Meatballs and Red Sauce

This pasta night classic checks all the boxes — lots of fresh veggies, healthy lean meats and everything comes together in just one pot (plus a baking sheet).

4–6 servings (makes approximately 21 2-inch meatballs)


  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 28-oz. can tomatoes (crushed)
  • 28-oz. can stewed tomatoes (whole)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1.5–2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1.5–2 lbs. ground turkey (or veal or pork)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. pepper, freshly ground


  1. In a medium-sized Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp. kosher salt, bell peppers and garlic, then mushrooms, and continue cooking for 5 more minutes.
  4. Remove half of this cooked veggie mix and set aside for meatballs.
  5. In same pot with remaining veggie mix, add Italian seasonings, tomato paste, then stir to combine.
  6. Add both cans of tomatoes, then bay leaves. Let tomato sauce come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 1 hour, covered, or up to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
  7. In a medium-sized bowl combine meats, remaining half of cooked veggie mix, panko, 2 eggs, parsley, 2 Tbsp. kosher salt, pepper and parmesan. Mix together with a spoon until combined.
  8. Form meat mix into 2-inch round balls and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper.
  9. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until browned on top. Place meatballs in sauce and cook uncovered at a simmer for 20–30 more minutes.
  10. Serve over noodles of choice and garnish with grated parmesan and basil if desired.

Note from Kelsey

I love to make this in a larger portion and store half in the freezer. Meatballs can be frozen raw.