Meatballs Simplified: Bake ‘Em!

Meatballs baked in the oven. Photos by Keri White

Italian meatballs are somewhat of an Achilles heel for me. I have made delicious Thai meatballs, Vietnamese, Indian and Persian meatballs, but really good traditional Italian meatballs elude me.

Despite my significant repertoire of dishes simple and complex, this traditional standby is a weak spot in my cooking portfolio. I am forever attempting to master Italian meatballs, and when I saw this approach on Instagram, it seemed worth a try. The results were very good. Admittedly, I still haven’t reached the holy grail of meatballs that come out of the kitchen of some of my Italian friends, but these were, so far, the best to come out of Chez White.

The meatballs gain a slightly crisp exterior without the mess and effort of frying them, and the drippings fall into the sauce and help season it. Here’s what I did:

Raw meatballs ready to be baked

Oven-Baked Meatballs
Makes about 14 meatballs

1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
½ cup red wine (or water) to rinse the jar
1.5 pounds ground meat (I used beef, but turkey, veal or a vegan product can be used instead)
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs (check the label; many contain cheese)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 egg

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour the sauce into an oblong baking dish. Pour the wine into the empty jar, replace the lid, shake it vigorously and pour it into the dish. Spray a wire rack with oil and place it over the baking dish. Set it aside.

In a large bowl, mix the meat with all the remaining ingredients. When blended, form the mixture into meatballs; they should be about the size of a golf ball and firmly packed. Place the meatballs on top of the wire rack.

Place the pan/rack arrangement in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes until the meatballs are browned, starting to crisp on the outside and cooked through (to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees).

When done, slide the meatballs off the rack into the sauce and serve as desired — over spaghetti or on a toasted roll.


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