Meatball Marinara Poppers Appetizer

If you love meatballs, you’ll love this easy Meatball Marinara Poppers Appetizer. Homemade or frozen meatballs are topped with a delicious homemade marinara sauce that is simple to make and full of flavor. It’s a great appetizer for the holidays!

Meatballs make a great appetizer because they are poppable, portable and can take a variety of sauces. We prepare meatballs for just about every party! Some of favorites include Spicy Barbecue Grape Jelly MeatballsBuffalo Ranch Meatballs and Spicy Pineapple Barbecue Turkey Meatballs.

A close up image of meatballs with marinara and cheese and toothpicks stuck in them.

Appetizer Meatballs

Having easy appetizers on hand and ready to go is essential during the holiday season. Meatballs are traditionally a favorite at parties, but if you make them yourself it can be a little time consuming. My kids love them, so I always make sure to have a package of frozen meatballs on hand in case I’m just not feeling up to all the rolling. 

Semi-homemade is almost always the way to go for me. I like to keep it simple in the kitchen. Take for example, these Meatball Poppers. I love a homemade marinara sauce (and mine is incredibly easy to make) but I make it easy on myself by using frozen meatballs along with fresh grated Mozzarella cheese. Just a few easy steps is all it takes! This meatball appetizer takes only 20 minutes from start to delicious finish.

An overhead image of a platter of meatballs with cheese and sauce

How to Make Meatball Marinara Poppers

  1. First you’ll need to cook the meatballs. You can pop them in the microwave or do like I do and heat them in the oven. Following the package instructions it took about 20 minutes to bake them. Your other option is to make homemade meatballs which are actually pretty easy.
  2. Next it’s time to make the marinara. Start by sauteing some garlic, then adding a large can of crushed tomatoes, some basil, salt and pepper. See I told you it was simple! Check out our homemade marinara recipe for even more tips and tricks.
  3. Let that delicious sauce simmer, covered, for a good 15 minutes. If you want to kick up the heat, add a little crushed red pepper (about ½ teaspoon). At this point, if you’re just making marinara sauce and not the appetizer, you can pour it all into a jar to save.
  4. While the sauce is cooking, grate the Mozzarella. The sauce and meatballs should be finished at about the same time. Just spoon some sauce over each meatball and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
  5. Place the pan under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about ten minutes.

two images in collage format of meatballs on a pan with sauce and cheese

Super Simple Homemade Marinara Sauce


  • Use fresh Mozzarella if you can, instead of the pre-shredded package. The pre-shredded cheese you buy at the grocery store has preservatives that help keep the shreds from clumping, but also prevent proper melting. But the block of cheese and shred or slice yourself – it’s so much better!
  • Keep this recipe super easy and simple and use precooked, frozen meatballs and your favorite jarred pasta sauce.
  • Add a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley for color. Basil works too but can brown when chopped so I usually defer to parsley.
  • Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
  • Freeze once meatball appetizers are completely cooled. To reheat, place in a casserole dish and cover with foil. Reheat at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Placing them in the deeper dish keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil.

A hand reaching in and picking up a meatball appetizer off of a platter with a toothpick.

More Meatballs

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A close up of meatballs with cheese

Meatball Poppers with Simple Marinara Sauce

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 276kcal


  • 40 Meatballs fresh or frozen
  • 8 ounces Mozzarella Cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 cup marinara sauce or any favorite red sauce
  • fresh minced parsley


  • Line a baking sheet with foil. Place frozen meatballs on the tray and bake according to package instructions.
  • Remove meatballs from the oven and switch the oven to broil. Top meatballs with a spoonful of sauce and about a teaspoon or so of shredded Mozzarella. Place the pan under the broiler for several minutes, watching closely, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Serve immediately, with toothpicks for easy eating.


Calories: 276kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 19gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 377mgPotassium: 324mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 324IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 157mgIron: 1mg
Keyword meatball appetizer

Meatball marinara poppers collage for pinterest

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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  1. Part of our Thanksgiving mid-day tailgate while we watch football from the living room this year. Thanks for the great idea!