Meatballs marinara with pasta
Beef, Creations, Recipe Ideas, Smoked

Smoked Meatballs Marinara Sauce

What could be more Italian than smoked meatballs marinara sauce? A freshly made marinara sauce with lots of garlic flavor, coupled with soft, smokey meatballs. Some would say that a proper Italian meatball recipe should contain ground pork, ground beef, and ground veal. I agree.

Cook’s Notes

In the interest of simplicity, we are simply using ground beef here. It is sometimes a bit of a challenge to find ground veal and ground pork at your average grocery outlet. By all means, use the three types of meat if you like. I would recommend a ratio of 1 part veal, 1 part pork, and two parts beef. Ground chuck makes a very good meatball. When it comes to cooking ground meat doneness levels are a challenge for some people. Doneness is a personal choice. 140°F | 60°C will give you a finished internal temperature of around 145°F | 63°C or perhaps a bit higher. By the time you remove the probe and get the pan off the smoker, the temperature tends to drift higher. This will give you a well-cooked meatball from a food safety standpoint but it will also be soft and tender inside.

Smoking Tips

Consider using a smoking pan and rack to catch the drippings to reduce the mess in your smoker. It makes clean up much easier. You will also need an instant-read thermometer to ensure you are cooking your Smoked Meatballs Marinara Sauce to exactly the right temperature. This is not just about getting the doneness right, it is also about food safety as well.

Smoked Meatballs Marinara Sauce

Recipe by SmokeyGoodCourse: MainCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Medium
Prep time


Cook time


Smoker Temp.


degrees F
Internal Meat Temp.


degrees F

All cooking times are approximate. Please use your instant-read thermometer and the internal temperature target as your guide.

Ingredients and supplies

  • Meatballs
  • 3 lbs. ground beef

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced

  • 2 cups bread crumbs

  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed

  • 2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

  • Water, 1 cup

  • Salt to your taste

  • Marinara Sauce
  • San Marzano canned, crushed tomatoes, drained (28 ounces)San Marzano tomatoes

  • 5 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

  • Fresh basil, 1/2 cup, rough chop

  • Olive oil, 1 tbsp.

  • Supplies
  • Smoking pan and rack

  • Wood pellets – hardwood blend

  • Sauté vegetables.
    Start by sautéing the onions and garlic gently until the onions are tender and translucent. Avoid burning the garlic. Remove the mixture from the fire, transfer to a plate, and chill in the refrigerator while you are preparing the other ingredients.
  • Mix ground beef.
    3 pounds of meat is a lot to mix at once, so I prefer to split the mixture into two bowls for easier mixing. Mix the ground beef, eggs, cheese, and breadcrumbs. A combination of your hands and a stiff spatula will do the trick. The mix will be very dry at this point – time to add some moisture – add the onion and garlic mixture and the water and do a final mix.Meatball mix
  • Form the meatballs.
    This recipe makes roughly 18 meatballs using a half cup measure for each one. Meatball size is a personal choice but this size is large enough to hold a smoker temperature probe to get an accurate reading. It also allows for a moist and tender result. Keeping the size of each meatball the same will also ensure more even cooking in the smoker. Roll each meatball between your palms and place each one on your smoker rack and pan combination. This type of rack and pan combination will keep the interior of your smoker much cleaner and easier to maintain.Raw meatballs
  • Smoke.
    The smoker is set at 280°F | 138°C and loaded with a blend of hickory, maple and, cherry hardwood. If you have an onboard temperature probe, insert into the thickest part of one of the meatballs and set the target temperature at 140°F | 60°C. This probe will allow you to go about your business until your meatballs are cooked. If your smoker has no probe then strongly consider using an aftermarket instant read thermometer. Once again, doneness is a personal choice. 140°F | 60°C will give you a finished internal temperature of around 145°F | 63°C or perhaps a bit higher. By the time you remove the probe and get the pan off the smoker, the temperature tends to drift higher.
    Meatballs in smoker
  • Prepare the sauce.
    Drain most of the juice from the tomato can and set aside the remaining tomatoes. Sauté the garlic and onions in olive oil for 5 minutes on medium heat in a medium saucepan, until the onions are translucent.
  • Cook.
    Cook on medium heat until the mixture bubbles gently and some of the liquid starts to evaporate, stirring regularly. Add the chopped basil, cover, and remove from heat. Season with kosher salt to suit your taste. 
  • Serve.
    Wow.  What an aroma from these garlic meatballs after smoking! Ready for the dinner table. Soft and moist with an amazing savory flavor of onion, and a hint of cheese. Add this beautiful made from scratch Marinara, and some crusty Italian bread and you know what to do next. Mangia!

Recipe Video


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