marinara Sauce
Cover the meatballs and simmer for 10 minutes, turning the meatballs halfway through the cook time.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Serve the meatballs over pasta with a sprinkle of the reserved parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti and Meatballs Profile


Homemade Meatballs with Marinara

    by Javelin Warrior
     Prep Time: 1.5 hrs
     Cook Time: 45 min

Ingredients (makes 20 meatballs)
  • 1/2 cup homemade vegetable stock
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 ounces (1 cup) parmesan cheese, freshly grated, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed or ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, reserved
  • 3 cups homemade marinara sauce, reserved
  1. In a small bowl or measure, combine the vegetable stock and breadcrumbs; let the breadcrumbs soak for a few minutes
  2. In a large bowl, gently combine all the ingredients with a fork until well mixed (excluding the reserved olive oil, marinara sauce and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese)
  3. Form 20x 2-inch diameter meatballs and arrange on a baking sheet; chill the meatballs in the refrigerator for 1 hour
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; add 10 chilled meatballs to the hot oil and fry for 15 minutes, turning the meatballs every 5 minutes; transfer the meatballs to a heat-safe plate and repeat with the remaining 10 meatballs
  5. Drain the oil from the pan and add the marinara sauce and meatballs back to the pan; cover the pan and simmer the meatballs for 10 minutes, turning the meatballs once
  6. Serve the meatballs over spaghetti pasta with a sprinkle of the reserved parmesan cheese
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Hungry for Tips?
  • Freeze: I like to make these meatballs in advance and freeze them for a quick dinner later. To freeze the meatballs, instead of chilling in the refrigerator for Step 3, freeze the meatballs on the baking sheet for at least 4 hours. Transfer the frozen meatballs to a sealable freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 2 months.

    Meatballs in Freezer Bag
  • Chill: No matter how lean your beef, there's still some fat - and the fat helps to keep the meat from drying out while it cooks. And the best way to keep the fat from rushing out from the meatballs is to chill the meatballs before frying. However, if you're in a rush, you can skip the chill step and settle for less-moist meatballs.

    Meatballs Formed on Baking Sheet
  • Breadcrumbs: The classic technique for meatballs is to soak torn bread in milk before adding it to the meat mixture. The soaked bread helps to keep the meatballs soft and moist. I use homemade vegetable stock instead of milk because I think it adds depth of flavor - but the technique and purpose of the soaked bread remains the same.

    Soaked Breadcrumbs
  • Pork vs. Sausage: Adding sausage to meatballs is absolutely delicious - but it's also extremely greasy. So instead of pork sausage, I add a little ground pork and fennel seed to mimic the flavor and capture a little extra moistness from the pork. The result is great flavor and texture, but less of the grease.
  • Cloves: Ground cloves may sound like an odd spice for meatballs, but it's job is really to bring out the flavor of the beef. In fact, I add cloves to hamburger patties, meat loaf and roasts - just about anything where I want to enhance the meat flavor. You won't be able to pick out the flavor of cloves - but everything will just taste a little better.
  • Pasta: If serving the meatballs over pasta, I recommend cooking the pasta while the meatballs are simmering in the sauce. After draining, add the al-dente pasta to the sauce and meatballs and toss everything together to thoroughly coat the pasta. After tossing, allow the pasta to rest in sauce for 2-3 minutes, then serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.

    Spaghetti and Meatballs Closeup

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  1. hey nice post meh, I love your style of blogging here. this post reminds me of an equally interesting post that I read some time ago on Daniel Uyi's blog: Get A Girl .
    keep up the good work friend. I will be back to read more of your posts.


  2. Kayle (The Cooking Actress)October 9, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    i want this noooooooooooow. omg I'm starving and those spaghetti and meatballs look like nirvana

  3. Awww, thanks, Kayle! I'm not sure there's ever a bad time for a meatball ;)

  4. Haha -- this is brilliant. I never would have thought to compare myself to a meatball, or wish to be one, but you made some pretty great points! Your recipe sounds delicious, too... makes me crave a big bowl of 'em!

  5. I'm glad you liked the comparison, Willow :) And I could much eat a big bowl of these any time. Although I probably shouldn't for the sake of health :/

  6. Oh my word JW. Beautiful.

  7. Anna, I have to give you credit for introducing me to making delicious meatballs. If I hadn't had you as my previous Tuesday Tutor, I might never have had the confidence to start dabbling with meatballs! I'm so glad you enjoyed... :D

  8. Ah, bless you. These look much more sophisticated than mine!

  9. As you know I am not a 'meaty' person but I do like a good meatball once in a blue moon. But it has to be homemade - you know what you're getting. I love fennel and chilli in them too. Yours are delicious looking, and I am conjuring up a lovely smell of the marinara and meatballs through my screen. Tis like magic!

  10. Well, sophisticated isn't always better :/ I still have fond memories of those keftedhes!

  11. Awww, Kellie, you're always so kind! I haven't tried adding chile pepper to them, but I'm intrigued because it sounds tasty. And as much as I'm passionate about homemade, I have to admit I will scarf down premade sponge-balls in a pinch. Quite happily, I might add (although with a twinge of guilt!)...

  12. I have to agree, meatballs do make everything better! Looks delicious.

  13. Thanks for the kind words and I'm so glad you agree :)

  14. I'm definitely a meatball! And I do love them, although oddly enough I rarely make them. Don't know why - I guess because I usually prefer a meat sauce on pasta. Anyway, yours looks terrific. I should make these. Maybe on Saturday. ;-)

  15. I have the feeling we'd get a long great if you're a meatball, John! Now if I can just become a little more meatball-ish... :/ I'm so glad you enjoyed and I think I'm the opposite when it comes to pasta - no meat in the sauce but meatballs instead. Hmmm...


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