Super-Simple Friday Night Meatballs Recipe

Transform your life by gathering for meatballs. Carina Romano

Why It Works

  • Simplicity is the name of the game here. The adobo seasoning in the meatball mixture adds plenty of garlic and spice flavor, while bread crumbs and eggs help keep the balls tender.
  • A long simmer in the sauce leads to good flavor exchange, making the sauce meatier and the balls saucier.

So many readers asked for the meatball recipe from my husband, Joe Cleffie, that we had to oblige. After making a few small tweaks for foolproofing and streamlining, we're proud to present it here. This isn't the most complicated meatball recipe around—quite the opposite, in fact. Our goal here is a recipe that anyone can make, no practice required, and get great results. I hope it inspires a thousand dinners in communities worldwide.

Recipe Facts



Active: 45 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Serves: 8 to 12 servings

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For the Sauce:

  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons (30mlextra-virgin olive oil

  • 6 to 8 cloves minced garlic (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 4 slices bread, crusts removed

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 pounds (900g) 80/20 ground beef

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons adobo seasoning (such as Goya); see note

  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves, divided

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Olive oil, for frying

  • Pasta and grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. For the Sauce: Crush tomatoes by hand, with a food mill, or in a food processor to form a very rough purée. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add crushed tomatoes, bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, make the meatballs.

  2. For the Meatballs: Tear bread into rough chunks and pulse in the food processor until reduced to fine crumbs. Transfer to a large bowl. Add eggs and mix with your hands until combined. Add beef, adobo seasoning, and half of parsley. Combine mixture with your hands, working bread crumbs into meat until meat mixture can form a ball that holds together when tossed back into the bowl. Do not over-mix.

  3. Place a small amount of mixture on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high until cooked, about 20 seconds. Taste and add salt and/or pepper to mixture to taste. Using wet hands, form mixture into balls of roughly 2 tablespoons each, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches across. Place balls on a large parchment- or wax paper–lined tray as you work.

  4. Add enough oil to a large cast iron or stainless steel sauté pan to form a thin layer across the bottom. Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add as many meatballs as will fit in a single layer and cook until well browned on first side. Gently turn balls with tongs or a thin metal spatula and continue cooking and turning until well browned on all sides. As meatballs finish browning, add them to the pot of sauce and replace them with raw meatballs. Continue, adding more oil as necessary, until all meatballs are browned and in the sauce.

  5. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in remaining fresh parsley. Serve with pasta and grated Parmesan cheese.

Special equipment

Food processor, cast iron or stainless steel sauté pan, Dutch oven, rimmed baking sheet


Meatballs can be frozen after frying and before they're added to the sauce. After browning, transfer to a parchment-lined plate or baking sheet. Place in freezer until balls are fully frozen, then transfer to a zipper-lock bag. Sauce can be frozen separately in a zipper-lock bag. To finish, thaw sauce and transfer to a pot. Add meatballs and simmer for at least 1 hour. Alternatively, transfer thawed sauce and meatballs to a slow cooker. Set to "keep warm" and allow to cook for 8 hours.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
331 Calories
20g Fat
13g Carbs
24g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 331
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 26%
Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Cholesterol 98mg 33%
Sodium 369mg 16%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 24g
Vitamin C 25mg 125%
Calcium 66mg 5%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 793mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)