Sicilian Meatballs with Basil Marinara

With two of our kids living on their own and one entering his junior year of college, my maternal instinct to prepare food for them has taken on a new form. Instead of gathering around the dinner table for our nightly meals, I entrust the post office or FedEx to deliver many packages of food to my now grown children. Rarely does a holiday pass without a package filled with sprinkle covered sugar cookies, chocolate dipped pretzels, or thick and chewy brownies landing on my kids’ doorsteps.

As the date approached for our son to return to school this fall, I prepared a few of his favorites to take with him. He packed the car for his 11-hour journey to Indiana and was sure to leave room for the large cooler packed with frozen food I prepared for easy meals for him and his roommates. Homemade frozen pizza crusts, beef and cheddar taquitos, and 4 dozen jalapeno poppers were a few options which were nestled in ice packs to ensure their safe arrival on the college campus.

I have a folder full of freezer-friendly recipes that fulfill three criteria. Most importantly, the meals freeze well and taste delicious even after a couple months in the freezer. The meals are also easily transportable. And lastly, they can be served in numerous ways. The appetizers, entrees and desserts included in the stack of recipes is ideal for freezing and sending off to school with kids, stocking the freezer for busy weeknight meals or delivering to a neighbor who needs a little help during a difficult time. Oven Baked Sicilian Meatballs with Marinara is one such recipe.

Unlike traditional Italian meatballs, this Sicilian counterpart is flecked with sweet, tiny currants and crunchy, mild and slightly buttery pine nuts. These two ingredients are frequently added to dishes from this region of Italy. Currants are a smaller version of more commonly used raisins. They are available at the grocery store and typically displayed with other dried fruits.

One of my favorite and time saving features of this recipe is that the meatballs are cooked in the oven right in the basil, oregano, and thyme spiked crushed tomato sauce. Cooking the meatballs in the sauce accomplishes three important aspects of the recipe. The meatballs soak up the Italian flavors of the sauce as they bake. The sauce is enhanced and has a richer taste from meatballs baking in it. And lastly it speeds up preparation of the recipe with less hands-on prep time. There is no need to stand at the stove tending to the meatballs as the cook.

Serve the baked meatballs with a side of your favorite pasta and a simple green salad, tucked into long rolls for a satisfying sandwich, or with chunks of crusty bread to sop up the delicious sauce. Oven Baked Sicilian Meatballs with Marinara is a filling and delicious comfort food recipe that would be a welcome addition to any freezer.


Sicilian Meatballs with Basil Marinara
Recipe type: entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herb blend
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper, divided
  • 2 slices of sandwich bread, white or wheat, torn into small pieces
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1½ pounds ground meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork and veal)
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1 loaf of crusty bread, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, pour in the crushed tomatoes. Add the Italian herb blend, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, add the bread and milk. Using a fork, mash the bread until it resembles a paste. Add the eggs, garlic, parsley, oregano, and allspice and stir to combine. Add the ground meat, bread crumbs, currants, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and mix gently to combine the ingredients.
  4. Form the meatball mixture into 16 meatballs and place in baking dish with the crushed tomatoes. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
  5. Serve meatballs and sauce in flat bowls with chunks of crusty bread to soak up the sauce.
  6. Note: The meatballs and sauce can be frozen together in a resealable freezer bag, glass storage container, or plastic storage container. To serve, thaw meatballs and sauce in the refrigerator overnight. The entrée can be heated in 1 of 3 ways.
  7. Heat in the oven in an oven safe dish at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes.
  8. Heat in the microwave on 70 percent power for 2 minutes. Continue heating at 1 minute intervals until heated through.
  9. Heat in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Stir occasionally and heat for a total time of about 10 – 20 minutes.
Recipe by Amy Casey ~ 2017

© 2017 amycaseycooks


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