Tag Archives: tomato sauce

Italian Done Right: Meatballs in Tomato Sauce


Sounds simple, right? Maybe even boring.

To be honest, I never really made meatballs before those Award Winning Poker Meatballs… you know, the ones stuffed with cheese? What, I may have made some another time a while back when we had friends over and did a holiday potluck… If I remember correctly, they were really big.

In any case, at our last Cooking Class at Saga Hill, the theme was Italian Done Right. The premise was that although it can be satisfying, places like Buca di Beppo and Cossetta’s aren’t truly Italian. So one of the things we learned was to make meatballs in tomato sauce.

This dinner is one of those high-protein, minimally processed ones you can be proud of.

At Saga Hill, Chef Marianne likes to teach the “method” rather than a recipe. She sends the recipes out after the class via email. After following the pretty easy approach in class, I was determined to action those meatballs again right away for Rob. I pulled up the recipe she sent and realized that it was actually quite different from what we did in class!

This made me realize that it was more important that I learned the method… and that there was room to improvise. I could take that method, along with her tips and tricks that I learned in class and use the recipe as a guide. Then I just used what was in my pantry… and followed my gut.


Here is the Rob-Approved-Keeper-Recipe that I created. He didn’t want me to change a thing for next time, so I thought I’d make an account of exactly what I did so that I don’t improvise next time!

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

(Makes 4 servings)


  • olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • garlic, minced
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained {I used the kind with onions and garlic.}
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c panko (or bread crumbs)
  • 8 oz lean ground beef
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • finely chopped fresh rosemary and thyme (about 1-2 Tbsp)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan
  • shredded parmesan for garnish (optional)


  • Heat large skillet with olive oil.
  • Add diced onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent.
  • Add crushed red pepper and stir in quartered cherry tomatoes.
  • Stir in canned tomatoes (with juices!)
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low to simmer.
  • In a medium bowl, beat one egg.
  • Mix panko into beaten egg mixture.
  • Add meat, fresh herbs, salt, pepper and parmesan.
  • Mix well with hands so that seasonings are well-distributed. Add water if needed to get desired texture.
  • Form into about one-inch diameter balls (maybe a little less). I yielded exactly 30 balls.
  • Stir the sauce before adding balls because you won’t be able to stir it for a while.
  • Add balls directly to simmering sauce and increase the heat.
  • Turn balls often and continue to until cooked through. (You may have to sacrifice a ball or two to check!)
Keep turning those balls!

Keep turning those balls!

When meatballs are just about cooked, you can stir the sauce with the intact balls to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Serve alone or atop pasta or spaghetti squash. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. (Optional)

Ta da!

Get in my tummy!

Some tips I learned from class:

  • Traditional Italian meatballs call for a combination of beef, pork (sausage) and veal, but you can work with whatever you have.
  • It’s best to use a combination of raw and canned tomatoes.
  • Use whatever herbs you’d like – oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, etc.
  • Use 1 egg per lb of meat.
  • If you are tearing bread to create breadcrumbs, soak them in a little bit of milk.
  • Don’t make your meatballs too big. Make an “O” with your thumb and forefinger. That should be about right.

I like that I usually have these kinds of ingredients on hand, so it’ll be an easy go-to “recipe” that Rob will love!

What is your favorite meat combo for meatballs?

What herbs do you like to use?



April Foodie Penpal Reveal


When I’m assigned a Foodie Penpal, I always ask if my recipient has any dietary restrictions and/or allergies and if there is anything they typically love or hate. This month, I learned that the person for whom I was shopping, follows the Paleo lifestyle. It was fun for me to learn more about the practice. Furthermore, I’ve been following a few blogs lately written by Paleo followers and those giving Whole30 a try. I stole some of their favorites and ideas to send her. 😉 Check back tomorrow to see what I shipped!


The Foodie Penpal shipping to me this month, sent me a whole list of questions! I loved it so much that I may even send it to my Foodie Penpal next month:

Do you have any dietary restrictions?
Do you like to receive homemade goodies?
Is there anything you absolutely love or absolutely hate?
Do you prefer healthy or are you open to all kinds of stuff?
Are you a salty or sweet person?
Milk, dark or white chocolate?
Do you like spicy foods?
When it comes to new foods; do you like to play it safe or get crazy?
What is your favorite cocktail?
Coffee, tea or soda?
What is your favorite & least favorite cuisine?
Favorite Snacks?
Do you like to bake?
Whoa! Talk about thorough! My goodie box was courtesy of Alex in Iowa of Alex Tries It Out. And now I’m a huge fan of her blog. I mean, she reviews beers, for one. Be still my heart. Check out her IPA cupcake recipe!

Each Foodie Penpal box must include something written. Here’s a nice note from Alex, empathizing in the overabundance of snow we had here in MN so late in the season. 😉

You can probably guess how I answered her questions, when you see what she put in the box!

April Foodie Penpal Box

April Foodie Penpal Box from Alex!

Of course, all of the chocolate has been consumed! {Don’t worry, it wasn’t in one sitting. I’ve learned the art of enjoying a little bit of chocolate every day.}

I considered using the marinara sauce for dipping when I made my Award Winning Poker Meatballs. However, I got greedy and decided to keep it for myself. It is the local item she mentioned in the box. So I’m saving it for lata. Actually, the marinara sauce, turtle sundae coffee and Cheddar Popchips are the only items left. But, I’ve already divvied up the Popchips into single servings to enjoy in my lunches this week. I am a fan of Popchips. I am a fan of cheese. Win-win.

Thanks, Alex, for a fantastic box with such great variety. I felt like you knew me!


You, too, can become a Foodie Penpal. You don’t need to be a blogger. You don’t need to do it every month. All you have to do is sign up by the 5th of any month, contact your penpal within 48 hours and ship a package of goodies worth $15 by the 15th! So easy and so fun. Click here if you are interested.

Do you have a favorite canned or jarred tomato sauce?

If you make your own, feel free to share the recipe!