Pork Meatballs In Tomato Sauce are quick and easy to make. With juicy tender meatballs browned on the stove top then popped into a simple tomato sauce and oven baked till the cheese melts dinner will be sorted in less than 30 minutes. Baked pork meatballs in tomato sauce make for a real 'Winner Winner Pork Meatball Dinner' 😂👍.
🤍 Recipe Highlights
I have summarised everything that you will come to know and love (LOVE ❤) about the recipe in the points below:
- Simple ingredients: you will be able to purchase everything you need to make this meatball recipe from your local grocery store. They are all year round available ingredients that will be easy to get your hands on.
- Budget friendly: these homemade meatballs are a cost effective recipe that won't blow the budget. They make for a midweek meal that saves ordering in.
- Kid friendly: the whole family can enjoy this dish together. There is no too intense or hot flavours, we are taking a basic combo of pork, tomato sauce and cheese.
- Meatballs: are so good right! 😉👌. Juicy, tasty and so much better when homemade than store bought.
- One pan: we only need the one pan for this recipe and everything gets done in there. I like using a cast iron skillet like you see in the photos throughout the post. It does need to be one which can be used both on the stove top and in the oven also.
- Taste and texture: one of the highlights of this recipe is the variety of textures that you will find. From the juicy pork meatballs to the chunky tomato sauce and oozy cheese there is enough going on in the taste and texture department that a lot of your boxes will be ticked.
The photo below is to show you everything you need to make the pork meatballs sauce recipe. Please refer to the printable recipe card for exact measurements as well as detailed instructions.
As you can see the recipe calls for:
- Olive oil: we use this to brown the meatballs before we bake them.
- Salt and pepper: we use kosher salt and a little bit of black pepper to season the meatballs.
- Dried parsley: this is the herb we use for Italian style pork meatballs.
- Garlic powder: so handy to have in the spice draw, this is easy to use and convenient.
- Onion powder: as above. These 2 work well together and saving peeling, chopping and crying!
- Egg: the egg helps to bind the meat mixture together like glue. Everything sticks because of it!
- Dried basil: we use this in the tomato sauce to create an Italian flavor.
- Panko breadcrumbs: bright white and crisp breadcrumbs, these are commonly used in Japanese cooking. If you cannot find them in the cooking aisle with the flours and oils look for them in the Asian foods section of the supermarket. They are sometimes simply labelled 'panko'.
- Crushed tomatoes: this gives the tomato sauce recipe a little texture. Opt for plain ones with no additional herbs.
- Passata: a smooth rich tomato puree that works wonders in Italian cooking. This forms the basis of our pork meatball sauce.
- Parmesan cheese: we use this as it is a bold cheese with a sharp taste. It is best freshly grated using a microplane zester (so soft and fluffy!).
- Mozzarella: we use this for the 'melted oozying cheese' factor. As much as it does wonders in the melt department it does not have a strong flavour. Yet combined with the parmesan, it is a cheesy dream 😉😂.
- Pork mince (ground pork): this is for our meatballs!
Top Tip: I like to provide you with a number of substitutions and variations giving you an array of options when making my recipes. If in doubt of any of the above ingredients, or wanting alternatives, read this section (further below) before jumping into the instructions on how to make the recipe which are coming next 😉👌.
Here are the step by step instructions to make the recipe. We start by gathering the ingredients to make the meatballs.
- Add meatball ingredients to bowl (Photo 1)
- Use clean hands to combine (Photo 2)
- Portion meat mixture (Photo 3)
- Roll into meatballs (Photo 4)
👩🍳 How to Make Pork Meatballs In Tomato Sauce
We start by making the pork meatballs. To do so, gather the ingredients and a large bowl.
Then add the pork mince, panko breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, dried parsley and egg to the bowl. Next use clean hands to combine this mixture.
Once done take a mini cookie scoop and portion the meat mixture out onto a chopping board. Then roll each portion into a meatball using the palms of your hands.
- Brown meatballs in batches then remove (Photo 5)
- Combine the passata and crushed tomatoes (Photo 6)
- Add the dried basil to the tomato sauce (Photo 7)
- Add the browned meatballs back to the pan (Photo 8)
Once you have rolled the meatballs we take steps to brown them.
To do this place an oven proof skillet or frying pan on the stove top, turn the heat to high and add the olive oil.
Work in batches to add the raw meatballs and then brown them for 5-6 minutes. Once browned, use a slotted turner to lift the meatballs up and out of the pan using a slotted turner. Place them into a paper towel lined bowl. Repeat this process until all of the meatballs are browned.
Next fold a piece of paper towel and use the tongs (pan will be hot) to absorb the excess oil in the base of the skillet, then discard.
🍲 Pork Meatballs Sauce
Get started on the sauce by pouring in the passata (it will sizzle and may splash up a bit) so you can reduce the heat to medium-low at this point. Then add the crushed tomatoes and dried basil and give it a stir to combine.
Once the sauce is combined add the browned meatballs back to the pan as shown in the photo above.
- Combine the cheeses (Photo 9)
Next we want to combine the mozzarella and parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Use a mini whisk, fork or spoon to consistently mix them together.
Then sprinkle the cheese over the top of the meatballs and sauce as shown in the photo below.
- Sprinkle cheese over the top (Photo 10)
Once you have sprinkled your cheese layer over the top, you can put the skillet into the oven.
It will take 15 minutes for the meatballs to finish cooking through and the cheese to melt.
Once done, you can get your serve on and I have some suggestions to help you below.
🍽 Serving Suggestions
You have a lot of options that work when it comes to serving the meatballs.
Al dente spaghetti, fettuccine, zucchini noodles or your favorite pasta will combine well.
Or you might want to get a bowl, some crusty bread and simply give it a dunk in the sauce and you are done.
You my friend can do whatever works best for you and your meatballs 😁.
👍 How to Guide
How to Store
Next day leftover meatballs taste even better than the day the were made!
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. They will last for 3-4 days and are best reheated before being consumed.
Note: the longer they sit in the fridge the more watery (less thick) the sauce will become.
How to Freeze
You can either purchase the pork mince and freeze it, thawing it and making the meatballs when ready. Or you can allow the cooked meatballs in sauce to cool. Once cooled portion into a freezer-safe container and store for up to 3 months.
How to Reheat
Use the microwave to reheat leftovers. Simply put them in a bowl and cover with cling wrap then heat on high for 2-3 minutes until warmed through.
Frozen portions of the dish should be thawed fully before being reheated using the microwave method above.
😉 Substitutions and Variations
Here are my sub ins and outs that you might be thinking about as you read the post and I will tell you if I think they will work or why they won't:
- You can use regular bread crumbs (equivalent amount) in place of the panko breadcrumbs if you wish too.
- You can use diced tomatoes in place of the crushed tomatoes if you choose to.
- For either of the tomato options above, opt for a plain tin, ie not one that has additional herbs or ingredients. We add the flavor to the dish so we know exactly how it will turn out.
- You can add up to 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce after combining the passata and crushed tomatoes for a flavor leaning towards a bolognese sauce.
- You can use pecorino romano cheese in place of the parmesan cheese if you want to make this swap.
- For an alternative protein use you can use ground turkey, ground beef or a combination of beef and pork (equivalent amount).
- Both Italian flat leaf parsley and basil are good garnish choices for the dish. You can use also use curly leaf fresh parsley if you wish to.
💡 Tasty Tips
Here are my top tips and tricks that I want to share with you so that you master the recipe from the get go:
- After you have browned the meatballs and removed them from the pan fold a piece of paper towel into a square and use kitchen tongs to dab this into the pan to absorb the excess oil. We don't need this in the sauce.
- Reduce the heat when adding the passata as otherwise it will splash out of the pan and onto your splash back requiring a bit of cleaning up 😭.
- Use a wooden spoon to combine the tomato sauce so that the passata, tomatoes and basil are consistently mixed together.
- Once the 15 minutes of cook time is up, use oven mits to remove the skillet from the oven and place it onto a heatproof surface. Let it sit for around 5 minutes before serving.
- When serving use a large ladle to portion. This way you are able to scoop up both the meatballs and the sauce 👌.
🤓 Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to bake or fry meatballs before putting in sauce?
It is best to brown the meatballs using olive oil in a pan on the stove top before putting them in sauce. This will give them a golden brown crispy surface and help to ensure that they retain their shape once cooked further.
Can you overcook meatballs in tomato sauce?
Yes unfortunately you can overcook meatballs if you leave them in the oven for too long. As they have already been browned on the stove, they only need a quick 15 minutes in a moderate oven to cook through.
Should you flour meatballs before frying?
Some recipes will call for this step to be done. However, it is unnecessary and adds complication to an otherwise simple easy recipe.
😍 More Easy Dinner Recipes
Din, dins, do you call it that? We Aussies sometimes use nicknames for things (actually quite a lot of the time!). Dinner can be affectionally referred to as 'din dins'.
So that is is not 'same, same' or boring every night in your kitchen I like to give you a variety of options so that din dins is always the best meal of the day. Here are those options:
- Mexican Beef Soup
- Salmon Linguine Alfredo
- Penne Pesto
- Beef Ribs
- Linguine Alfredo
- Easy Meatball Pesto Pasta
- Honey Sriracha Meatballs
- Thai Minced Pork
- Polenta Al Forno
- Chicken Ribs
It is time to get saucy my friend! You can also find all of my dinner recipes in the one spot.
Pork Meatballs In Tomato Sauce
- 500 grams/16 oz pork mince
- ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoon olive oil to brown the meatballs in
- 700 grams/24.5 oz passata
- 400 grams/14 oz crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ cup mozzarella grated using a hand held or box grater
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese finely grated using a microplane zester
- black pepper
- basil leaves
- Preheat your oven: to 180°C / 350-375°F / Gas Mark 4-5.
- Meatballs: add the pork mince, panko breadcrumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley, salt, pepper and egg to a large bowl. Use clean hands to combine. Then take a mini cookie scoop and portion out a small amount of the mixture onto a chopping board. Next, repeat to portion the rest of the mixture. Once done roll the portions into meatballs using the palms of your hands then place onto a chopping board. Repeat this process till all of the meat mixture is used up.
- Brown meatballs: place an oven proof pan on the stove top, turn the heat to high and add the olive oil. Work in batches and place the meatballs into the bottom of the pan. Cook, browning the outsides of the edges for 5-6 minutes. Then use a slotted spoon to lift the browned meatballs up and out of the pan. Place them into a paper towel lined bowl.
- Absorb excess oil: once the meatballs are browned, fold a piece of paper towel in half and use kitchen tongs to push this around in the pan absorbing the excess oil. Then discard.
- Tomato sauce: turn the heat down to medium low and then add the passata, diced tomatoes and dried basil to the pan and stir to combine.
- Meatballs into sauce: place the browned pork meatballs gently into the sauce and allow their tops to poke up and out of the sauce.
- Cheese topping: use a small bowl to combine the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Then sprinkle this combination of cheese over the top of the meatballs and sauce.
- Oven bake: place the skillet into the preheated oven on the middle shelf. Allow the meatballs and sauce to cook for 15 minutes. During this time the cheese will also melt and turn golden brown. Once done, use oven mits to remove the pan and place onto a heatproof surface.
- Garnish: season the top of the dish with black pepper and basil leaves. Provide forks, spoons and bowls for serving.
- Note 1 - Pork mince: For juicy pork Italian meatballs! Other options you can also consider are lamb, ground beef or chicken mince. Or you can use (to the equivalent amount) a combination of both pork mince and beef mince.
- Note 2 - Crushed tomatoes: you can use diced tomatoes here if you wish to. For both options try and get 'plain' not 'Italian flavored' or another variety that has additional herbs such as basil in the tin.
- Note 3 - Parmesan cheese: you can use pecorino romano here in place of the parmesan (equivalent amount) if you wish too.