The Best Meatballs and Stove Top Marinara Ever

Super savory, tender meatballs and an easy stove top marinara both contain a secret ingredient that put them in a league of their own.  No other meatball can compare….these are not your mama’s meatballs. 

The Best Meatballs and Stove Top Marinara EVER | The Suburban Soapbox

I read a lot of cooking publications….magazines, books, web articles.  Sooooo much information that I rarely remember everything….but sometimes I come across a zinger.  A game changer….a tip that can change everything.  At least in the kitchen.  And I go at it with reckless abandon….sometimes taking it too far.  But this time….it’s a HUGE win!

The Best Meatballs and Stove Top Marinara EVER | The Suburban Soapbox

Italian grandmothers all over the place would probably shun me for this but I added fish sauce to both my meatballs and marinara.  My “pretend” Italian grandmother is probably rolling over in her grave about now. For the record…I’m not Italian, I’m a British/Polish hybrid that wished I was Italian for most of my teen years because I wanted their hair… and their recipes for all things pasta handed down from their great-great grandmothers.  I even dated an Italian for a little while but that didn’t work out so well.  But I ate well for the few months it lasted. 🙂

The Best Meatballs and Stove Top Marinara EVER | The Suburban Soapbox

Let’s get back to the fish sauce.  Yeah, fish sauce.  I read something recently where the writer put fish sauce in everything so I did too.  And it changed the way I’ll cook forever.  People talk about “umami” all the time so I started looking into this “umami” trend.  I wanted in.  I’m cool like that and so….fish sauce.  It added “umami” to my pretend Italian heritage.  I know the urge to skip it will be there….but don’t.  It added a certain wow factor to this recipe that can’t be duplicated in any way.  I even tried Worcestershire sauce in the past with just a little “Hmmm, there’s something salty” feeling.  But not WOW!

The Best Meatballs and Stove Top Marinara EVER | The Suburban Soapbox

And I know fish sauce sounds gross but hear me out….anchovies, Italians put them in everything.  So, it works.  And it really will make these the BEST meatballs ever.  Another quick tip that turn these meatballs on their heads….you will puree those veggies…yes, the onion and garlic….turn them into mush and add to the meat.  It keeps them super moist and you don’t get big chunks of onion in your mouth.  Don’t sniff the mixture when you take the lid off the blender.  Just don’t do it.  I beg you.

The Best Meatballs and Stove Top Marinara EVER | The Suburban Soapbox

Oh…and the marinara?  Yes, fish sauce.  It goes in there too.  It brightens up the flavor and stomps on some of the acidity.  It’s the Ying to the Yang….it’s the YUM.  (I swear I’m not drunk.)

Fish sauce…do it.

The Best Meatballs and Stove Top Marinara Ever

Prep Time 25 minutes Cook Time 1 hour Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Yields 24 meatballs and 4 cups of marinara


    For the meatballs

    • 1 pound ground beef (I used 80/20)
    • 1 pound ground veal
    • 1/2 pound sweet italian sausage
    • 1 large vidalia onion cut into quarters
    • 4 cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 cup chicken stock
    • 3 tablespoon fish sauce
    • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
    • 1 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
    • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

    For the marinara

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 large vidalia onion, diced
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • 3/4 cup red wine
    • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup fish sauce
    • 1 28 ounce can tomato puree
    • 1 28 ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes (I use Muir Glen)
    • kosher salt and pepper to taste


    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil. (for easy clean up!)
    2. Using your hands, lightly mix the beef, veal and sausage. Set aside.
    3. In a blender, add the onion and garlic. Blend until pureed.
    4. Add the onion mixture, stock, fish sauce, panko, parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper and egg to the meat mixture and, using clean hands, mix the ingredients together until well combined. Shape the mixture into balls approximately the size of a golf ball and place on the baking sheet being sure they are not touching. Bake the meatballs in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until done.
    5. While the meatballs are baking, heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over med-high heat. Add the onions to the oil and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the oregano and then add the wine. Cook until reduced by half and then add the sugar, fish sauce, tomato puree and crushed tomatoes. Stir the mixture until well combined and then add the salt and pepper. Turn the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    6. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and allow to simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes or until ready to serve.
    7. Note: The meatballs and marinara can both be made in advance and stored in separate containers. You can refrigerate for 24 hours or freeze for up to 2 months.
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    19 comments on “The Best Meatballs and Stove Top Marinara Ever”

    1. These meatballs look great! I love a delicious stovetop marinara sauce.

    2. Man! I can never have enough great meatball recipes! It’s a delicious addiction.

    3. Oh, fish sauce – that’s a really great idea…I can almost taste them just thinking about it. I keep some on hand all the time, but don’t seem to use it near often enough. I guess meatballs are going on the menu real soon ;).

    4. I am going to have to try this. I LOVE meatballs, and this sounds so unique!

    5. Meatballs are our favorite comfort food. Your recipe looks wonderful. Can’t wait to try!

    6. The fish sauce us definitely a great twist in this traditional marinara sauce meatball recipe. They do look divine!

    7. Nice meat combo!! Love all the seasonings too, they look yummy!

    8. I have a meatball obsession…well, I am Italian and all 🙂 Love these!

    9. Never ever would I thought to have put fish sauce into meatballs! What an amazing idea!!

    10. I am part Italian and you have done a wonderful job here. Your ingredients are wild and amazing!

    11. Hmmm … now I want to try putting fish sauce into things. These meatballs look delicious!

    12. Interesting that you add fish sauce to your meatballs…I’ve never tried them like that. Your meatballs look fantastic!!

    13. You included the words “best” and “ever” in the title. That’s enough to win me over!

    14. I’m a spaghetti and meatball fanatic and always looking for new ways to make a better meatball. Thanks for sharing.

    15. I love this recipe and really love your note not to sniff it when you take the lid off. I cackled a little bit, not going to lie. These are amazing. I know most of us get weird about fish oil or anchovies but it’s totally normal in other places. Going to have to try it.

    16. Pingback: Easy Tomato Jam - The Suburban Soapbox

    17. What is “Fish Sauce”??? Can’t make this unless you clarify.

      • It’s an asian sauce (found in your grocery store with the soy sauce), it’s a dark brown in color. If you can’t find it, you can replace it with worcestershire sauce.

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