Mom's Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

March  2, 2012
4 Ratings
Photo by sdebrango
  • Makes 16 large meatballs and approximately 8 cups sauce
Author Notes

I just recently discovered why my Mothers meatballs are so good, after making them for years and never asking her what her recipe was, I finally decided to and had an ah-ha moment. Previously mine just never tasted like hers and she told me that she adds Italian sausage meat. The meatballs are tender, soft and so delicious. —sdebrango

What You'll Need
  • Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground beef (80%fat) I like chuck
  • 1 pound Italian sausage meat (sweet or hot your choice)
  • handful italian flat leaf parsley chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from day old bread (I like to use ciabatta)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • Sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic thinly siliced
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 4.5 ounces tube tomato paste of 3/4 of a 6 oz can
  • 3 28 oz cans whole tomatoes (best quality)
  • olive oil for pan
  • 5 leaves fresh basil +3 after sauce is cooked
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • NOTE: if tomatoes are sour you can add a little sugar, some add carrots to sweeten also
  1. Meatballs
  2. You will need a large mixing bowl, add the meat and mix with spoon or with your hands. Pulse the bread in the food processor and add to meat, pour the water over the bread crumbs and add the parsley, cheese, eggs and salt and pepper. Mix together until it's all combined. Form into meatballs, I like mine about the size of a handball. In a non stick skillet heat some olive oil, place the meatballs about 1 inch apart and fry so they are browned on each side but not cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Keep the oil and drippings in the skillet you will need it for the sauce.
  1. Sauce
  2. To dutch oven add the oil from the meat that was fried (only enough to coat the bottom of the pan) then the shallot and cook until soft, add the garlic and let it cook until the garlic just starts to brown (takes only about 3 minutes) on medium high heat. Add the tomato paste and cook stirring constantly until it caramelizes. Puree the tomatoes in the blender or food processor until smooth and add to the onion,garlic and tomato paste, stir to combine and then add the meatballs and slow cook on medium/low heat covered for at least 3-4 hours stirring frequently, or if cooking all day use low heat so it just simmers, stirring occasionally. When done remove the meatballs, tear the remaining fresh basil leaves into the sauce, stir and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • aargersi
  • healthierkitchen
  • Bevi
  • EmilyC
  • AntoniaJames
I have loved to cook for as long as I can remember, am self taught learning as I go. I come from a large Italian family and food was at the center of almost every gathering. My grandfather made his own wine and I remember the barrels of wine in the cellar of my grandfathers home, I watched my mother and aunts making homemade pasta and remember how wonderful it was to sit down to a truly amazing dinner. Cooking for me is a way to express myself its my creative outlet. I enjoy making all types of food but especially enjoy baking, I live in Brooklyn, NY, and I share my home with my two dogs Izzy and Nando. I like to collect cookbooks and scour magazines and newspapers for recipes. I hope one day to organize them.

8 Reviews

aargersi December 13, 2014
Just finished making these and eating FIVE meatballs. Five. I am so full. They are DELICIOUS!!!
healthierkitchen December 10, 2013
terrific idea! I picked up a sausage and ground chicken meatball from one of the Ina Garten books and the sausage does add an extra dimension and a little more needed fat.
PeteChic July 4, 2013
An old Italian trick to combat a tart or slightly bitter tomato sauce -- rather than sugar add a generous pinch of baking soda -- it works every time without the added sweetness !!
Bevi March 2, 2012
I was taught by the Italian family that adopted me when I when to college in St. Louis to add sugar as well as carrots to a tomato sauce. I'm glad to know you approve!
Bevi March 3, 2012
Yes, they taught me to make an Italian mirapoix (sofrito??) and then dump just a little sugar in the sauce. And their household was where I experienced pork neck bones and even whole pork shops in a tomato sauce. They favored penne pasta.
EmilyC March 2, 2012
sdebrango -- these look and sound great! My 2 year old LOVES meatballs so I've been making them a lot more frequently than I used to. Sometimes I use beef and italian sausage, sometimes meatloaf mix. A tip I love that I picked up from Cooks Illustrated is soaking your fresh bread in buttermilk. It adds a lovely tang to the meatballs and keeps them super moist. I almost always have both parmesan and pecorino on hand and typically add equal parts of both. Thanks for posting this!
AntoniaJames March 2, 2012
i don't ever add cheese to my meatballs, but that's such a great idea, too! I'll probably go for the pecorino, for its slightly tart notes. Love, love, love this recipe -- both parts! In fact, I'll probably make a batch this weekend. Thanks again for posting this terrific recipe. ;o)
AntoniaJames March 2, 2012
Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm thrilled to see your mother's sauce recipe here. How much sauce does it actually make? And do you drain the tomatoes of the juice that's in the cans before pureeing them? Do tell! I figured out the Italian sausage trick a few years ago almost by accident; I seemed a bit short on ground meat, so I added three sweet Italian pork sausages to stretch what I had, and of course realized that the sausage simply had to become a regular feature. (I sometimes throw in a few extra crushed fennel seeds for good measure, especially when Son Number Two, who really likes the punch of flavor they add, is home.) Thanks again! ;o)