Skillet Meatballs and Marinara

$7.98 recipe / $1.33 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 25 votes
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I think I’ve hit the September Challenge jackpot with this one, folks. When I had my first bite of these Skillet Meatballs and Marinara I literally moaned and let out a quiet “Oh, hell yeah…”

These super easy skillet meatballs only have four ingredients and they come together in just a few minutes. If you want to be extra fancy, you can add a little grated Parmesan to the meatball mix, or even some frozen spinach (thaw and squeeze out the moisture first). But if you ask me, they’re insanely delicious just the way they are and I’m a big fan of the easy, no-fuss prep.

See this recipe used in my weekly meal prep.

Overhead view of a bowl of pasta with meatballs and marinara

Use Italian Sausage for Fast, Easy Meatballs

I like to use Italian sausage to make my meatballs because it already comes with all the seasoning inside the meat, so you really don’t have to add anything more. Just a little breadcrumbs and egg to hold the meatballs together, and some diced onion for good measure.

Can You Freeze the Meatballs?

Yes! Meatballs freeze very well. You can either freeze them uncooked, or just after you cook the meatballs in the skillet. I like the idea of freezing after cooking, so you can just toss the frozen meatballs into a pot of sauce to heat through whenever you want.

Take Another Short Cut

If you want to make this recipe even faster and easier, you can definitely just use a jar of store-bought sauce instead of making your own, and probably for about the same price. 

Perfect for Meal Prep

This is one of my favorite meal preps. The meatballs and marinara hold up really well in the refrigerator for about 4 days. I like to pack them up with cooked pasta all in one container, but if you’re picky about pasta, you may want to pack the pasta separate so they sauce doesn’t continue to soften the pasta.

Side view of the meatballs and marinara in a deep skillet

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Skillet Meatballs and Marinara

5 from 25 votes
These quick and easy skillet meatballs are made in one skillet with marinara and pack a huge flavor punch. They're my new weeknight dinner favorite! 
Overhead view of a bowl of pasta with meatballs and marinara
Servings 6 (4 meatballs each)
Prep 10 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 45 mins

Ingredients

MEATBALLS

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (mild, sweet or hot) ($3.23)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs ($0.48)
  • 1 large egg ($0.32)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced ($0.19)

MARINARA

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced ($0.18)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes ($2.00)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.03)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper ($0.05)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar ($0.02)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste ($0.06)

PASTA

  • 12 oz. pasta (any shape) ($1.00)

Instructions 

  • To make the meatballs, squeeze the Italian sausage out of the casing and into a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, egg, and diced onion. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until combined. Form the mixture into about 24 ping pong ball sized balls.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium flame. Add the olive oil and tilt the skillet to coat. Add the meatballs and cook until browned on the outside (a couple minutes on each side). Work in two batches if needed to give the meatballs room to movel around. Once the meatballs are browned, remove them from the skillet to a clean plate.
  • Add the second half of the diced onion to the skillet, along with two cloves of minced garlic. Sauté in the leftover oil and fat from the meatballs until soft and transparent. Once soft, add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, brown sugar, and tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste mixes into the crushed tomatoes.
  • Add the meatballs back to the skillet and gently stir to coat them in sauce. Place a lid on the skillet and let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 15 minutes. Cook the pasta while the meatballs simmer.
  • Drain the pasta and serve each bowl with pasta, four meatballs, and a scoop of sauce.

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Notes

To use store bought marinara, keep the browned meatballs in the skillet and pour a large jar of sauce over top. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer, then let the meatballs simmer in the sauce (with a lid) for 15 minutes.

Nutrition

Serving: 4MeatballsCalories: 632.18kcalCarbohydrates: 72.23gProtein: 27.6gFat: 24.7gSodium: 1106.7mgFiber: 5.37g
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Side view of a bowl full of pasta with meatballs and marinara

How to Make Skillet Meatballs – Step by Step Photos

Fresh Italian Sausage in the package

Italian sausage is great because it has a ton of herbs and spices already mixed in, which means less work for you. I usually buy Johnsonville sausage, but noticed this store brand which was far less expensive. This package is 1.5 pounds, so I portioned off 1/2 lb. and froze it for later. You only need one pound of mild, sweet, or hot Italian sausage for this recipe.

Freeze Leftover Italian Sausage in a freezer bag

This extra little 1/2 pound of sausage is going to come in handy later on in the month!

Skillet Meatball Ingredients in a glass mixing bowl

Add 1 lb. Italian sausage to a large bowl along with 1 cup breadcrumbs, 1 large egg, and 1/2 of an onion (finely diced).

Skillet Meatball Mix in a glass bowl

Use your hands to mix until everything is evenly combined.

Raw shaped Meatballs on a red cutting board

Start forming the meat mixture into ping pong sized balls. I wanted at least 24, so I could have six servings of four meatballs. I ended up getting 26 meatballs.

Browned meatballs in the skillet

Heat a large skillet over a medium flame. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil, then tilt the skillet to make sure it’s coated in oil. Add the meatballs to the skillet and brown on all sides. This is a fairly quick process. You don’t need to cook them through, just until they are good and brown. They will simmer in the sauce later and finish cooking inside.

I worked in two batches to make sure the meatballs had room to roll around. Once browned, remove the skillet meatballs to a clean plate. (If you want to use a store bought sauce, don’t remove the meatballs, just pour the sauce on top and let them simmer in the sauce for 15 minutes.)

Sautéed Onions and Garlic in the skillet

In the same skillet, add the other half of the onion (also diced) and two cloves of minced garlic. Sauté in the leftover oil until softened.

Tomatoes and Spices added to the skillet

Add one 28oz. can of crushed tomatoes, 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp salt, some freshly cracked pepper, and 1 tsp brown sugar. Stir and heat these ingredients until the tomato paste has mixed into the crushed tomatoes.

Meatballs added back to the sauce

Add the partially cooked skillet meatballs back to the sauce and stir gently to coat them in sauce. 

Close up side view of meatballs in the sauce, in the skillet

Place a lid on the skillet and let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 15 minutes (turn the heat down slightly if needed to let it simmer gently). While the meatballs are simmering, cook the pasta.

Overhead view of a bowl of pasta with meatballs and marinara

To each bowl of pasta, add four meatballs and a scoop of sauce.

Skillet Meatballs and Marinara portioned for meal prep

I portioned all of Skillet Meatballs and Marinara out ahead of time to make meal time easy. I may freeze a couple portions of this as well (but I have a feeling they’ll all get eaten quickly!).

Overhead view of meatballs in sauce in the skillet with a wooden spoon

NOM. My new favorite! <3

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  1. Good Morning – This recipe looks yummy! Found this recipe via a search for skillet meatballs.

    Just a quick question at this point: will this recipe be equally as delicious with hamburger? Just so happens I have a couple of pounds of organic hamburger in my freezer. Then next time I would use the Italian sausage. Thanks.

    1. The Italian sausage is packed with herbs and spices that end up flavoring the meatballs, so if you’re using plain ground beef you’ll definitely want to add in a bunch of Italian seasoning to make up for that. :) You’ll also want to consider the fat content of the meat you’re using. If you’re using a lean ground beef, the meatballs won’t be quite as juicy and tender as the meatballs made with Italian sausage.

      1. Hi Beth – Thank you for writing back to me. I bought the Italian sausage yesterday and will be trying your recipe this weekend. The hamburger I had would have been too lean. I am looking forward to it!

  2. Wow wow wow. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for quite sometime and I stumbled back across it the other day and decided I needed to give it a try. Honestly this meal turned out so delicious! Meatballs were a hit with everyone (including a picky eater) and the sauce was to die for! So simple yet so flavorful! I love how budget friendly this dinner is as well. I ended up using 1 lb of ground mild Italian sausage because my store didn’t have the links but it turned out perfect!
    Don’t pass on this homemade Marinara sauce for store bought; it’s just a few ingredients and totally worth it, trust me :). Anyways I’m having leftovers for lunch and I can’t wait. Thank you!

    Going to use the recipe next time for meatball sliders!

  3. Hi Beth – luv this recipe! Make it alot during the week-Was wondering how u think it would hold up in the crockpot? I was thinking of doubling it (because its that good) and putting in the crock for hands off simmering while i go off shopping haha so i can have it ready when i get back ;) how long do ya think?

    1. I think the meatballs and marinara would be just fine in the crockpot. I wouldn’t suggest the pasta in there as it may absorb too much.

  4. This recipe is so good. We love it with homemade garlic bread and salad. Yum! I make it with store bought marinara and I don’t brown them. (I have a hard time with breakage when I brown them). So I just pop them in the sauce raw and cook until done. Very tender and filling. 

    1. I want to add that I’ve been making these in the instant pot lately. I pour a jar of sauce in the bottom and then pile the meatballs on top. 8 minutes later perfect meatballs. 
      I forgot to add into last comment that my husband likes these better with ground beef so we use organic ground beef instead. Works great. 

  5. I made these with lean ground beef and your recepie was unbelievably delicious. The only thing I changed was, I used Progresso Garlic & Herb Bread Crumbs and Prego Marinara. I hardly ever cook but this is so good it makes want to cook more. Even my 18 year old Son wants to make these meatball now. Thank you so much for sharing 👍🏼❤️👊🏼

    1. Hmm, probably about 3/4 cup. The sauce is mostly the tomatoes, which is 28 ounces, or between 3-4 cups.