How to Make Sunday Sauce With Meatballs Like a Pro

10 people
1 hr 15 min

Do you love Italian food as much as I do? Learn how to make Sunday sauce with meatballs like a pro!

I love Italian food don’t you? My mother’s side of the family is Italian.

In fact, my great grandparents immigrated here from Italy.

And years ago, we had their names engraved at Ellis Island.

Isn’t that so cool?

So anyway, I’ve grown up eating lots of Italian food. My grandfather was a butcher for most of his life, and for my family, it has always been about the food.

Living in New Jersey, there is no shortage of really good authentic Italian food.

There are thousands and thousands of really good restaurants in New Jersey and the surrounding states.

But the best Italian food is homemade from the heart.

Every Sunday, my mother and grandmother made Italian gravy, also known as Sunday sauce.

Growing up, we called it gravy.

But as an adult, I started calling it Sunday sauce so I use them both interchangeably.

What do you call it?

What is Sunday Sauce or Italian Gravy?

Whether you call it Italian gravy or Sunday sauce, it brings up lots of memories of Sunday family gatherings where either my mother or grandmother stirred a huge pot of tomato sauce and meat all day long.

Sunday sauce is tomato sauce that has been stewing meatballs, sausages and any other kind of meat you can throw in there.

For me, I typically make it with meatballs and sweet Italian sausage.

Some cook the meat right in the sauce.

But I prefer to pre-cook the meat so it’s browned.

I start my Sunday sauce in the morning and let it sit on the stove top all day long so the flavors can marinate.

And my family loves it.

How to Make Sunday Sauce

I typically make a big pot of Sunday sauce on, well…Sundays. But also love to make it when we are up at the Vermont cabin skiing or before a good snowstorm.

It’s a great dish to make because it feeds many and you have lots of versatility with serving options.

Sometimes I’ll keep it simple and we’ll make sandwiches.

Others times I’ll serve it over some sort of pasta.

We love to make pizzas out of the leftovers.

The possibilities are almost endless.

How to Make Meatballs in Italian Gravy

My family loves how I make meatballs and I almost never make them the same.

That’s partially because I generally don’t work with measured ingredients and eyeball it instead. So the recipe ingredients below are a rough estimate based on how we like it.

If I’m feeling lazy about it, I’ll swap out real onions and garlic for the prepared spices so there is some flexibility when making these. They just won’t taste the same.

To me, meatballs in Italian gravy taste better when they have more seasonings in the mix.

This recipe makes about 20-25 meatballs depending on how big you make them.

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How to Make Sunday Sauce With Meatballs Like a Pro
Recipe details
  • 10  people
  • Prep time: 15 Minutes Cook time: 1 Hours Total time: 1 hr 15 min
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  • 5 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp basil
  • Meatballs See Recipe Below
  • 16 links Sweet Italian Sausage
Meatball Ingredients
  • 3 lb ground beef
  • 3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk. Whatever you have on hand is OK
  • 2-3 dash worcester sauce
  • 2 tbsp basil
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds

Pre-heat oven to 400
Saute garlic in EVOO over medium high heat
When the garlic releases that smell (about 30 seconds), add crushed tomatoes
Season with oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Taste as you go - the amounts recommended above or estimates.
Heat for a few minutes, then allow to simmer
Place sausage on a baking sheet.
Pierce sausages with a fork
Bake for 30 minutes
Remove from oven, then add to tomato sauce
Make meatballs and add to same baking sheet.
Bake meatballs for 25 minutes
Remove from oven then add to sauce
Simmer all day stirring pot occasionally
Heat up and serve with your favorite pasta or make sandwiches
To Make the Meatballs
Pre-heat oven to 400
Grab an oversized bowl and dump all the ingredients in
Mix it up with hands until fully mixed
Make meatballs to be a little bigger than a golf ball
Place on baking sheet
Bake for 25 minutes
Remove from oven and add to sauce.
  • The sausage can be browned and cooked on the stovetop too. For me, it's less messy to bake it in the oven. I've also grilled them before and then dropped them in the sauce.
  • These meatballs can also be sauteed, but it is less work and lower in calories if you bake them. They are just as good baked as they are fried. Meatballs can also be cooked directly in the sauce but I prefer them pre-cooked before going in the sauce.
Stacy Ling | Bricks 'n Blooms
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