Sunday Sauce & Meatballs

Sauce and meatballs is the most requested dish I make.  It’s often requested for special family get-to-gathers,  by my family and especially my husband, who is Italian.

This is one of the first dishes I learned to make when we got married, actually before we married, which I believe to this day was a prerequisite to marriage.

This is an adaptation to my mother-in-law, Libby’s sauce and perhaps her mother before her.  During my first few visits to New York, I sat in her kitchen peeling garlic and watching carefully as she took special care to make her sauce.  I learned then just how important making of sauce was to an Italian family.  I still take that special care, as she did, to make it special for my husband and family.

I have found that you can follow the same exact recipe and each person’s sauce will taste differently.  I like to think it’s the amount of love each mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, or Nonna puts into her sauce that is the special ingredient which gives each sauce it’s unique taste.

It is a labor of love.  Most of my recipes are simple, quick and geared for the fast pace of today’s world, but this is one dish I do not rush and take the “day” to make.  Since it is neither quick nor low-fat, it is often reserved for special occasions now instead of every Sunday, but to me, it’s still Sunday Sauce!

You will find this recipe makes a huge pot of sauce and meatballs.  I like to make enough to have leftovers to freeze in individual containers.  Now that it’s just my husband and me at home, we can, on occasion, pull out a frozen container of “goodness” and enjoy anytime we feel like splurging.

Buon appetito!

Eat This With That

Two of the sides I like to eat with Sunday Sauce and pasta is Broccoli Rabe and/or Italian Cauliflower.  Also, a nice side salad fits the bill.


pasta and meatballs in pot (1 of 1)-3



Spaghetti, Meatballs & Sauce

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 3 Hours
How many servings:: Enough for plenty leftovers


  • 1 pound ground lean beef
  • ½ pound ground veal
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • About a 1/4 of the sautéed garlic and onion mixture (see below)
  • 2 large eggs
  • A splash of milk
  • 1 cup fine dry Italian bread crumbs & 1 cup of fine dry plain bread crumbs (to replace one of the cups of dried breadcrumbs, you can use Italian bread tore into small pieces)
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for the baking pan
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bulb of garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 2-28-ounce cans imported Italian tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
  • 2-28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 6 leaves fresh basil, torn into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound of beef short ribs and/or Mild Italian sausage, browned


  1. COOKING THE SAUCE: Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat in a large sauce pan (large enough to make the sauce). Add the garlic and onion. Sautéed on medium until the onions become somewhat soft, about 10 minutes. Careful not to cook on high and burn the garlic.
  2. Remove 1/4 of the onion and garlic mixture and place it in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and brown the short ribs and/or sausage.
  4. To the the remaining garlic and onion mixture left in the pot, add the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Bring to a slight simmer. Add the basil, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the browned short ribs and/or Italian sausage to the pot of simmering sauce.
  5. Bring sauce back up to a simmer if need be and continue to simmer the sauce until the ribs are soft and tender. This could take 2-3 hours on a low and slow simmer, but is well worth it.
  6. MAKING THE MEATBALLS: When sauce has cooked for 1 1/2 hours or so, Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  7. Add the veal, pork, and ground beef to the onion and garlic mixture that you have set aside in the large mixing bowl. To this add all ingredients, except the olive oil.
  8. Grease a large baking dish. With your hands, combine the meatball mixture and roll into unformed size meatballs, I like my meatballs just larger than golf balls.
  9. Place the meatballs on the grease baking dish. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes on each side until browned, but not completely done.
  10. About 1 1/2 hours into the cooking of the sauce, remove the meatballs and carefully place them one by one into the simmering pot of sauce. Continue to cook for another 45 minutes to an hour.
  11. Remove the meat, and meatballs from the sauce and place in a separate dish. If left in the sauce, they become mushy.
  12. Serve over your favorite pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package for al dente. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and a bit of red pepper flakes if you like a little heat.


Saucing is quite important: Moderation is the key. Ladle about a cup of sauce into the bottom of a large serving bowl. Drain your pasta well and pour it into the prepared bowl. Gently toss the pasta in the sauce, coating it well. Add more sauce as you need, according to the portion of pasta you are serving. The pasta should not be swimming in the sauce, nor should it be bone dry.

You May Also Like