Spaghetti Marinara with Oven-baked Meatballs

I came across the recipe for these “Marvellous Meatballs” over at Sweet and Savory Bite a couple of months ago. The reasons these meatballs are supposed to be marvelous were 1) a mix of ground beef, veal, and pork and 2) that they were oven-baked. Great expectations!!

A funny coincidence that on the same day Sweet and Savoury Bite published this recipe, there was an episode of Masterchef Holland where the contestants had a masterclass on meatballs from Wim Ballieu.

He is a Belgian chef whose ‘Balls & Glory‘ restaurants are mainly focussed on… meatballs. Ballieu started only a couple of years ago with a pop-up restaurant, which was Europe’s best new food concept in 2013. There are now 4 permanent locations (alas only in Belgium), 2 cookbooks and the B&G meatballs are available in selected Delhaize supermarkets too.

Wim’s pro tip for delicious meatballs was using a mix of ground beef, veal, and pork and baking them in the oven… Greater expectations!!!

What worked and what didn’t:
I followed the recipe and indeed the meatballs came out great and were very succulent. Baking meatballs in the oven works brilliantly! As such, we found the meatballs from the recipe a tad bland for our taste as it only has chopped parsley, grated parmesan and a dash of Worcestershire sauce as seasoning. So next time I would add some salt, pepper, and a grating of nutmeg, but the possibilities are endless!

We combined the meatballs with half a batch of this basic marinara type of pasta sauce and spaghetti. I usually add a couple of tablespoons of ricotta to the tomato-based sauce to get some creaminess, but this is entirely optional.

  • 4 x 400g/14oz cans of peeled tomatoes 
  • 60ml / 2oz extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 finely chopped carrot
  • 1 finely chopped celery stalk
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground chili flakes
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2-3 tbsp ricotta (optional, to taste)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oil in a medium pan. Add onions and cook until softened, but not browned. Add in carrot and celery and cook until softened too. Then add in garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add in tomatoes (and break them up with a wooden spoon), oregano, and chili flakes, stir to combine and bring to boil.
  3. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in the basil and ricotta (optional) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe accuracy:
The recipe is accurate, and you’ll get about 24-30 golfball-sized meatballs. To get them fully cooked and slightly browned took me 5-10 minutes longer than the advertised 15 minutes at 170℃/350℉, but I blame my oven for that.

Suggested tweaks:
A bit more seasoning to the meatballs and that’s it. If you think your regular meatballs are getting a bit dull, I suggest heading over to the B&G site for some inspiration!

Verdict: 9/10; The meatballs will definitely be made in the oven again!

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