7
Aug
2018
Grandma's Sunday Meatballs and Sauce close up in a white bowl with bread

Grandma’s Sunday Meatballs and Sauce

Grandma’s Sunday Meatballs and Sauce is the ultimate Sunday night dinner. This recipe cooks for hours so your house smells amazing by dinner time!

Grandma's Sunday Meatballs and Sauce in a bowl from the top

Italian Sunday gravy, Sunday sauce, gravy…sauce. Whatever name you call it, this is the epitome of Sunday dinner in my family.

And nope, there aren’t any short cuts with this one.

This is an old school, authentic recipe for sauce and meatballs that cooks low and slow pretty much all afternoon just like my Grandma used to do.

When we talk about our Grandma, we really mean a collective group of them. It was my Grandma, my Aunt and three great Aunts that all lived together in an apartment building.

They lived on separate floors but they were always together, cooking and eating.

That’s pretty much what they did. Cook and eat.

Grandma's Sunday Meatballs and Sauce on a board from the top

Can you imagine that life? What’s for dinner tonight guys? Oh let’s throw together some homemade chicken and pastina soup, some meatballs and sauce and oh hey – how about a pot roast on the side?

Those are my people. I was definitely born at the wrong time.

My dad used to take us downtown to visit them pretty often, I’d say at least once a week or every couple of weeks – a lot of times on Sundays.

They’d make Sunday dinner that started in the early afternoon and it kept going until way after dinner time.

All of the above mentioned foods were on the dinner list too, so you’re talking at least three different MAIN courses, not to mention all the side dishes that were served too.

Grandma's Sunday Meatballs and Sauce in a bowl from the front

These days when we do a Sunday dinner, I usually keep it to one main course like this Grandma’s Sunday Meatballs and Sauce.

Because I have lost my ability to sit down and eat for an entire afternoon.

This meatballs and sauce recipe is enough on it’s own to feed an army of people so it’s perfect for a large family dinner or a party.

And I mean, this recipe has a LOT of meat going on. You’ve got the meatballs, then you have the delicious pork neck bones that literally fall apart into the sauce and a few links of sausage.

How To Make Meatballs

To get the best meatball for spaghetti and meatballs, you want a soft meatball but still firm enough to hold together. This takes just the right amount of meat to breadcrumb to egg ratio.

And these meatballs are it.

Grandma's Sunday Meatballs and Sauce - meatballs on the tray

Once you get the meatball ingredients mixed together roll them into large balls and get them on a sheet pan to bake in the oven…

Just where they start out, then they finish cooking in the sauce.

How Do You Cook Meatballs In Sauce?

Well for this meatball sauce recipe they start in the oven, even though some authentic Italian meatball recipes will add the raw meatballs right into the sauce.

Totally not opposed to cooking them that way but if you want a pretty plate of spaghetti and meatballs without the meatballs all broken apart I like to start them in the oven.

Then these meatballs finish off cooking in the sauce to get them soft and full of flavor.

I’m telling you, follow this meatball recipe and you’re going to end up with the best meatballs ever.

It sounds like a lot of steps, because it is, but trust me in that you don’t want to leave anything out here. If you can’t find pork neck bones (they’re in the butcher department at my regular grocery store) you can use pork spare ribs instead.

Grandma's Sunday Meatballs and Sauce - pork bones

How Do You Serve Meatballs and Sauce?

When we serve Grandma’s Sunday Meatballs and Sauce, I like to put everything in it’s own bowl. So the meatballs go in one bowl, the pork bones in another bowl and the sausage in another bowl.

Grandma's Sunday Meatballs and Sauce - sauce cooking

Then we serve a huge bowl of spaghetti tossed with the sauce and a bowl of extra sauce on the side. With the addition of a couple bowls of sliced Italian bread – I’m telling you it barely fits on our dining room table!

I do like serving a giant Caesar Salad with this dinner to balance out the heaviness of the meal. Not that a caesar salad is light in any way but at least you’ve got some crunchy greens going on.

Finally, if there’s room you can fry up some homemade fried zeppoles for dessert. Even if you’re full, throw them on the table anyway.

Italian people will probably eat them no matter how full they are.

Try this Grandma’s Sunday Meatballs and Sauce for your next family dinner and maybe you’ll start a new tradition of your own!

Grandma's Sunday Meatballs and Sauce close up in a white bowl with bread

 

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Grandma's Sunday Meatballs and Sauce in a bowl from the top

Grandma’s Sunday Meatballs and Sauce

  • Author: Christie
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 5 hours
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Grandma’s Sunday Meatballs and Sauce is the ultimate Sunday dinner recipe! These slow cooked meatballs in sauce will take you right back to your childhood!


Ingredients

For the Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

2 pounds pork neck bones (you can substitute pork spare ribs)

1 pound Italian sausage (sweet or spicy or a mixture of both) each link cut into thirds

2 cups diced onions

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons garlic, chopped (about 4 cloves)

3/4 cup red wine

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

2 cans (28 ounce) crushed tomatoes

2 cans (28 ounce) tomato puree

1 can water

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

For the Meatballs

1/3 cup olive oil

2 cups finely diced onions

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

4 pounds meatloaf mix (a mixture of beef, pork and veal)

4 eggs, beaten

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs soaked with 1/2 cup milk for 15 minutes (squeeze out the excess milk before adding to the meatballs)

1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 cup chopped parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start making the meatballs first by adding the olive oil to a large skillet over medium low heat.

Add the onions and cook for 15 minutes until very soft, stirring often.

Next add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Turn the heat off and let cool.

Add the meatloaf mix, eggs, the soaked bread crumbs (squeezed out), parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano and basil and cooled onions and garlic to a large bowl.

Mix well until all the ingredients are combined then make a small meatball with the mixture and fry it up in the same skillet you used to cook the onions to test for seasonings.

Adjust seasonings if needed then start to form the meatballs. (I like to make the meatballs an extra large golf ball size, about 2 inches in diameter but you can make them as big as you like)

Place the meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. The meatballs don’t have to be cooked all the way through as they’ll finish cooking in the sauce.

While the meatballs are in the oven you can start the sauce by adding the oil to a large sauce pot over medium heat.

Add the pork bones and cook for 15 minutes, turning so the bones brown on both sides then remove from the pot.

Next add the sausage and brown on all sides, about 7-8 minutes, then remove from the pot.

Add the onions to the pot and cook for 15 minutes, stirring, until softened.

Next add the garlic and salt, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Now pour in the red wine to deglaze the pot, scraping the bottom with a spoon as the wine cooks down, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the tomato paste to the pot, breaking up and stirring into the onions. Then pour in the crushed tomatoes, the tomato puree and a can of water from one of the empty tomato cans.

Add the oregano, basil, salt and pepper to the sauce and stir.

Add the cooked meatballs, sausage and pork bones to the sauce and bring to a simmer.

Partially cover the pot with a lid, stirring occasionally for 3-4 hours or even longer if you have time.

To serve, remove the meatballs and sausage from the sauce and place in a serving bowl. Remove the pork bones and either shred the meat and add back to the sauce or serve the pork bones in a serving bowl on the side.

Keywords: spaghetti sauce, meatballs, sausage, pork bones, sunday sauce, sunday gravy, spaghetti and meatballs

16 Responses

  1. MaRgie

    Oh!! Thank you times one hundred!
    This is my mom’s recipe, also, which had been lost!
    I have mourned its absence all the years since my mom passed away and I could not ask her for it, obviously.
    You have brought me back a treasure and I can’t thank you enough!
    P.S. My family was also in Chicago and you described our Sunday meal ritual to a “T”… God bless the Midwesterners!
    Thank you again so, so much!!❤️👏

    1. Yes! I’m so excited to hear that! We loved that Sunday dinner tradition so much, it seems that everyone is so much busier these days so when it does happen it’s so special!

  2. gina

    Thank you so much for the visit back to my childhood. Im from Philadelphia and my adopted Italian family had Sunday dinner every week with the tables stretched into the. Livingg room and Sunday “gravy” was the star of the show but with bracciole also. I can still smell everything cooking. Life is too fast and full now for many people to often take the time for family. Im old school and still cook like that however. And wouldn’t have it any
    other way

    1. Savana

      I am rating by reading recipe. I know this will take me back to our family’s Sunday dinner. I am making this this weekend for an italian potluck dinner this Sunday afternoon. I can just tell as my mouth is salivating that this will be out of this world. Someone is making lasagna and another a huge Cesar salad. Will write and let you know my results. Have you ever made a day earlier and reheated the next day?

  3. Nancy

    I, too, had lost this recipe and so happy you posted this. However, I found the prep time twice as long. I had to use the pork spare ribs and I was not comfortable with 2lbs so I didn’t use all of them. Next time ill use more sausage meat. Also, what size pot do you use? I had a 10 quart Dutch oven and I had to leave some meat out because the sauce started spilling out. In the end it was absolutely delicious.

    1. Nancy, I put a link in the post. I use a 12 quart stock pot, you do need a big one! The pork neck bones aren’t as big and don’t have as much meat on them as a spare ribs so I can see where they would take up more space. I’m so glad you liked the recipe!

  4. That was my style of eating wayyyyyyyyyyyyy back when. Now I’m like you, 1 dish main courses and a salad. Boring, huh? It would have been fun to be in the kitchen and cook with your family! That’s where we learn the best.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Wishes for tasty dishes,
    Linda

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