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

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

This is an old school 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 – or a two flat – which is what they called a walk up in Chicago.

So 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

One time my Dad brought my friend Kelly and I to a Cubs game and we stopped in to say hello to my Grandma and Aunts on the way. My Dad left Kelly and I in the kitchen for a while while a giant Italian Pot Roast was cooling on the counter.

Big mistake.

Kelly and I sat there and pulled off strip after strip of that delicious meat, apparently not thinking of the fact that it was actually their dinner that night! We were like 10 guys, I’m gonna cut us some slack on that one…

Grandma wasn’t too thrilled when she came in the kitchen but we were rewarded with some quick homemade Fried Zeppoles to keep us away from the rest of the pot roast.

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

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

The spaghetti is almost a side note here.

It sounds like a lot of ingredients, 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

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.

It makes me feel better anyway.

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

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


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


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


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.

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