Italian Pecorino Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

5 from 1 vote

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These Italian pecorino meatballs in marinara sauce will be on your weeknight dinner rotation! This dish is packed with flavor that we just can’t get enough of. This recipe is so easy and the tenderness of these meatballs is made perfect from the milk and panko.

These meatballs are also a really great prep ahead dinner, so you can just warm it up when you’re ready to eat. They stay extremely tender from the milk and panko. They have so much flavor for both the blend of beef and pork, but also the saltiness from the pecorino cheese.

What is the secret to the perfect meatball?

Milk and panko/breadcrumbs! The milk absorbs the breadcrumbs, which gives the meatballs the most amazing texture and super tender finish. It’s foolproof.

This dish pairs perfectly with crusty bread, pasta, grains like rice, or salad! We absolutely love pairing these meatballs with our Little Gem Caesar Salad with Panko Breadcrumbs and/or Parmesan Roasted Garlic Bread.

Italian Pecorino Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

What ingredients do you need for these meatballs in marinara sauce?

Ground Beef and Ground Pork: These two are the ultimate duo; the rich taste with the hint of sweetness is what we’re looking for in our meatballs. A few options to substitute beef or pork are ground veal, Italian sausage, ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground lamb, to name a few.

Pecorino: I LOVE the saltiness of pecorino cheese! It adds so much flavor and texture to these meatballs. Shredded pecorino is being tossed inside the meatballs mixture and also topped with.

Panko bread crumbs: You can’t have meatballs without breadcrumbs, and here we are using panko. The panko soaked in with the milk gives us the texture we need to make these perfectly tender meatballs, with texture and acts as a binder to really bring everything together. We are also using an egg as a binder here, and all of these ingredients together really make the perfect meatball.

Tomatoes: We like using crushed tomatoes for this recipe. You can opt to use tomato paste in addition, but I find the crushed tomatoes adds the deep flavors I’m looking for in my marinara without the paste.

Italian Pecorino Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

Instructions to make this Italian meatball recipe

Make your meat mixture

  • In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, ground beef, breadcrumbs, grated Pecorino Romano, chopped parsley, milk, egg, kosher salt, and black pepper. Mix well until all ingredients are well combined. I like to use my hands for this to ensure everything is incorporated.
  • Form the meat mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs; I like to go in between a small to medium-sized ball which makes around 12 meatballs. In a large deep, yet wide large pot or Dutch oven, heat the extra-virgin olive oil over high heat until glistening.

Sear and cook meatballs

  • Add the meatballs one by one in a clockwise motion, and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, turning frequently to char on all sides. Do this in batches if you need to. Remove and place on a baking sheet or plate when they are all done and keep any meatball fat in the pot. We will finish cooking the meatballs in the marinara later.
  • While the meatballs are charring, finely chop your onion and thinly slice your garlic. Add the onion and garlic in the same pot with the meatball fat on medium heat. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until softened but not browned, stirring constantly. 

Make your homemade marinara sauce

  • Add the can of crushed tomatoes and about half of the can filled back up with water (about 1 cup), scraping up any browned bits, and toss well to combine. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer the sauce for 15 to 20 minutes until it gets a deep red color.

Add back in your meatballs, simmer and serve!

  • Next, gently place the meatballs back into the skillet. Cover the skillet and simmer for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Spoon the meatballs and marinara sauce into bowls, place a slice of crusty bread on each plate, and finish with reserved chopped parsley and more shredded Pecorino Romano cheese. 
Italian Pecorino Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

Tips, Tricks and Substitutions

Should I fry my meatballs before putting them in the sauce?

Yes! Although you technically don’t have to, and they will cook and simmer if your marinara sauce. Searing your meatballs before hand, adds the most amazing char to the meatballs. It really adds 10 times more flavor to your sauce and your meatballs themselves.

Am I able to add pasta to these meatballs?

Of course! Although we didn’t add pasta to this recipe, these Italian meatballs are sure to elevate your pasta dish! We recommend spaghetti or linguine, but it’s up to you and what’s your favorite pasta.

What can I use instead of Pecorino Romano cheese?

We love Pecorino Romano, but Parmesan Cheese will still give that same rich, sharp, and nutty flavor to the dish.

How can I prep my meatballs ahead of time?

We love prepping these meatballs and keeping them in the refrigerator (or freezer!). Just remember that ground meat should be used or frozen within 1 to 2 days.

Can I sub my meatballs with gluten-free breadcrumbs? Sure! Just make sure your choice of gluten-free breadcrumbs is more of a flake versus a powder. We recommend getting a gluten-free panko rather than a gluten-free breadcrumb.

Italian Pecorino Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

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Italian Pecorino Meatballs in Marinara Sauce
5 from 1 vote

Italian Pecorino Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

These Italian pecorino meatballs in marinara sauce will be on your weeknight dinner rotation! This dish is packed with flavor that we just can't get enough of.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving, use parmesan cheese as a substitute
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 4 large slices of toasted crusty bread, to serve

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, ground beef, breadcrumbs, grated Pecorino Romano, chopped parsley, milk, egg, kosher salt, and black pepper. Mix really well until all ingredients are well combined. I like to use my hands for this to really ensure everything is incorporated.
  • Form the meat mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs, I like to go in between small and too big, a small to medium-sized ball. Makes around 12 meatballs. In a large deep, yet wide large pot or Dutch oven, heat the extra-virgin olive oil over high heat until glistening.
  • Add the meatballs one by one in a clockwise motion, and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, turning frequently to char on all sides. Do this in batches if you need to. Remove and place on a baking sheet or plate when they are all done and keep any meatball fat in the pot. We will finish cooking the meatballs in the marinara later.
  • While the meatballs are charring, finely chop your onion and thinly slice your garlic. Add the onion and garlic in the same pot with the meatball fat on medium heat. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until softened but not browned, stirring constantly.
  • Add the can of crushed tomatoes and about half of the can filled back up with water (about 1 cup), scraping up any browned bits, and toss well to combine. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer the sauce for 15 to 20 minutes until it gets a deep red color.
  • Next, gently place the meatballs back into the skillet. Cover the skillet and simmer for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Spoon the meatballs and marinara sauce in bowls, place a slice of crusty bread on each plate, and finish with reserved chopped parsley and more shredded Pecorino Romano cheese.

Nutrition

Calories: 363kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 21g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 13g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 83mg, Sodium: 131mg, Potassium: 353mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 29IU, Vitamin C: 0.4mg, Calcium: 51mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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