Easy meatballs and tomato sauce

One of the most popular recipes on my old blog, Fish Fingers for Tea, was this recipe for easy meatballs and tomato sauce.

And it’s not without reason.

Though it’s not the fastest recipe out there, the end result is beautifully tender meatballs with a tasty sauce.

Easy meatballs and tomato sauce

You can pile these on top of a bowlful of pasta, or our favourite is to cram them into sub rolls with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan. Perfect Saturday night fodder.

You’re looking at around an hour from start to finish with this, so it doesn’t fall into the ‘on the table in 30 minutes’ midweek category but for a Friday or Saturday night it’s a good balance of ease and ‘proper’ cooking.

The tomato sauce is a really simple one. Start with a base of onions and garlic, then add a tin of tomatoes and some water. Season with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of sugar to lift any acidity then leave it to reduce while you make the meatballs.  A squeeze of lemon juice later on brightens things up.

Use mince with 20% fat, it helps to give you a tender result. Bread soaked in a little milk will bind things together and don’t over handle them when you’re mixing in fried onions and garlic, nor when you’re shaping them.

easy meatballs with tomato sauce

Give the meatballs a quick blast in a hot oven to brown them and then leave them to finish off, plopping away in the tomato sauce.

If you wanted to switch things around a bit then how about some chilli – fresh if you have them, dried flakes if not – in the sauce? Or if you’re planning on accompanying this with some pasta then some olives or capers would be pretty good.

It’s a hardy recipe, one that will take on a whole load of flavours and withstand you playing round.

Or keep it as simple as it is.

Easy meatballs and tomato sauce

Yield: Serves 4

Easy meatballs and tomato sauce for serving either over pasta or crammed into sub rolls.


  • 2 onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 slice bread
  • Splash of milk (about a tablespoon)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ lemon
  • 500g 20% fat beef mince
  • Generous shake dried Oregano


  1. Finely dice the onions and garlic cloves. I use a mini food processor for this.
  2. Fry gently in the oil in a large deep sided frying pan
  3. Whilst the onion and garlic are frying, rip the slice of bread into small pieces (about the size of your little fingernail) and add to a bowl with the milk. Mix and allow the milk to soak into the bread.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200c / 190c fan and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  5. Check the onions and garlic; you want them to soft and translucent but not browned.
  6. Add half of the onions to the bowl with the bread and leave the rest in the frying pan.
  7. Add the tin of tomatoes to the frying pan, half fill the empty tin with water and add that too. Mix well and add a generous pinch of salt, a good grind of black pepper and the sugar. Mix well and turn the heat up to medium to bring the sauce to a boil.
  8. Meanwhile, add the mince, more salt and pepper and the dried oregano to the bowl. Combine the ingredients but don’t over handle the meat. Shape into meatballs (about the size of a ping pong ball) and place on the prepared baking tray.
  9. Bake for 8 minutes until browned but not completely cooked.
  10. Meanwhile, stir the sauce; it should be starting to thicken to a spoonable consistency but still with some liquid in the pan. Reduce the heat to low and add the juice of half a lemon.
  11. Once the meatballs are out of the oven place them in the sauce in the frying pan and leave for 20 minutes. The meatballs will finish cooking and the sauce should be nice and thick.
  12. Serve over pasta or crammed into sub rolls – parmesan is a good choice with either option.
  13. Store any leftovers in the fridge and reheat thoroughly.

Published by

Sian at The Lapsed Blogger

A working wife and mum with a passion for simple food for hungry folk. Will steal the last chocolate hob nob.

2 thoughts on “Easy meatballs and tomato sauce

  1. An absolute classic Sian. Meatballs and spaghetti is a firm fave in our house. I make my own tomato sauce but use quorn meatballs so Matthew can eat with us.

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