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Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

This is a terrific recipe for meatballs, we didn’t have them very often usually my Mom’s sauce was either meatless (Marinara) or cooked with chunks of beef and pork, but I do remember her meatballs being delicious, the consistency was soft and after leaving home I tried to make them like hers but never quite got there. I had never asked her for the recipe until last week and it was one of those Ah-ha moments when she gave me the list of ingredients. She adds Italian sausage meat, I had made them with ground pork and beef but never sausage. The taste is distinctive, the meatballs are very soft and moist (sometimes meatballs can be rubbery). They are seared and then cooked in the sauce slowly just about all day. Have it over pasta or make a meatball sub or grinder, anyway you serve it it’s delicious.

Makes: 16 large meatballs and approximately 8 cups of sauce


3 cloves garlic thinly siliced
1 shallot minced
4.5 oz tube tomato paste or 3/4 of a 6 oz can
3 28 oz cans whole tomatoes
olive oil for pan
5 leaves fresh basil +3 after sauce is cooked
salt and pepper to taste
NOTE: You can add a little sugar if your sauce is too sour (it happens sometimes)
1 lb ground beef (80%fat) I like chuck
1 lb sausage meat
handful italian parsley chopped
1/2 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino romano cheese
2 large eggs
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs from day old bread (I like to use ciabatta)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp salt
several turns of the peppermill
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 add to the meat along with 1/2 cup water, 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.
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.
19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh, how luscious!

    March 2, 2012
  2. Wonderful! My husband loves meatballs – this is a great reminder to make him some. Thanks for what looks like a great recipe for them!

    March 2, 2012
    • I so rarely eat meatballs but have to say these are delicious. My Mom’s recipe is the best! Hope you enjoy if you make them and thank you so much.

      March 2, 2012
  3. Bevi #

    Lovely! What do you think of me adding some raisins?

    March 2, 2012
    • Funny you ask, my Mom adds raisins to both her meatballs and bracciole. I omitted them because I am not a fan, my Mother would be so happy to hear that raisins are there. Thank you!

      March 2, 2012
  4. Yum! I had pretty much the exact same experience trying to replicate my Mom’s lasagna after moving out on my own. I made it with all of the ingredients I remembered her using, but it wasn’t the same. What was missing? The Italian sausage she mixed in with the ground beef 🙂 It makes everything better!

    August 2, 2013
  5. Yummy, I love meatballs, it’s always a quick and filling dinner!

    August 2, 2013
  6. This sounds great. Loving that you caramelise the tomato purée, as that lends so much taste. Unless it gets scorched, as it has done! Let’s move on 🙂 And the combination of sausage and mince (ground beef). Hmm, will have to try this at some stage as I’ve neither made nor eaten Italian meatballs before (they are Italian, right?).

    August 17, 2013
    • Italian yes!! the sauce and meatballs are great together and caramelizing the tomato paste brings more depth of flavor, I have scorched it before, just scrape out and start over it’s worth it for flavor. You must try an Italian meatball, they are delicious. Hope you like Thanks so much.

      August 18, 2013
  7. Fantastic meatball recipe! I am so fond of meatballs and my recipe is very similar (it was actually my mom’s). I think a good ground chuck is the key here, as well as when I make a meatloaf. I love these. I think I need to make a pot real soon.

    August 20, 2013
    • Thank you, I always use ground chuck, it’s the most flavorful and has the right fat content to make the meatballs moist and soft. I hope you enjoy if you make them.

      August 21, 2013
  8. Yes! You must brown that tomato paste to get the full flavor!! Great recipe!

    August 21, 2013
    • Absolutely, its the only way to do it. Adds a great layer of flavor to the sauce. Thanks so much.

      August 21, 2013
  9. Gorgeous meatballs! They look so tender!

    January 14, 2014

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