Mom’s Classic Italian Sauce + Meatyballs

Check notes at the bottom for regional variants and recommendations, this is a long one. RTFM.


  • Large stock pot
  • 1qt pot
  • Large frying pan
  • Broiling pan


  • Bring 2-3cu. beef stock to boil, then reduce to warm, low, this will be added later to sauce to adjust thickness.
  • Preheat oven to broil
  • A pasta pot filled with water, and set it on medium heat to get the process started

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves garlic diced
  • 1cu white onion diced
  • 1cu carrots diced
  • 1cu celery diced
  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2, 28 oz. San Marzano canned tomatoes
  • 12-18 oz. Tomato Paste
  • 1-1.5 cu red wine (cabernet or merlot, don’t use something that you wouldn’t be happy to serve guests)
  • 2 fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbs. Oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs. Parsley
  • 1 Tbs Basil
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • 1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
  • 3-4 Saffron Pistils
  • .5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper (peppercorn medley is preferred)
  • .75 tsp sugar
  • 4 Tbs grated romano/parmesan (fresh grated parmigiano reggiano is preferred)

Sauce Directions:

  1. In large stock pot, warm olive oil on med high. Add Onions, celery, carrots and turn heat to High, and saute for 5-10 minutes or until translucent.
  2. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (if you burn the garlic start over, there’s no saving it at this point)
  3. Deglaze with red wine and Reduce to simmer, then add tomato puree and stir.
  4. Add both cans of tomatoes.
    • If using fresh, add the prepared heirloom tomatoes and allowed them to cook down for 5 to 10 minutes
  5. Add tomato paste and stir, let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add herbs, spices, cheese and stir.
  7. When pot starts to bubble, stir and if sauce is too thick, (fill tomato paste cans with water) add cans of water to sauce and stir as needed, about every 5-10 minutes. After you have used 2 cans of tomato paste water, start using the pot of beef or vegetable stock.
  8. Allow to simmer and reduce by 1/8 volume. Thickness should heavily coat the back of a cooking spoon. Once thickness/concentration is achieved, use an immersion blender to smooth the sauce to your desired consistency. Retrieve the bay leaf if you don’t have a blender or prefer not to leave the bay leaf in for blending.
  9. Now is the time to taste the sauce and correct as needed. Correction is usually done with salt and/or pepper. remember salt takes a moment of stirring to present itself, pepper takes a moment longer. Keep in mind that finishing the meatballs in the sauce will impart a significant amount of flavor (but they won’t fix the salt).
  10. [>>] When meatballs are seared (but not cooked through), add them to sauce pot and simmer on low for 45-50 min.
  11. In the last 10-15 minutes of cooking make the pasta for the dish… the proper way to cook pasta is boil in water until just al dente, then remove noodles from the water and place in a heated pan with a few ladles of sauce until desired doneness.

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1.5lb Ground Round Beef (chuck works too)
  • .25lb Ground Pork (or veal)
  • .5 – 1 cu. diced (or minced if you don’t like bits of onions) onions
  • 1 cu. panko (japanese breadcrumbs)
  • .125 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. Oregano
  • 2 Tbs. Parsley
  • 1 Tbs Basil
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • .5 tsp salt
  • .5 tsp black pepper
  • 4 Tbs grated romano/parmesan
  • 2 eggs, beaten (optional)

Meatballs Directions

Check your mixture, if a 1.5-2.0″ meatball can’t hold it’s form, add more crumbs; if it’s too sticky, add more oil. Or just use really cold meat.

  1. Mix all together and form meatballs, then broil in oven on pan lightly dressed with olive oil until seared. Turn and sear the other side. Then go to marker above [ >>]

Regional Variants

  • To create a Northern Italian Ragu, you would sear some ground Meat, break it up into pieces and then finish in the sauce. Of course, you could just toss some sauce and a few meatballs into a food processor and blitz it until it’s meatsauce. Just sayin’.
  • To create a Southern Italian Ragu you would sear a roast/brisket/skirt and braise it in the sauce for 3 to 4 hours.


This recipe is >100yrs old. It was passed down from my Grandmother to my Mother. It used to be made with home-grown tomatoes and/or canned, below is how you would work that out…

  • 4-5 heirloom or garden fresh tomatoes (concassées if you don’t have an immersion blender
  • 28 oz. Tomato Puree or Crushed


  • Oil: California Olive Ranch (Ravida estate, California or Spanish is preferred – most oil from Italy and even Greece are adulterated, unfortunately.)
  • Wine: Coppola Cab, Casillero del Diablo Cab or Carmenere, Stags Leap Cab, Merryvale Cab
  • Stock: Swanson, Kitchen Basics, or Pacific Bone Broth (low salt)

[ For Peggy & Dorothy ]

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