These delicious and easy oven baked meatballs cook entirely in the oven, with a simple tomato sauce and a cheesy topping. Serve over pasta or polenta or simply with crusty bread for scooping up the delicious sauce.
Why you’ll love these easy baked meatballs
- These baked meatballs cook up entirely in the oven, so no frying necessary. They hold their shape perfectly and get beautifully browned (and browned always equals flavour!)
- The simple marinara sauce comes together while the meatballs are baking, then is poured over the meatballs to reduce down some more in the oven with the meatballs.
- These versatile oven meatballs and tomato sauce can be served over pasta, polenta or enjoyed as is with crusty bread or a simple side salad.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Ground Beef – lean ground beef is perfect for meatballs, as it has some fat, but not a ton. You could use extra lean ground beef for less fat, or even medium ground beef, if you like the extra fat.
Ricotta Cheese – opt for full fat ricotta cheese, for the best results.
Panko – you can substitute dried bread crumbs for the panko, if you like.
Canned Whole Tomatoes – you’ll never go wrong using San Marzano whole canned tomatoes here, for rich tomato flavour. That said, any large can of tomatoes will work here.
- Add all the meatball ingredients to a large bowl.
- Mix together the meatball ingredients until well combined.
- Form into 3 oz. meatballs (about golf ball sized) and place into a greased skillet or oven-safe pan. Bake the meatballs to render the fat off.
- While meatballs are baking, make the simple tomato sauce in a saucepan on the stove-top. Simmer the sauce while the meatballs are baking.
- Finish the tomato sauce with a pat of butter.
- Remove baked meatballs from oven and spoon off excess fat. Pour tomato sauce overtop, top with cheese and return to the oven for about 20 minutes.
A good seasoning with salt and pepper is important in this dish, so you’ll want to taste test often and make additions as necessary. The tomato sauce needs a healthy bit, as do the meatballs, to really bring out all the great flavours.
If you’re just looking for easy, oven baked meatballs, you can just follow the meatball recipe and bake, while skipping the sauce.
What to serve with these Cheesy Baked Meatballs
Serve over pasta.
Serve over polenta.
Serve over spaghetti squash.
Serve over spiralized zucchini.
Serve as is, with crusty bread, for scooping up the sauce.
Serve as is, with a simple side salad.
Get the Recipe: Cheesy Oven Baked Meatballs and Tomato Sauce
For the Baked Meatballs:
- 1 lb. lean ground beef, or half beef/half pork
- 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
- 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 large egg
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small shallot, minced, or onion
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or omit for no heat
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 28-oz. can San Marzano whole tomatoes, or other good-quality
- 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tsp. salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 teaspoons butter, to finish
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 2-3 Tablespoons Parmesan, grated
- Fresh basil, chopped
- For the meatballs: Prepare a cast-iron frying pan by wiping with olive oil. Pre-heat oven to 400 ° F.
- Place all the meatball ingredients into a medium sized bowl. Mix thoroughly by hand until they are completely combined.
- Coat your hands with a bit of olive oil, and using your hands, form mixture into 3 or 4 oz. balls (about golf ball sized). (will make about 8meatballs).
- Place formed meatballs into the prepared cast-iron frying pan and place into the pre-heated oven. Bake meatballs for 30 minutes, without moving them around in the pan while they cook.
- Start the tomato sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat a splash of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about a minute more. Add the canned tomatoes, fresh basil and salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until the meatballs are ready.
- After the meatballs have baked, remove the frying pan from the oven. Carefully spoon off and discard any fat that has accumulated in the pan, without moving the meatballs around too much. Taste your tomato sauce and add salt and pepper as needed, to taste. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs and distribute evenly in the pan. Top with some mozzarella cheese and a bit more Parmesan. Return to the oven and allow to cook a further 20 minutes
- Serve as is, with crusty bread and/or a side salad, or spoon over pasta, polenta or spiralized zucchini.
Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!