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Easy Pork Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

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An easy recipe for pork meatballs in tomato sauce, this meatball dish can be made with leftover meatballs as well.




These pork meatballs in tomato sauce are a very quick meal to put on your table, especially when you are using leftovers meatballs.


pork meatballs in tomato sauce with parsley

And if you want to be really quick, then grab a jar of previously made tomato or marinara sauce as well. Or a bought tomato sauce jar, of course, you could use that too, although I always say that homemade tastes better. But exceptions can be made.

The pork meatballs in tomato sauce or chiftelute marinate are another classic Romanian recipe, I think everybody in Romania knows them. My grandmother used to cook them often as well and the dish was always made with leftover meatballs, I honestly believe she never cooked fresh meatballs for this dish.

When making meatballs my grandmother always made a lot of them, she always said that if the house had to smell of fried meatballs than it should be well worth it (same logic when making crepes, we would eat cold and rather dry crepes for 3 days in a row).

As it was only the two of us, those many meatballs would last for days and we would eat the leftover meatballs mostly cold with bread, mustard and tomatoes. I still love to eat them like that today, so I always make more meatballs than we could eat at once as well.

But on the third day or so, she would often make pork meatballs in tomato sauce or chiftelute marinate. She would make a quick tomato sauce, warm the meatballs in it and always serve the dish with mashed potatoes on the side. A real childhood favorite. I hope you enjoy it!


pork meatballs in tomato sauce




Super quick version:

Leftover meatballs + a jar of marinara sauce. Heat the meatballs in the sauce. Serve.

Pork meatballs in tomato sauce from scratch:

Tomato or marinara sauce:

This is a rather typical recipe for tomato or marinara sauce. And as marinara sauce is actually a tomato sauce, I have always wondered why is it called marinara in the US. Marinara makes me think there should be fish involved, which it isn’t…

Ok, I’ve just googled that and found out that I have always been making marinara sauce without even knowing it.

There is a difference between a simple tomato sauce: tomatoes + salt + pepper and marinara sauce: tomatoes + olive oil + garlic + chili + salt + pepper + basil. The only thing I may or may not use is basil, depending if I have it fresh or not, dried basil is never an option.

And it is called marinara because, apparently (probably a legend), the sauce was invented by mariners returning from America with the newly discovered tomatoes.


pork meatballs in tomato sauce


Pork meatballs:

  • This is also a rather typical recipe for making meatballs, similar to these pork and beef meatballs or these Turkish beef kofta.
  • The only thing that might be different than usual is the fact that you will have to cook the chopped onions slightly before adding them to the ground meat mixture.
  • I don’t always do that, but it is actually recommendable, it helps avoiding larger pieces of rather uncooked onion in your mouth. If you are positive that you have chopped the onions as finely as possible, you might leave out this extra step.

Fry the meatballs:

  • Fry the meatballs in batches in a hot cast iron or non stick pan. Add more oil between the batches, if necessary.
  • The pork meatballs are flat and small, so they will not need to cook for long.
  • Cook them on medium low heat and for 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are deeply browned on the outside.
  • Check one to make sure that they are cooked through.
  • Place the pork meatballs in the hot sauce and stir well to coat the meatballs with the sauce.


pork meatballs in tomato sauce


How to serve the pork meatballs:

Serve the pork meatballs in tomato sauce over mashed potatoes (my favorite way), over spaghetti or other types of noodles (even zucchini noodles), over rice or eat simply with a slice of yogurt bread.

Any type of green salad is a good side dish, our favorite is the one with yogurt dressing.

How to use the pork meatballs:

You can use these simple pork meatballs for other dishes as well. How about a meatballs cauliflower casserole or a spinach meatball potato casserole?

Or you can use the meatballs (cold) to make delicious sandwiches. Stuff the pork meatballs into split baguettes, which you’ve previously smeared with some good mustard, add lettuce leaves, shredded veggies, some hot sauce and even a little cheese, if you like. So good!


plate of pork meatballs in tomato sauce with mashed potatoes


How to use the marinara sauce:

I think anybody can think of at least 3 ways of using marinara sauce. Here are my ideas:

Eggplant Stew in Tomato Sauce

Gnudi – Ricotta Dumplings – in Tomato Sauce

Easy Skillet White Fish Fillet in Tomato Sauce




pork meatballs in marinara sauce


pork meatballs in tomato sauce

Easy Pork Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

An easy recipe for pork meatballs in tomato sauce, this meatball dish can be made with leftover meatballs as well.


  • Quick version:
  • leftover meatballs
  • marinara sauce from a jar (See note 1)
  • Recipe from scratch
  • Marinara sauce:
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pack pureed tomatoes, 500 g/ 17.6 oz (See note 2)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • fine sea salt and pepper
  • Pork meatballs:
  • 1 onion
  • 1 thick slice white bread, crusts removed (about 50 g/ 1.7 oz)
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 500 g/ 1.1 lbs ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley, to serve


Quick version:

  1. Heat the meatballs in the sauce, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Recipe from scratch:

  1. Chop the onion and the garlic very finely.
  2. Heat the oil in a sauce pan and cook the onion and the garlic until translucent.
  3. Add pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, dried thyme, bay leave, a pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper and stir well to combine.
  4. Bring to a boil and cook on a medium high heat for about 20 minutes, covered but leaving a crack open.
  5. Lower the heat and continue cooking for about 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.
  6. If you are using leftover meatballs you can give them to the sauce during the last 10 minutes or so and heat them through.
  7. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper and another small pinch of sugar, if necessary.

Pork meatballs:

  1. Chop the onion finely.
  2. Heat ½ tablespoon oil in the pan you will use for frying the meatballs later and cook the onions until softer and golden. Transfer to the mixing bowl and let cool slightly.
  3. Remove the crust from the bread and soak the bread in some cold water. Squeeze it well and add it to the bowl.
  4. Add the grated garlic, ground pork, egg, parsley, thyme, about ½ teaspoon salt (to taste) and pepper. Mix well with your hand, form small meatballs. Wet your hands from time to time, it works better. Press the meatballs slightly to make them flatter.
  5. Place the flour on a large plate and turn the meatballs into the flour. Pat them carefully to remove the excess flour.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in a large cast iron or non stick pan and fry the meatballs, in batches if necessary, adding a bit more of the remaining oil between the batches.
  7. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are deeply browned on the outside.
  8. Check one to make sure that they are cooked through.
  9. Add the meatballs to the hot sauce and stir well to coat the meatballs with the sauce.
  10. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.


  1. Use as much sauce as needed, it depends on how many leftover meatballs you have.
  2. Not tomato paste.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1/4 of the dish
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 595Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 164mgSodium: 712mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 37g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

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