Are you looking for homemade sauces for meatballs? Meatballs are a versatile and easy-to-make dinner staple that can be dressed up in so many flavorful ways.
While jarred pasta sauce is convenient, taking the time to make your own homemade sauce from scratch can really bring your meatballs to the next level.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating the perfect complement to accentuate the flavors of your meatballs.
Homemade sauces allow you to control the ingredients and customize the flavors to your liking.
You can make them as simple or complex as you want. The sauces can highlight different culinary influences from around the world or go in a more familiar direction reminiscent of classic Italian-American comfort food. Either way, a flavor-packed sauce made with care is guaranteed to impress.
What to keep in mind, to choose a sauce for meatballs?
Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a sauce to pair with meatballs:
Flavor Profile – Think about the predominant flavors in the sauce and how they will interact with the flavor of the meatballs. For example, a bold, spicy marinara sauce will contrast nicely with the richness of beef meatballs. Sweet and tangy sauces also complement the savoriness of meatballs.
Texture – Sauces can have different viscosities based on ingredients and cooking techniques. Thicker, heartier sauces like Bolognese and mushroom gravy cling well to meatballs with a satisfying mouthfeel. Lighter sauces like marinara or salsa may need starch to thicken for better coating ability.
Meatball Ingredients – If the meatballs contain lots of herbs, cheese, or spices, opt for a sauce that won’t overpower those fillings. For highly seasoned meatballs, brighter, simpler sauces work best. Meatballs with just meat and salt pair well with more complex, robust sauces.
Complementary Flavors – Choose supporting ingredients in the sauce that will boost the flavors already in the meatballs. For example, meatballs with Italian herbs or parmesan cheese go great with a marinara. Asian-style meatballs with ginger and soy sauce call for a sweet and salty teriyaki sauce.
Meal Purpose – Some sauces pair better with meatballs intended as appetizers or main courses. Tangy barbecue sauce is ideal for meatballs on a stick or slider sandwich. Hearty Bolognese better suits plated entrée meals over pasta.
Dietary Needs – Be mindful of dietary restrictions. Tomato-based sauces work for many, while nut or dairy-heavy sauces like pesto or Alfredo should be avoided by those with allergies or sensitivities.
Ease of Preparation – Homemade sauces require different levels of time and effort. Quick pan sauces can come together while the meatballs cook. More elaborate sauces like mole may be best for special occasions rather than busy weeknights.
By keeping these factors in mind, you’re sure to find the perfect sauce match for your meatballs!
20 Meatball Sauce Recipes
Here are 20 delicious sauces for meatballs ideas to try with your next batch of meatballs:
1. Marinara Meatball Sauce
A classic marinara sauce is one of the most popular pairings for meatballs. This Italian tomato sauce gets its flavor from garlic, onions, oregano, basil and olive oil.
The bright acidic tomato flavor complements the richness of the meatballs perfectly. Simmering the sauce slowly allows the flavors to meld together into a harmonious balance. For a chunkier texture, crush the tomatoes by hand rather than using canned crushed tomatoes.
2. Sunday Gravy Meatball Sauce
For an extra rich and meaty tomato sauce, make a Sunday gravy-style sauce. This usually contains a variety of meat like Italian sausage, pork ribs, and braciole simmered right into the sauce.
The meat adds another layer of flavor as it slowly cooks into the sauce. Use your meatballs as one of the meats or cook them separately and add them in at the end for the best texture.
3. Vodka Meatball Sauce
For a creamy twist on marinara, vodka sauce is the way to go. The addition of heavy cream and vodka creates a silky smooth texture and richer flavor.
The alcohol cooks off, leaving behind a pleasant richness that enhances the brightness of the tomatoes.
You can even flame the vodka first for a fun presentation. Just make sure to let it cook a bit longer afterward so the alcohol burn mellows.
4. Bolognese Sauces for Meatballs
A slow simmered meat sauce like Bolognese is a hearty choice for your meatballs.
This type of ragu gets loaded with meaty flavor from ground meats like beef, pork, and veal simmered with tomatoes, red wine, herbs and vegetables. The extra meat amplifies the meaty flavors of the meatballs. The longer it simmers, the more rich and complex the sauce becomes.
5. Alfredo Sauce
For a creamy, cheesy alternative to tomato sauce, Alfredo is a smart choice. A classic Alfredo is made with heavy cream, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
The creamy cheese binds well to the meatballs. You can even mix in some spinach for extra flavor and nutrition. The richness pairs perfectly with the hearty, savory meatballs.
Herby, bright pesto makes a fantastic pairing for meatballs. Traditional pesto is made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese blended into a textured sauce.
The summery freshness of the basil complements the meatballs nicely. The nuts and cheese also pump up the flavor. For a unique twist, use other herbs like cilantro or parsley instead of basil.
7. Chimichurri Meatball Sauce
For a taste of Argentina, chimichurri sauce is the perfect match for meatballs. This uncooked sauce is packed with a bright herb flavor from parsley and cilantro.
Garlic, shallots, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes add a tangy kick that enhances the meatiness. Drizzle it over cooked meatballs or use it as a marinade for extra flavor.
8. Teriyaki Sauce
For an Asian-inspired version, homemade teriyaki sauce gives meatballs a delicious sweet and salty glaze. The classic ingredients are soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil. You can play around with brown sugar or pineapple juice for variation. The depth of flavor teriyaki adds is hard to beat.
9. barbecue Sauce
Smoky, sweet barbecue sauce is always a crowd-pleaser with meatballs. Making your own allows you to customize the balance of tangy, sweet, and spicy flavors to your preference.
Tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, spices, and smoked paprika are commonly used as a base. Kick it up with some heat from chili powder or hot sauce if you like.
10. Buffalo Sauce
Buffalo-style hot sauce transforms meatballs into the ultimate game-day finger food. Make a tangy, buttery buffalo sauce from hot sauce, butter and garlic. Toss the cooked meatballs in the sauce so they soak up all of the amazing flavors. Top with creamy blue cheese dressing for the classic pairing.
11. Sweet and Sour Sauce
For a fun Asian-inspired sauce, sweet and sour is a great way to add mega flavor to meatballs. Pineapple juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger create the signature sweet and tangy flavors associated with this sauce. Thicken it up with corn starch for the perfect clingy texture on the meatballs.
12. Harissa Meatball Sauce
Spice lovers will appreciate the intense heat and flavor of harissa sauce paired with meatballs.
This North African sauce stars spicy chili peppers blended with garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and aromatic spices like coriander, caraway and cumin. The bold, exotic flavors pair well with the richness of the meat.
13. Mushroom Gravy
For ultimate comfort food, homemade mushroom gravy is a must with meatballs. Sauté mushrooms like cremini or shiitake in butter and olive oil, then make a roux with flour.
Whisk in broth and heavy cream for a luscious gravy that captures all the earthy flavors of the mushrooms. Pour it over your meatballs for pure coziness.
14. Green Peppercorn Sauce
For an upscale restaurant-style pairing, creamy green peppercorn sauce adds elegance. Cook shallots in butter, then add green peppercorns, brandy, chicken or beef broth, and cream. The bold pepper flavor stands up to the heft of the meatballs beautifully with an aromatic, sophisticated flavor.
15. Creamy Caper Sauce
Lemony capers make for a bright, tangy sauce for meatballs. Sauté capers in olive oil and butter, then deglaze the pan with some white wine. Add chicken broth, lemon juice, and heavy cream. The punchy capers offset the richness of the dish for a refined flavor combo.
16. Marsala Wine Sauces for Meatballs
Sweet Marsala wine makes an excellent base for a sauce for meatballs. Cook onions and garlic in butter, then deglaze with Marsala. Add mushrooms and chicken or beef broth, then finish with cream. The sweet nuttiness of the wine pairs wonderfully with savory meatballs.
17. Green Curry Meatball Sauce
For a Thai-inspired sauce, spicy green curry is fantastic with meatballs. Sauté aromatics like garlic, ginger, lemongrass, shallots, and Thai green chili peppers in coconut milk and basil. Add fish sauce for that signature umami flavor. The herbs and spices complement the meatballs wonderfully.
18. Mole Sauce
Rich mole sauce is a stellar match with meatballs for a taste of Mexico. Making mole from scratch takes some effort but is worth it to get all those complex layers of flavor. The sauce often contains ingredients like chili peppers, cocoa, spices, nuts, seeds, and dried chiles. The depth is unreal.
19. Salsa Verde
Fresh, herbaceous salsa verde served over meatballs for a delicious lighter pairing. Blend tomatillos, cilantro, onion, green chiles, lime, cumin garlic, and olive oil. Roast the tomatillos first for deeper flavor. The bright acidity and herby flavors lighten up the hearty meatballs.
20. Cherry Sauce
For a unique sweet touch, the homemade cherry sauce makes meatballs extra special. Simmer pitted cherries in sugar and lemon juice, then thicken slightly with cornstarch. The brilliant sweet-tart flavor complements the savoriness of meatballs for a gourmet flavor pairing.
The possibilities are endless when matching Sauces for Meatballs. With a variety of homemade sauces at your disposal, you can keep the flavors diverse and exciting.
Make extra sauces and freeze them for easy weeknight meals. Whip up a batch of meatballs, heat up one of your homemade sauces, and dinner is served with minimal effort. With flavorful homemade sauces, meatballs go from ordinary to extraordinary.
Sauce for Meatballs
- 1 large onion diced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cans 28 ounces each crushed tomatoes
- 1 can 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine optional
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine (if using), beef broth, oregano, basil, and thyme to the pot. Stir to combine.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The longer you simmer the sauce, the more flavorful it will become.
- After 2 hours, taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed. You can also add additional herbs or spices to taste, such as red pepper flakes for a little extra kick.
- While the sauce is simmering, you can prepare your meatballs. You can use any type of ground meat for the meatballs, such as beef, pork, chicken, or turkey.
- Mix the ground meat with breadcrumbs, an egg, and any desired seasonings, then roll the mixture into balls and place them on a baking sheet. Bake the meatballs in a 350°F oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are cooked through and browned on the outside.
- Once the meatballs are cooked, you can add them to the pot of sauce and let them simmer for an additional 20-30 minutes to absorb the flavors of the sauce. Alternatively, you can serve the sauce over cooked spaghetti or use it to make meatball subs by placing the meatballs and sauce on a hoagie roll and topping with cheese.
- Serve the meatballs and sauce hot, garnished with fresh basil or parsley if desired.
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