January 11, 2024

Calabrian Spicy Meatballs

Saucy, cheesy, Spicy Calabrian meatballs. Trust me you are going to want to make these.

These are my dream meatballs. These cheesy Calabrian spicy meatballs are saucy and moist (sorry), with fantastic chili and vibrant herb flavor. They are large in size, which, if you ask me, is the best kind of meatball, and they have a great beef-to-sausage ratio. The best part? They are made in one pot (two if you include the bowl), baked, not pan-fried, and are done in under 45 minutes. If you, like me, are a lover of all things spicy and bold flavors, then these meatballs were made for you.

Calabrian spicy meatballs after being baked toped with cheese
meatball ingredients in a bowl - not mixed



  • 80/20 Beef -Good old 80/20. These meatballs need the fat so don’t substitute for 90/10.
  • Sausage – Sweet or mild loose sausage is preferred. If you can’t find it loose, then buy sausage links and de-case them by running a knife lightly down the length of the sausage and peeling back the casing. Discard the casing. Don’t make the same mistake I did and accidentally buy spicy sausage; these meatballs are already hot enough.
  • Onion– Yellow, Spanish, or Vidalia onions work well. To achieve the right consistency, grate the onion using a box grater, followed by chopping for the perfect texture.
  • Garlic – Fresh only!
  • Calabrian Chilis – Crushed or chopped Calabrian chilis. My favorite is Delallo, or you can even use Trader Joe’s Bomba sauce. Nowadays, you can find crushed Calabrian chilis in most mainstream supermarkets, usually near the jarred olives. If you haven’t tried them yet, get ready— they may just become your favorite ingredient. It combines heat and spice with a fantastic acidic flavor.
  • Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated!
  • Bread Crumbs – Plain, unseasoned Italian bread crumbs. Do not buy seasoned.
  • Egg
  • Cilantro – There’s a reason why I love pairing Calabrian chilis with cilantro. The heat and slight acidity of the chilis complement the bright herbaceous flavor of cilantro, making them a perfect match. While I typically advise against substituting cilantro, I also understand that some people can’t eat it. If you must (I’m talking about the 5% of you who cannot stand it), you can replace it with parsley.
  • Parsley


  • Onion – Yellow, Spanish onion, or vidalia.
  • Garlic – Fresh only!
  • Crushed Canned Tomatoes – The can of tomatoes you buy matters, especially since this dish only takes 20-25 minutes to bake, not allowing much time for the sauce to develop flavor. If you haven’t tried SMT San Merican Tomatoes , you’re missing out. I can sit in front of a can of these and eat them with a spoon—they are that good. You can find this brand at Whole Foods, select ShopRite stores, as well as at some Italian delis and specialty markets. While this brand is recommended it is not required. If you already have a favorite brand use that!
  • Parsley
  • Olive Oil
  • Mozzarella Cheese – Low moisture, full fat. Avoid buying pre-shredded cheese. If you aren’t already aware, pre-shredded cheese is coated in an anti-caking substance, which causes it to melt poorly compared to freshly shredded cheese. Low-moisture blocks can be found in the dairy aisle of supermarkets, near the butter, milk, and ricotta.


  • Box Grater – Needed to grate the onion for the meatballs.
  • Oven Safe Pan – You need a large oven safe pan for this recipe since the meatballs go from the stove to the oven; hello one pot wonder. An enameled cast iron braiser like the Le Creuset works well for this, or a stainless steel sauté pan. Just make sure it is oven safe.


Combine The Meatball – In a large bowl, add the beef, sausage, Calabrian chilies, grated garlic, grated onion, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, chopped cilantro and parsley, and the egg. For the onion, as stated above, you need to grate it until it turns to mush. What I like to do is grate it and then run a knife over it to ensure there are no large chunks. This is what helps give the meatball its smooth, moist texture. Combine the meat with your hands, being careful not to over mix.

Shape the Meatball – Form the meat into 12-13 meatballs, ensuring that you pack them tightly. Each meatball should be slightly larger than a golf ball. Place the meatballs aside.

Make the Sauce – In a braiser or a large sauté pan over low-medium heat, add the olive oil. Once heated, add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes until they are both soft and fragrant, but not brown.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes, and the chopped parsley. This is the time to salt to taste. While I would love to tell you how much kosher salt you need this will change depending on how salty your tomatoes are. For reference the SMT crushed tomatoes I used do not need ANY additional salt, whereas most canned tomatoes do. Bring to a simmer. It is important to bring this to a simmer BEFORE adding the meatballs. It will reduce your cook time in the oven.

Add and Bake – Once simmering, add the meatballs and cover the pan with a lid. Transfer the pan to a 375-degree oven for 13 minutes. Remove the lid, top the meatballs with shredded mozzarella cheese, and return the pan to the oven, uncovered. Cook for an additional 7-10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked throughout.


This dish is great for prepping ahead. The meatballs can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to a day before cooking. Even better, freeze them for up to a month in an airtight container. When ready to use the frozen balls, defrost them overnight in the refrigerator.


You can absolutely enjoy these massive meatballs all by themselves. However if you are looking to beef up this recipe check out the below options.

  • Crusty Bread – Either on the side and sip it in the sauce or make a hoagie out of them. Typically we do this with the leftover meatballs.
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Pasta – It might be a tad difficult to toss the pasta in the cheesy sauce once done, but not impossible. My suggestion, remove some meatballs from the pan then toss in the pasta. The sauce, once a humble a can of crushed tomatoes transforms into something fantastic once the meatballs simmer for 20 minutes.
Calabrian spicy meatballs after being baked toped with cheese


These meatballs can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days. When ready to reheat place back in a 375 degree oven until warmed throughout or honestly the microwave is another easy option for these.

Looking for more meatballs? Check out the below!
Chicken Piccata Meatballs
Greek Lamb Meatballs

January 11, 2024

Calabrian Spicy Meatballs

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A dream meatball. These Calabrian spicy meatballs are large, moist, with a great chili and vibrant herb flavor. One pot, 45 minutes.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Meatballs, One Pot, Spicy
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 5 people



  • 1 1/2 lb 80/20 ground beef
  • 1/2 lb mild, sweet, or Italian sausage loose or taken out of the casing
  • 2-3 tbsp crushed Calabrian chilis 3 for extra heat
  • 1 small yellow onion grated then chopped finely
  • 4 garlic cloves grated
  • 1/4 cup cilantro minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley minced
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese loose 1/3 cup. freshly grated.
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs unseasoned
  • 1 egg


  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup parsley chopped
  • 8 oz low moisture mozzarella cheese whole milk
  • olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 375℉
  • In a large bowl combine the meatball ingredients (ground beef, sausage, Calabrian chilis, onion, garlic, parm, bread crumbs, herbs, and egg). Mix throughly with your hands, being careful to not over mix. Add 2 HEAVY pinches of kosher salt (I used approx. 1 tsp of Morton kosher).
  • Form the meat into 12-13 meatballs, approx. a little bigger than a golf ball. Place on the side.
  • In a large pan over low-medium heat add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Once hot add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes until they are soft and fragrant but, not brown.
  • Add in the crushed tomatoes and the parsley. Salt to taste. Depending on how salted your tomatoes are will change how much salt you need to add. Bring to a simmer.
  • Once at a simmer, turn off the stove and layer in the meatballs. Place the lid on the pan and place in the oven.
  • Bake for 13 minutes covered. Remove the lid and top with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Place back in the oven and cook for another 7-10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
  • At the last minute if your cheese hasn't browned you can broil for an additional minute or two.

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