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Smoked Meatballs Marinara

Smoked Meatballs Marinara is The Deal! This is a freaking crazy tasty recipe where meatballs are smoked then added to smoked marinara sauce for the BEST Italian meatballs of your life. Make them Big Green Egg meatballs or in your electric smoker. This recipe will blow you away, it is so good.

In the spirit of my cult classic favorite Smoked Over the Top Chili, I now give you OTT meatballs and smoked marinara sauce. [applause] So grab some garlic bread, a glass of red, and settle in, because smoked meatballs is our new favorite.

plated portion of smoked meatballs marinara on sauce on spaghetti (asparagus and roll in background)

Why you will love this recipe

These smoked meatballs and smoky marinara flavors are ridiculously good, and it’s so easy to make it happen. I made this recipe for our Easter dinner, it was not stressful in the slightest, and we spent the meal raving about what we had created.

These are savory tender pork meatballs smoked then simmered in my homemade marinara sauce made smoky too. Meatballs marinara with a touch of hickory smoke flavor!

ladle holding a meatball and marinara

About the ingredients

Nothing special or spectacular about the ingredients. They are all approachable and super easy to acquire.

  • Ground pork.
  • Grated parmesan cheese. Use real, fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano from the dairy section and not the stuff in the shaker.
  • Panko breadcrumbs. Find these in the baking aisle with the other breadcrumbs. Be sure to use plain and not seasoned.
  • A couple large eggs.
  • Seasonings: kosher salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Be sure especially to use kosher salt in making both the meatballs and the marinara sauce.
  • A batch of my Homemade Marinara recipe.

My marinara sauce also uses olive oil, garlic, red wine, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano, salt, and a teensy bit of sugar.

collage of 2 photos: left, meatball ingredients in metal bowl; right, meatball ingredients ocmbined in metal bowl
uncooked meatballs on grill rack

How to make Smoked Meatballs Marinara

You can see my directions for sauce in my marinara recipe, but for this recipe we are only just putting the sauce together. So, follow steps 1-4 of that recipe only (i.e. everything before simmering).

Once our marinara is ready to go, we make the meatballs by mixing those ingredients together with our hands and forming ~2-inch balls. Get the Big Green Egg or electric smoker ready to go at 250°F and it’s go time.

uncooked meatballs on rack on dutch oven in big green egg (side view)

We place the meatballs on a grill grate that fits over the pot that the marinara is in. I use a 6.75 qt enameled Dutch oven and find that works best. The acidity of the tomatoes in the marinara will react with cast iron, so if using a cast iron Dutch oven, ensure it is well-seasoned.

Then the magic happens! We smoke for a bit to cook the meatballs and impart that flavor, then put the meatballs into the sauce for it all to simmer a bit and become amazing. During this time the marinara also thickens a bit to perfection. Whip up some spaghetti or serve your smoky meatballs in a sub roll.

How long should you smoke meatballs

You want to smoke the meatballs until they reach an internal temperature of 145°F-150°F. A little under is better than overdone since they will still simmer and finish cooking in the marinara sauce. This should happen in 30-40 minutes. An instant-read thermometer is really helpful to quickly check temperature.

cooked meatballs on rack on dutch oven in big green egg

What temperature is best for smoking Italian meatballs

The key is that meatballs will cook quickly, so we want to keep the temperature low enough to have the time necessary to impart the desired smoky flavor before they fully cook and get tough. Keeping the Big Green Egg or smoker in the range of 250°F-275°F works best.

How to serve these smoked meatballs

These Italian smoked meatballs are delicious over spaghetti or in a sub roll hoagie-style. Top with chopped fresh herbs and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese for nice finishing touches.

cooked meatballs in sauce (outdoor view)

What to serve with smoked marinara sauce

With the deep rich smoky flavor in this marinara sauce, the dish is best with lighter sides such as roasted veggies or a salad. Also garlic bread or garlic knots. Here are sides that really complement this smoky sauce:

What is the best way to store leftovers

Store leftover sauce and meatballs in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days in a nonreactive container. Glass is best, but plastic will work too. Just know that the sauce can leave a plastic container stained.

plated recipe on white dish with asparagus

How to reheat smoked meatballs

A quick little zap in the microwave is sufficient to reheat these meatballs and sauce.

What wood is best for smoking marinara

For this recipe, as well as my Over-the-Top Chili recipe, I use hickory wood. For smoking meats, I prefer pecan or apple, but for marinara and chili, I go with hickory.

gloved hands holding wood chunks

How much wood should be used

Hickory has a super strong flavor, so a little wood goes a long way. In a Big Green Egg, use 3 to 4 small chucks with the bark knocked off. In an electric smoker, you may need to refill with some more chips but I would not do that more than once.

Should the wood be dry or soaked in water

Whether using wood chunks in a Big Green Egg or wood chips in an electric smoker, use the wood dry. Water interferes with the wood smoldering and can affect your flavor, so always use your wood dry.

cooked meatballs in sauce in dutch oven

How to make these meatballs without smoking

If you do not have a smoker, this is still a fantastic recipe for Italian meatballs. The first time I made them, I did not smoke them – that idea came later. Simply assemble the meatballs, give them a sear on the stovetop in a skillet until browned, then throw them in the marinara to simmer.

FAQs

Can a different ground meat be used rather than ground pork?

I assume ground chicken or turkey could be used, but I have not done so. I have more confidence in saying that ground beef should work just as well as pork, but chicken or turkey could be tough. I am totally feeling that next time I make this recipe, I’m going to try a 50/50 mix of pork and beef – if you try that, please leave a comment how it turns out!

What is the best pot to use for the marinara?

An enameled Dutch oven works best for making smoked marinara sauce. Cast iron can work too but only if it is very well-seasoned since the acidity of the tomato can react with the iron and impart a metallic taste to the sauce. A well-seasoned cast iron has the protection of the seasoning layer to protect against that.

prepared recipe on spaghetti with asparagus
plated portion of smoked meatballs marinara on sauce on spaghetti (asparagus and roll in background)

Smoked Meatballs Marinara

Erica
Smoked Meatballs Marinara has meatballs smoked over pasta sauce to catch the drippings for the BEST smoked Italian meatballs of your life.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr 50 mins
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian-inspired
Servings 6 people
Calories 425 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup plain panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 batch Marinara assembled but not cooked (*see Notes)

Instructions
 

  • In a bowl using your hands, loosely combine the pork, parmesan, panko, eggs, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Form into 2-inch balls (yields ~22 meatballs).
  • Place the meatballs on a small grill grate or rack that fit/sits atop the Dutch oven with the marinara sauce.
  • Prepare electric smoker or Big Green Egg to smoke at 250°F-275°F. In a Big Green Egg, this is with the grill grate on top of the platesetter inserted with the legs up.
  • Add the dry hickory wood to the smoker. (*see Notes)
  • Place the Dutch oven with the marinara on the grill grate. Place the rack with the meatballs on the Dutch oven.
  • Smoke 30-40 minutes until the internal meatball temperature reaches 145°F-150°F.
  • Use tongs to transfer the meatballs into the marinara. Cook an hour (still at 250°F-275°F) to combine flavors and thicken the sauce.
  • Serve smoked meatballs marinara over pasta or in a sub roll. Top with fresh parsley and parmesan cheese if desired.

Notes

For the Marinara, prepare my marinara recipe in an enameled Dutch oven up through and including Step 4: “Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine” and then stop. At that point, remove from the heat. Do not simmer on the stovetop because we are going to cook it in the smoker instead.
A little hickory wood goes a long way, so not much is needed. In a Big Green Egg, 3-4 small chunks (bark removed) is sufficient. In an electric smoker, 2 rounds of chips is sufficient.

Nutrition

Calories: 425kcal (21%) | Carbohydrates: 25g (8%) | Protein: 20g (40%) | Fat: 28g (43%) | Saturated Fat: 9g (56%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 126mg (42%) | Sodium: 968mg (42%) | Potassium: 1047mg (30%) | Fiber: 6g (25%) | Sugar: 12g (13%)

Calorie count is purely an estimate calculated using an online application to serve as a guide and not to be taken as accurate nutritional information. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Keyword smoked marinara sauce, smoked meatballs marinara
Tried this recipe?Leave a comment below and let me know!

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