Donal Skehan: My best American Italian baked meatballs

These meatballs coated with tomato sauce and mozzarella are simply spectacular

Donal Skehan’s  American Italian baked meatballs

Donal Skehan’s American Italian baked meatballs

Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 12:00

  • Serves: 4
  • Cooking Time: 120 mins
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serves 4-6
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 700g passata
  • 75ml dry red wine
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 2 mozzarella balls, sliced
  • Salt & pepper
  • For the meatballs:
  • 250g good quality minced beef
  • 250g good quality minced pork
  • 100g pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 60ml buttermilk
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano, chopped
  • A small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 large free range egg, lightly beaten
  • 50g parmesan cheese, finely grated


I have long made my Italian-style meatballs the same way. Raw meatballs plopped into a bubbling tomato sauce and poached until tender – every time a guaranteed success, a crowd pleaser and a recipe I thought needed no tweaking.

I stand corrected, ladies and gentlemen, behold my best American Italian baked meatballs. Baking the fried meatballs in the oven coated with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese is simply spectacular. Make them tonight.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs. Season with salt and pepper and mix until completely and evenly combined.

Using a tablespoon form large golf ball sized meatballs by rolling them in your hands. Transfer to a large baking sheet. Keeping a small bowl of cold water for dipping your hands in after each meatballs will prevent things getting too sticky.

Repeat with the remaining mixture, cover and leave in the fridge to become firm for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Place a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a good glug of olive oil. Fry half the meatballs until browned on all sides, this will take 8-10 minutes and then transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Wipe out the pan with kitchen paper, add another glug of oil and fry the remaining batch.

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Without wiping the pan, add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and place over a low heat, add the garlic and allow slowly simmer until just golden but not browned.

Pour in the passata and red wine and stir through. Season with dried oregano, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a steady simmer and allow to cook for 5-6 minutes before adding the meatballs to the pan and gently turning to coat them in the sauce with a tablespoon. Cover the pan with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook gently for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time, dot with mozzarella and return to the oven.

Serve the baked meatballs with spaghetti cooked in a pot of well-seasoned boiling water until al dente and sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan cheese.