Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito

Chef & Healthy Lifestyle Crusader

Mama’s Meatballs (and Marinara)


He’s back! This time, Rocco talks you through a newer version of his mama’s famous meatballs and a quick and easy marinara.

If you’re cooking along with us at home, find the ingredient and preparation list below or listen and enjoy for your next meal inspiration. 

COOK’S NOTES: Pan-frying method is used for this episode. Roasting method is available at Serve with your choice of pasta (such as thin spaghetti), zoodles (zucchini noodles) or chickpea pasta. You may replace the ground beef, pork and veal with 1 1/2 pounds of Meatball/Meatloaf Mix.

Makes 6 servings


For the Marinara:

  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed through a garlic press
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1⁄2 (16-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (16-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 1⁄4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 1⁄2 pound ground beef
  • 1⁄2 pound ground pork
  • 1⁄2 pound ground veal
  • 1⁄4 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled but whole
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1⁄3 cup chicken stock
  • 1⁄3 cup well-crushed store-bought Parmesan crisps (such as Whisps)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1⁄4 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese, optional
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Grapeseed oil or other neutral oil like soybean or vegetable oil, if pan searing meatballs
  • Olive oil or avocado oil cooking spray, if roasting meatballs

Optional Garnishes:

  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Medium to large size heavy bottom saucepot
  • 1 Large (approximately 12”) skillet, ideally non-stick, but stainless or cast iron will work
  • Blender or food processor
  • 1 Large mixing bowl
  • 1 Baking sheet


For the Marinara Sauce:
In a saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium-high to high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until the garlic is tender and the onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, chicken stock, and water to the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, adjust heat and add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. If the sauce is too thin, simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water. The sauce should be fairly thin and
very smooth, but not watery. Turn off heat or place on low until you are ready to add the meatballs.

For the Meatballs:
If roasting the meatballs, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and coat a sheet pan with cooking spray. Place the ground beef, pork and veal in a large mixing bowl. In a food processor or blender, combine the onion, garlic, parsley and chicken stock and puree. Transfer the mixture to the large bowl of ground meats and add the crisps, eggs, pepper flakes, Parmigiano (if using) and salt. Mix with your hands until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Grease your hands with olive oil and form the mixture into balls a little smaller than golf balls.

You can also use an ice cream scoop. This will make about 12-15 balls. If pan searing: Place a large skillet over medium high heat with 1/4 – 1/2” oil. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs to the pan (working in batches, if necessary) and brown the meatballs well on all sides. This will take a few minutes per side. When they are brown, lift out with a slotted spoon
and gently place in the marinara sauce to ensure they are almost fully submerged. Bring the saucepot back to a simmer and at that point, they are just about done. If you want to make sure they are cooked through, a thermometer inserted in the middle should read 140 degrees F. You
can also break one open and make sure it is cooked through.

If Roasting:
Arrange the meatballs on the sheet pan and bake until browned, at least 18 and up to 20 minutes. Transfer the finished meatballs to the marinara sauce and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for another minute or two until the meatballs are cooked through. Garnish with grated cheese, red pepper flakes and/or parsley, if desired.

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