This recipe for Italian Sausage Meatballs is sure to make a regular appearance on your dinner table! It's a simple Italian dish that is so comforting, hearty and flavorful.
Easy meatballs made with sausage meat and simmered in a tasty tomato sauce is the perfect family meal. You’re going to love every single bite!
Just like my Spiedini or Pasta al Forno, my Italian Sausage Meatballs recipe is a guaranteed family favorite! Beautifully tender meatballs are flavored with Pecorino Romano cheese and parsley, before being fried and then simmered in a rich marinara sauce.
The secret to this meatball recipe is using Italian sausages instead of ground meat, to add maximum flavor with minimal effort. Italian sausages are already loaded with flavor which saves time and energy on busy nights.
Italian Sausage Meatballs are so versatile! Serve them with a hunk of crusty bread for an easy dinner or stir through tagliatelle for a family favorite. Or as I love them most, served on top of a plate of creamy polenta for the perfect cozy meal!
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- A simple and delicious family favorite that is perfect for chilly nights.
- Italian sausages are used instead of ground meat to add maximum flavor with minimum ingredients.
- This recipe for Italian Sausage Meatballs is so versatile! Serve it with pasta, crusty bread, polenta or my Mashed Potatoes with Red Skin.
- It is a delicious twist on a classic Italian dish.
For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.
Table of Contents
- Italian sausage - this is a key ingredient, so I recommend choosing the best fresh Italian sausage you can find. I get mine from a trusted local butcher. Use sweet Italian sausages, also known as mild Italian sausages. Ground sausage isn’t the same - it has a lot of fillers added.
- Bread crumbs - I always have homemade Italian bread crumbs in the freezer for occasions like these, but you can also buy them from a bakery or get the panko bread crumbs from the grocery store.
- Pecorino Romano - this is my preference for this meatball recipe because it has a strong taste and isn’t overshadowed by the Italian sausages.
- Egg - my preference is large, free range eggs.
- Parsley - I recommend Italian, flat leaf parsley rather than curly parsley because it is easier to use and has a more pronounced flavor.
- Water - water is used in both the meatballs to make them moist and also in the marinara sauce.
- Olive oil - regular olive oil is fine here because it is being cooked. You can use extra virgin olive oil if that’s all you have.
- Onion - a small yellow or white onion.
- Crushed tomatoes - I recommend using a good quality brand because it is more likely to be naturally sweet and not bitter.
- Salt and pepper - remember to always salt and pepper to your taste.
- Peel the skin off the sausages and crumble them into a mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, water and parsley. Combine well.
- Roll the sausage mixture into 12 even balls and brown the meatballs over medium heat in a large skillet.
- Remove the meatballs from the skillet and fry the diced onion until softened. Add crushed tomatoes and water.
- Return meatballs to the skillet of marinara sauce and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover with the lid ajar and cook for 30 minutes
Hint: Instead of simmering on the stove, the meatballs in tomato sauce can be baked in the oven. Be sure to use an oven proof skillet, cover with the lid and bake at 400ºF/200ºC for 15-20 minutes.
- You can easily substitute Parmigiano Reggiano (grated Parmesan Cheese) for the Pecorino Romano.
- Try substituting tomato puree (also known as tomato passata) instead of crushed tomatoes.
- You can always use ground pork or beef instead of sausages, although it won’t be as flavorful.
- Make spicy Italian Sausage Meatballs by using spicy or hot Italian sausages instead.
- Why not use another fresh herb instead of parsley like basil, sage, mint or oregano?
- For added indulgence, grate some mozzarella cheese over the top of the Italian Sausage Meatballs in marinara sauce and pop into a hot oven to melt the cheese.
Store any leftover Italian Sausage Meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. I like to reheat them in the microwave when I’m ready to enjoy them.
To freeze these meatballs, cool and chill quickly after cooking. Then place them in an airtight container and seal before freezing.
When ready to eat the meatballs, thaw in the fridge overnight. Gently reheat over medium heat or in the microwave until the meatballs are hot all the way through. I recommend using them within 1-2 months because the high fat content in the Italian sausages means they may become rancid quicker than regular meatballs.
Tips for Success and FAQ’s
This is such a simple recipe, so it is important to caramelize the sausage meatballs well to maximize flavor. Those brown bits on the meatballs and in the pan are bonus flavor hits.
The same goes when preparing the marinara sauce, be sure to cook the onions properly to add depth of flavor to the sauce.
If you’re not ready to served the meatballs when the cooking time is up, simply continue simmering gently. Check regularly and add a little water if the sauce becomes too dry. The meatballs won’t over cook.
II always add an egg to my Italian Sausage Meatball recipe because it acts as a binder. The protein in the egg binds the meat together and prevent crumbling when frying.
Ground meat or in this case sausages with a higher fat content also help the meatballs stick together.
Massaging the meat is the best way to make your meatballs stick together better. The heat in your hands reacts with the proteins in the meat to make them harden and stick together. Don’t over do it - just a minute or two.
I fry the meatballs in a little olive oil in this Italian sausage meatball recipe. I find this is the most flavorful way to cook them because they caramelize nicely in the skillet or frying pan.
However, I have also had great results when I’ve baked meatballs in the oven and I love how fuss free it is! Just be sure to rub some olive oil over each meatball before you pop them in the oven to bake.
Yes and no! Spaghetti and meatballs are mostly a wonderful amalgamation of Italian American food. Although you can find spaghetti and meatballs in some parts of Italy (mostly Southern Italy), it is not as common as it is in other parts of the world. The dish certainly has its roots in Italy and has become a fundamental recipe for many migrant Italian families.
I love to serve these Italian Sausage Meatballs with some crusty Ciabatta Garlic Bread for dunking and my Italian Style Green Beans and Potatoes on the side. For a proper Italian feast, finish the meal with my Italian style trifle, Zuppa Inglese.
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Sausage Meatballs Recipe
- 1 pound (450 grams) Italian sausages
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- ½ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese)
- 1 egg
- 1 ½ tablespoons chopped parsley
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 28 ounces (800 grams) canned crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
- ½ cup water extra
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Peel the skin off the sausages and crumble into a mixing bowl.
- Add breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, water and parsley. Combine well.
- Roll sausage mixture into 12 even balls.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs over medium heat.
- Remove the meatballs from the skillet to a lined baking sheet.
- Fry the finely chopped onion in the oil remaining in the skillet for about 5 minutes or until softened.
- Add crushed tomatoes and water. Stir to combine, scraping up any caramelized bits on the bottom of the skillet.
- Return meatballs the tomato sauce. Turn over to coat meatballs in the sauce.
- Reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cover with the lid slightly ajar so that excess steam escapes.
- Cook for 30 minutes. Check regularly that the sauce doesn't dry out. If it seems to be reducing too much, add a little extra hot water. Also check that the meatballs don't stick to the bottom of the skillet.
- Serve with crusty bread or pasta.
- Be sure to caramelize the Italian Sausage Meatballs well to maximize flavor. Those brown bits on the meatballs and in the skillet are bonus flavor hits.
- Cook the onions until well softened.
- This dish can't be over cooked. Meatballs can continue to simmer when the cooking time is up if you're not ready to serve. Just check regularly that the sauce doesn't dry out and the meatballs don't stick to the bottom of the skillet.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C).
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat.
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods.
- Never leave cooking food unattended.
Nutritional Information Per Serving
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.