Meatballs and Marinara

The meatballs and sauce use the same onion mixture. The sausage adds extra seasoning to the meatballs; use hot sausage instead of mild if you like. This recipe makes enough to sauce 2 pounds of pasta.



  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds onions, chopped fine
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


  • One 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • Four 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt
  • 1–2 teaspoons sugar, as needed


  • 4 slices hearty white sandwich bread
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck


FOR THE ONION MIXTURE: Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer half of the onion mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

FOR THE EASY MARINARA: Add tomato paste to onion mixture remaining in the pot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and water and simmer over low heat until sauce has thickened, 45 to 60 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and basil. Season with salt and sugar to taste.

FOR THE MEATBALLS: Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Mash bread and milk together in a bowl with reserved onion mixture until thoroughly combined. Add sausage, Parmesan, parsley, eggs, garlic, and salt, and mash to combine. Add beef and gently knead with hands until combined (do not overwork). Form mixture into 16 (2 1/2-inch) meatballs, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until well browned about 20 minutes.

Transfer meatballs to pot with thickened sauce and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over pasta. (Meatballs and marinara can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

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