Kel’s Spicy, Saucy Meatballs

In hopes of finding the best meatball sub in Raleigh, last month I asked my readers for their recommendations. One lucky responder (congratulations, Lee!) won a $25.00 gift certificate to Harris Teeter just for commenting.  I am almost finished with my market research based on the suggestions I received (rough job, this blogging thing is.) In the meantime, I’d like to share my own recipe for spicy homemade meatballs with a great marinara sauce. Serve these over spaghetti noodles and then prepare tasty meatball subs a day or so later with the leftovers. Or make small meatballs and serve as an appetizer at your next party.

This wonderful meatball recipe is based loosely on the one found in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.) Some of my main changes are to add ground pork and include some additional seasonings, plus eliminate the dry bread crumbs that Hazan rolls the meatballs in before cooking. The result – magnifico!

Spicy Meatball Ingredients (makes about 25 medium-sized meatballs)

  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 2 cups of fresh bread crumbs (I used La Brea’s Three Cheese Semolina, available at Harris Teeter)
  • 2/3 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan/Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 cup sweet onion, diced small
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoon worstershire sauce
  • Whole nutmeg
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (I used Savory’s Himalayan)
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) extra virgin olive oil


Mix the meats together.

Soak breadcrumbs in milk for a few minutes. Add to the meat mixture.

Add the onion, garlic, cheese, parsley, worstershire sauce and one of the eggs, and gently mix together well (it’s easiest to do this with clean hands instead of trying to use a spoon.) You want the mixture to be nice and moist – if it isn’t, go ahead and add the other egg.

Grate some of the fresh nutmeg with a micro plane (I do about 12-15 swipes) onto the meat mixture. Add the Italian seasoning, oregano, sea salt and ground pepper, and again gently mix. I refrigerate this for an hour or more so the meatballs will hold up better.

Shape the mixture into meatballs. I make medium-sized ones if I’m serving them over spaghetti and/or for meatball subs, and smaller ones for appetizers.

Tip: Now what you want to do is to cook one meatball in a little bit of the olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes on each side. That’s right – just one meatball for now. This is because you want to know how the mixture tastes before cooking all of it so that you can adjust the seasoning if necessary. (Thanks to Isaac Becker of 112 Eatery in Minneapolis for this tip, as mentioned in my 5/16/11 post.)

Once you have your seasonings down pat, go ahead and heat the olive oil and sauté the rest of the meatballs over medium heat until they are nice and brown on the outside. Place on paper towels to absorb the oil once they are finished cooking.

After you have made your marinara sauce (see recipe below), add the meatballs and let simmer for 20-30 minutes or so before serving.

Marinara Sauce

Don’t let the amount of ingredients intimidate you – this is a an easy-to-make, hearty and tasty sauce that goes great with the meatballs. Feel free to add diced green peppers and sliced mushrooms if so desired. Or use your own favorite marinara recipe instead.


  • 1 can (28 oz.) whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 can (28 oz.) tomato sauce
  • ½ cup good red wine
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup sweet onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (to cut the acidity of the tomatoes)


Open the wine and pour a glass to drink while you’re making the sauce. You deserve it. Put on some good music – a good Italian aria if you like opera (sorry – I’m just not there) or whatever inspires you (for me, RHCP’s Stadium Arcadium is always a great choice.)  You want to set the mood, which is quite important when cooking something this awesome.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the celery, onion, carrots and minced garlic and simmer for 7-8 minutes, until the veggies are soft.

Place the whole tomatoes in a large pot and squish them with your clean hands (thanks for the tip, Mandi.) Add the tomato sauce, wine, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, oregano and thyme, and blend together well.

Mix in the sautéed veggies. Add the sugar and the bay leaves. Oh-oh, I just realized that I forgot to include these in the ingredients photo – blame it on the wine. Oh well, you know what they look like, and if not, here’s a picture.

Simmer for as long as you like. Actually, it’s ideal to make this the day before to let the flavors intensify.

About 20 to 30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, add the meatballs and simmer on low. Refill your wine glass if you haven’t already done so. Serve over spaghetti noodles with a nice salad and/or a good, crusty bread.

Or, make some delicious meatball subs.

Kel’s Spicy, Saucy (and Messy) Meatball Subs

If you are using leftover meatballs and sauce that has been in the refrigerator for a day or say, go ahead and warm 4-5 meatballs and a good helping of sauce per sub.

Take a fresh hoagie roll (I like to buy the ones that have not been sliced) and cut it lengthwise, but not all of the way through the bread. Fill the roll with warm meatballs and spoon a good amount of sauce on top. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Add a couple of slices of provolone (mozzarella works well, too.)

Bake in a 350 degree oven (I use my toaster oven) for about 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is starting to brown. I then broil it for a minute or two so it’s nice and bubbly.

Grab some extra napkins (or a fork) and enjoy every bite! And be on the lookout for my Raleigh’s Best Meatball Subs post, just in case you don’t feel like making these yourself.

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

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7 Responses to Kel’s Spicy, Saucy Meatballs

  1. trixfred30 says:

    I’ve never seen a sub that was simply that enormous!

  2. Those are some nice, spicy meatballs. I love meatballs in a baguette 😀

  3. Mandi says:

    I can either be on the lookout for the best meatball sub blog; or the invitation the next time you make them 😉
    They look fabulous, kind of takes the wind out of my sails for that turkey sausage muffin I’m getting ready to have for breakfast.

  4. Pingback: Raleigh’s Best Meatball Subs | Kel's Cafe of All Things Food

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