Homemade meatballs and marinara sauce is a lot more manageable when you make them in large batches and freeze for later! Check out these easy recipes for AMAZING make-ahead meatballs and marinara sauce, as well as ideas for how to enjoy them!
It’s almost summer, y’all. Can I get an amen?!?!
All over social media I am seeing people counting down until school is out, announcing that their homeschool year is finished, and talking about vacations and camping and the beach, oh my! At our house, the countdown until the pool is open is MAJOR, largely fueled by mama’s enthusiasm but also well-supported by my kids’ desire to start splashing and water sliding.
Unfortunately, because of my last two months of morning/all-day sickness, our school year isn’t quite over yet. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming of days with virtually nothing on the checklist and outings whenever we feel like it. And if my hankering over summer freedom wasn’t strong enough on its own, this awesome guide to planning a great summer that Leigh Ann just shared has me even more giddy.
There are lots of things that are a must in the summer. Pools, picnics, river days, popsicles, camping (have you printed your free checklist yet???), FREE TIME (can we all make a pact to make sure our kids have a chance to be bored this summer? it’s important), and so much more.
As far as summer meal times go, easy grab-and-go picnic foods are essential for lunches and make-ahead and freezer meals are essential for dinners. Because who wants to be inside cooking when you could be lounging poolside longer or playing in the yard with the kiddos?
Homemade meatballs and marinara sauce are two of my absolute favorite foods. Throw in some freshly made angel hair pasta, and you have a meal I could eat every week for the rest of my life.
In the past, I have always made my meatballs fresh, just before cooking them. However, I have really been trying to embrace more freezer meals in my life recently because I have just not been cooking at all in the evenings for months.
And now that I have fallen in love with the ease of pulling a bag of meatballs out of the freezer for dinner, I may never go back.
Starting a big batch of marinara sauce to simmer on the stovetop while I make meatballs is just good sense, too. Of course, you could start with fresh tomatoes (summer is the perfect time to do that!), but this recipe uses canned tomatoes. It’s a recipe that will work all year long. I like to buy a box of organic diced tomatoes from Costco and use the whole box– ten cans for about $6.
The final step is deciding how you will enjoy the meatballs for each meal. I’ve mentioned spaghetti and meatballs (an obvious choice). A few other options are to make open-faced meatball sandwiches, make meatballs and orzo with spinach and parmesan, put them on homemade pizza, and so on.
You have a couple of options on how to cook the meatballs, too. Cooking them in an Instant Pot is by far the easiest way. Simply dump them in the pot (frozen) with sauce or a little water, and cook for ten minutes. If you want a crispier meatball, then cooking them in a pan works well too.
Make-Ahead Meatballs & Marinara
Big Batch Marinara Sauce
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 10 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp each oregano and basil
- 1 Tbsp salt
1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent. Push the onions to the sides of the pot and add the minced garlic. Sauté for about thirty seconds. Stir the onions and garlic together.
2. Pour in the cans of tomatoes, the herbs, and the salt. Mix well with a spoon. Bring the sauce to a simmer and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes, until the sauce is reduced by a third.
3. Carefully blend the hot sauce in a blender (or with an immersion blender) to your desired consistency. Add additional salt and/or herbs to taste. Let cool. Transfer to freezer safe bags or containers and freeze until ready to use.
4. TO COOK:
Thaw in the jar/bag. Heat in an Instant Pot with meatballs (see below) or in a pot on the stovetop before serving.
Big Batch Italian Meatballs
- 1 large yellow onion, minced
- 1 C panko breadcrumbs
- 1 C plain Greek yogurt
- 1 C Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp each oregano and basil
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 4 lbs ground beef
1. Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well with your hands until all the ingredients are well-incorporated.
2. Form the meatball mixture into 1″ meatballs. Place on 2 baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Place both baking sheets in the freezer. After the meatballs are frozen, transfer them to freezer bags and return to the freezer.
3. TO COOK:
In the Instant Pot: (With sauce) Add frozen meatballs and thawed marinara sauce to the Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for ten minutes. Quick release pressure and serve immediately. (Without sauce) Add frozen meatballs to Instant Pot, along with 1/4 C of water. Cook on high pressure for ten minutes. Quick release pressure and serve immediately.
In a skillet: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add thawed meatballs and brown, turning after about five minutes, and cooking until done, about 12-15 minutes total.
More summer meal inspiration: