Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

3 minutes, 22 seconds Read

My favorite recipe is meatballs with tomato sauce!

In my childhood, I remember everyone going to their grandparents’ house to have Sunday lunch. We started our lunch with antipasti, such as prosciutto, melon, and fried zoodle flowers. Then we moved on to spaghetti, four sides, and the main course. It is satisfying to end our lunch with an Italian dessert and espresso!

When my classmates told me they had meatloaf and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch at their grandmother’s house, I was confused and smug. I used to wonder why my classmates didn’t have these large Sunday dinners with their families.

My paternal grandmothers, Nonna Jim and Nonna Ada, as we call them, prepare some of the most delicious meals I have ever had. My Nonni hail from Calabria, Southern Italy. They are both from Grotteria. Although I know the stories well, I’m still intrigued to hear my grandfather’s story of moving to America at 14 years old, what life was like on Ellis Island, and how it was to go to school in America as an Italian immigrant.

I find it fascinating to hear the stories about my grandparents who left their families to move to an unknown, large country. Many of their stories talk about the challenges they faced and how cooking large group meals helped them bring Italy into their American kitchen. Cooking and learning my Nonna’s recipes is a lot of fun.

When I am in Italy, my grandmother’s food, particularly her meatballs in tomato sauce, is what I crave. Since I can remember, it has always been my favorite. I remember my Nonna gave me a plate to keep away from her, but I would always watch the kitchen to see if she was bringing out my favorite dish of meatballs with tomato sauce. Sorry Nonna, but I’ve always been guilty of hogging all the extra tomato sauce she put on the table. There’s always too much sauce when I am present for eight people. Thankfully Nonna Ada is aware of this and has an extra spice to help me.

The flavors can develop more slowly if you make the meatballs in advance. As my Nonna makes them, they are great on their own or as a 2nd. They can also be served Italian-American style over pasta.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe


Tomato Sauce:

  • Olive oil
  • One small onion, sliced
  • Celery stalk, one stalk, chopped
  • One carrot chopped
  • Two 32-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Four to six basil leaves
  • Two dried bay Leaves


  • Ground beef weighing 1 pound (450 g)
  • Two eggs, beaten
  • Very finely chop 1-2 garlic cloves (depending on your level of garlic love).
  • Half a cup (110 grams) of parmesan.
  • Toss 1 cup of stale white bread into pieces.
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • Black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon


To prepare the sauce: Heat some oil in a large pan over medium heat. (It should be enough to cover the bottom and sauté the vegetables.) Add the onions to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes until they become translucent.

Season with salt and pepper. Saute the vegetables until they are soft. This should take about 5 minutes.

Stir the sauce occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick at the bottom. Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, and basil. Simmer on low heat, covered, for an hour or until the sauce is thick.

Remove the bay leaves and taste the sauce to determine if it needs more salt or pepper.

To prepare the meatballs, moisten the stale bread with water in a bowl and use your hands.

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Roll the meatballs into roughly equal-sized pieces. (You can also use a large wooden spoon to ensure you use the same amount of minced meat per meatball). About 24 meatballs should be made.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the meatballs for 15 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.

Use a slotted teaspoon to remove the meatballs. Please place them in a bowl or platter and set them aside.

Enjoy the meatballs with good Italian bread and extra sauce as your main dish. Enjoy!

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