There’s more than one way to stay on top of your cooking game, and On-The-Ball Bake is one good example. Basically cocktail meatballs in casserole form, this dish offers tender, savory, homemade meatballs that are pan-fried and then braised in a sauce that strikes the perfect balance of sweet and savory flavor you’d expect from even the very best cocktail meatballs. Plus, it’s all covered in cheese, because why not? On-The-Ball Bake will absolutely help you stay on the ball by keeping hunger at bay!


  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped, divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, divided
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, shredded


Step 1 –In a large bowl, add the ground beef, the egg, the panko, the milk, 1/4 cup of the onion, 1 teaspoon of the Worcestershire sauce, the salt, and the black pepper and mix gently but thoroughly to combine.

Step 2 –Scoop and roll the meat mixture into about 33 meatballs, placing the meatballs on a plate.

Step 3 –Preheat the oven to broil on high.

Step 4 –In a large Dutch oven or an ovenproof pot over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Step 5 –In a single layer, add the meatballs and cook, while turning occasionally, until they are seared on all sides, about 7-9 minutes.

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Step 6 –Transfer the meatballs to a clean plate.

Step 7 –Drain the grease from the pot.

Step 8 –Return the pot to medium heat and add the remaining oil.

Step 9 –Add the bell pepper, the garlic, and the remaining onions and cook, while stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes.

Step 10 –Add the tomato sauce, the ketchup, the water, the vinegar, the brown sugar, the mustard, and the remaining Worcestershire sauce and cook, while scraping the bottom of the pot to release the browned bits.

Step 11 –Return the meatballs to the pot.

Step 12 –Bring the meatball mixture to a simmer.

Step 13 –Cook, while stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened and the meatballs are cooked through, about 4-6 minutes.

Step 14 –Transfer the pot from the heat.

Step 15 –Sprinkle the cheese over top of the meatball mixture.

Step 16 –Broil the casserole until the cheese is bubbly and golden, about 2 minutes.

Step 17 –Serve.