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Baked Italian Meatballs

Baked Italian Meatballs

These baked Italian meatballs will remind you of Sunday dinner at Nonna’s house. They’re tender, full of flavor, and baked before being covered in tomato sauce. This is a baked version of Steve Martorano’s meatball recipe. 

Black casserole dish with Baked Italian Meatballs in marinara sauce and garnished with chopped parsley.

I like to serve the meatballs with Prosciutto, Pear, And Blue Cheese Appetizers, a Panzanella Salad, Spicy Italian-style Broccoli Rabe, and Caramel Macchiato Panna Cotta for dessert.

A Fort Lauderdale Institution

If you’ve never been to Cafe Martorano Restaurant in the Oakland Park area of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, then you are missing something truly wonderful and need to head that way ASAP.

Cafe Martorano is, in my opinion, the BEST Italian restaurant in the US.  The owner, Steve Martorano is a genius at combining simple, quality ingredients to create a sublime dish.  I’ve been to his establishment several times and have NEVER had a less than stellar meal. If you can’t get to his restaurant, he sells his books with the recipes for many of his dishes on his website. I own both of his books and they are my ‘go-to’ for really great, old-school Italian cuisine.

This recipe is my take on the meatballs from Mr. Martorano’s Meatball And Salad appetizer. The meatballs are soft, tender, juicy, and full of flavor. He fries his meatballs before simmering them in a Sunday gravy and then pairs the meatball with a simple salad dressed in vinegar and oil. This dish is something that I MUST order every time we go to his restaurant…even if I have to ask for it to go.  It is incredible!

Close-up of baked Italian meatballs simmered in marinara sauce and garnished with fresh, chopped parsley.

Baked Italian Meatballs

The changes that I’ve made to the original recipe are minimal. Basically, I swapped ground filet mignon for the ground veal and baked the meatballs rather than frying them. I also added marinara sauce instead of simmering them in Sunday gravy.

To be clear, my version is a step down from Cafe Martorano’s version, which is to die for. This version is a bit lighter in calories and fat and still really delicious! Use the meatballs to top spaghetti or in a meatball sub.

Ingredients Needed

  • Italian parsley – Don’t use curly parsley.
  • Hoagie rolls – look for soft, Italian-style rolls. Unwrap them and allow them to dry out and become stale before using.
  • Ground beef – I used an 80/20 blend.
  • Ground filet mignon – Cafe Martorano used ground veal. To replace it, I’ve asked my butcher to grind up a filet mignon steak.
  • Ground pork
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • Granulated garlic 
  • Extra-large egg – at room temperature so it mixes into the meat easier.
  • Parmesan Reggiano cheese – grate it fresh, if possible.
  • Unseasoned bread crumbs
  • Marinara sauce

Steps To Make This Recipe

Steve Martorano states in his recipe to not ‘dump’ all of the ingredients into a bowl and just mix them together.  Following the sequence of adding the ingredients gives the meatballs a light and tender texture.  I’m not sure why this is but from experience, I can confirm that he is correct.  When I tried the dump and mix method, the meatballs lacked a soft and juicy texture.

  1. Dry out the chopped parsley.
  2. Tear the hoagie rolls into pieces, add water, and need until the bread has turned doughy.
  3. Mix the meats, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic into the doughy bread.
  4. Add the egg, cheese, and parsley.  Mix well.
  5. Toss in the bread crumbs and mix until incorporated.
  6. Use a scale to weigh out 5.5 ounces of meat, roll in a ball, and place in a lasagna pan.
  7. Bake the meatballs for 30 minutes.
  8. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and bake for another 30 minutes.

Overhead view of a black casserole dish with baked Italian meatballs simmered in marinara sauce and garnished with chopped fresh parsley.

For more Italian recipes, please consider these:

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Black casserole dish with Baked Italian Meatballs in marinara sauce and garnished with chopped parsley.

Baked Italian Meatballs


  • Author: Millie Brinkley
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 18-20 meatballs 1x

Description

These baked Italian meatballs will remind you of Sunday dinner at Nonna’s house. They’re tender, full of flavor, and baked before being covered in tomato sauce. This is a baked version of Steve Martorano’s meatball recipe.


Ingredients

Scale

½ cup finely minced fresh Italian parsley

1 pound stale hoagie rolls

½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground fillet of beef (See note)

½ pound ground pork

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 extra-large egg, room temperature

½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

½ cup unseasoned, dry bread crumbs

4 cups marinara sauce


Instructions

For the best results, mix the ingredients in the order given.

Spread the minced parsley on paper towels and allow it to dry out for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, tear the hoagie rolls into ½-inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Add warm water to moisten, but not saturate the bread.

Mash the bread with your hands until the water has soaked into the bread and the texture is smooth and doughy, but not mushy.  This should take about 7 minutes.

Add the beef, filet of beef, pork, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic.  

With your hands, knead the ingredients together until well combined.

Add the egg, cheese, and parsley and mix into the meat mixture.

Next, add the bread crumbs and mix them into the meat.

Using a kitchen scale, portion out 5.5-ounces of meat and roll into a ball.

Place the balls in a large lasagna pan.

Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

To cook the meatballs:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Bake the chilled meatballs for 30 minutes.

Pour the marinara sauce over the meatballs and continue to bake for another 30 minutes.

Serve hot.

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • chilling time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Main Dish - Beef
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: baked Italian meatballs, Italian recipes, meatball recipes, copycat recipes, Cafe Martorano, Steve Martorano, Sunday dinner,

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