Meatball Mania With Sauce

This is how to make real Italian meatballs based on a recipe from a real Italian grandmother.  It wasn’t a simple task.  There are no measuring cups or spoons utilized.  There is no recipe filed away in a drawer.  It’s all done from memory and how much something weighs in the palm of her hand.  This recipe comes from the memory of a real Italian grandmother.  A Brooklyn Italian grandmother–the best kind.  She has been making these meatballs most of her life.  It is second nature to her.  She can quickly prepare this meal until I asked her if I could tag along and take pictures, write the ingredients and steps down in recipe format, measure in cups and spoons and then post the recipe here on Acorns On Glen.  Not only is the finished product delicious (I ate seven), it also illustrates a way to wear rings and bracelets while making meatballs and not get them dirty.  Go figure!  We made the meatballs and sauce at the same time, so be prepared to jump back and forth between the meatball and sauce sections.  If you follow our steps below, you will be fine….and also be named an honorary Brooklyn Italian grandmother for the day.  See how we made them:

Ingredients for the Meatballs:

  • 2 pounds of ground sirloin
  • 1/4 cup of Italian parsley, chopped (Brooklyn Italian grandma alert–it has to be Italian parsley; no curly allowed)
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup of grated Pecorino cheese (we used a lightly smoked Pecorino cheese that we bought from a local cheese shop)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 1 large or 2 regular hot Italian sausages, cut into 2 inch pieces (you can use sweet Italian sausage if you prefer.  We bought our sausages from the local butcher)
  • 1 35-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 35-ounce can of plum tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup of chopped onions
  • 1 cup of torn basil leaves (you can add more if you would like, to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil for the meat, plus 3 tablespoons for the sauce

Begin by mincing the garlic cloves for the meatballs.  Garlic is a key ingredient and some people like it finely minced, while others like it a little more course.  You decide according to your taste. 

  Jewelry optional!

In a large bowl, add the ground sirloin and eggs.  Crack eggs in a bowl one at a time to make sure they are good and don’t contain any shell and then add to the meat.

Add the chopped Italian parsley, bread crumbs, grated cheese, milk and salt and pepper to meat and egg mixture.  Now get your hands in there and mix all ingredients until well combined.  Don’t mix too much after ingredients are combined as you want lighter meatballs and too much mixing will make them too heavy.  Less is best.

 Insert fingers to the top of your rings.

After the mixture is combined, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil from the sauce recipe in a large skillet.  When it is heated, add the sausage pieces and brown them well.  When the sausages are well browned, put them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

In the sausage flavored olive oil, let’s start cooking the meatballs.  With your hands, take the meatball mixture and form a meatball into a size that fits in the palm of your hand.  Have a bowl or glass of water nearby to dip your fingers into when you start to notice that the meat mixture is sticking to your fingers/palm.

See a piece of parsley on the finger right above the ring, but nothing on the ring?

Add the meatballs to the oil and cook until well browned.  Remove them from the skillet and place them with the sausage on the plate lined with paper towels.  Remember that they will continue to cook all the way through later in the process when they are added to the sauce.

Now let’s move to completing the sauce.  Begin by mincing the 6 other cloves of garlic and chopping the onions.

Wearing a ring while chopping onions will not make you cry during the chopping process (not true)!

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot.  When heated, add the garlic and onion and saute until onion is translucent.  Add the tomato paste and cook until the paste gets very dark in color.  At that time, add the two cans of crushed and plum tomatoes and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Now add the sausage pieces and browned meatballs and simmer on the stove on medium to medium low heat for about an hour ensuring that the meatballs are cooked all the way through.

Prepare the pasta of your choice (we used 2 pounds of linguine). 

 Notice that the ring is clean and not caked with meat or sauce.  Excellent execution!

Add the torn basil leaves to the sauce and let them cook down into the sauce.  Ladle the sauce over the pasta and make sure to put lots of meatballs and sausage on top and enjoy.  Grate more Pecorino over the top if you would like.  How easy was that?  Real Italian meatballs with gravy.  Thanks to our Brooklyn Italian grandma.  We will be bringing her back into the kitchen in the future.  She makes more than meatballs and sauce.  What Italian recipes would you like to see from our Brooklyn Italian grandma?

52 thoughts on “Meatball Mania With Sauce

  1. I have always wanted a recipe for meatballs and sauce from an authentic source. Now I have one complete with pictures and instructions for keeping your hands fashionable during the whole process. Thanks!

  2. As far as other recipes we would like to see her make….what else is needed other than meatballs and sauce? Those two items, made by a Brooklyn Italian Grandma, are LIFE! Nothing else needed.

  3. This recipe sounds exactly like my moms gravy!! YUMO!! we looked forward to spaghetti dinners every Thurs. and Sundays! Can’t wait to try your recipe!! Thanks!

  4. Hi! Just want to thank you for posting this recipe. I make these meatballs at least once a week…they are soooo delish! Also just spent the last hour reading through your blog. Total fan now! Great posts! 🙂

  5. We made this yesterday and it was very good. I think. Next time we will cut back on the garlic. 12 cloves is a lot of garlic !

  6. Made me feel like I was back in time with my grandmother and mother. That’s how they made a good meat ball. And sauce.. and also the atmosphere. And I do make mine as they did . They were better if the sauce was maid with fresh from the garden tomatoes. Although I do think they had a little meatball in there rings.

  7. I want to thank you for posting this. Prior to reading this, I’ve never made a meatball that wasn’t too dense for my preference. I pretended that I was wearing jewelry and wow the meatballs were perfect! I rather enjoy reading your recipes – you’ve been the surprise find for 2016 (laughed quite a bit about your dread of going to Charleston).

  8. By the way… more note to add to my comment above… never said what size tomato paste to use. There are three different sizes in the supermarket! I had to guess which one I should grab. More than likely, by the way my sauce looks, I got the wrong size.

  9. I grew up with two very Italian friends. Loved getting invited for dinner, even though none of the adults could speak English. Two things I miss from those old days are their pasta faglliola(spelling, sorry) soup made with beans and pasta in a thick broth. Another is a somewhat thicker chicken broth with small pasta, served with fresh grated parmesan cheese. (that was my job to be able to eat there, I had to grate the cheese.

  10. Has the B.I.G every made her meatballs by adding pork (say 1lbs of pork to 2 lbs of beef)? Everything you provided is very similar to my Sicilian and Italian grandmothers and mother meatball recipes. Did you every noticed the longer the meat (meatballs, sausage, pork, beef) cooked in the gravy the better they each tasted? It gives the meats the time to absorb the gravy and the gravy the time to take the fat of the meat – is there a term for this beside HEAVEN?

      B. I .G. I wished & needed this so badly. But could never get it because everyone is gone who could give it to me ! That does not help if you have a Sicilian spouse who talks about what his family made, not that he dislikes my cooking. I am to please of course.YOUNG PEOPLE take note. Its all about,TRADITION.Dont let it go.
      I would love any other recipes B.I.G would have made say chicken cacciatore

  11. just seeing your nonna’s hands makes me cry.
    the recipe is so different from mine.. very little garlic, Chuck meat with some fat,
    but, I’m gonna try your recipe simply for the wonderful memories the fotos brought me. Grazie dal cuore!

  12. Try this addition to your meatballs….. An Italian trick. Add the soft white part of of Wonder bread soaked in milk and then wrung/squeezed out. Brings your meatballs to an elevated level! Amazingly moist & tender! This trick works wonders!

  13. yum-a-licious…just like my families. And called “gravy too”. I could eat some right now. Thank you from a californian transplanted from New Jersey.

  14. I ll have to try your grandmom’s recipe it really sounds yummy.. the ring was never affected as you said … unbelievable!!

  15. I finally have the perfect real recipe. I feel with the pictures and cute sayings about the ring showing the experience made me feel like I was in a kitchen watching a grandmother tell me how it’s done on a loving caring way to make sure I knew how to make and cook this right. I loved this. Thank you so much. This was perfect.

  16. Pasta e’ fagioli, and seafood marinara fra diavolo, linguini with sea food-white sauce. Thanks grandma’ will try your meatballs.

  17. A real Italian Noni would never call it sauce. It’s always gravy😂 Looks good- just like my mother-in-law’s gravey & meatballs. She always let the meatballs simmer in the gravy

  18. I made these a while ago and lost the recipe the only way I could find it was by googling ” grandma’s meatballs rings” because I remembered her not taking her rings off lol this is the best and I’ll be making it again tonight following the recipe to a T thank u

  19. LASAGNA what was the way B.I.G would make it? Did she make her own seasoned bread crumbs too? What did she use? Thanks your recipes are soon great.

  20. yummie…this is how I make mine. Not from Brooklyn but from New Jersey. We call it Gravy. Either way it’s delicious.
    Thank you

  21. The recipe: amazingggggg!
    Meatballs were a hit in my home today. Husband loved it so now I’m stuck with making these delicious meatballs more often. God bless you grandma! Xoxo

  22. Great job grandma! I learned how to make my sauce the same way from my Scicilian grandmother. I would love to know your recipe for Braciole.

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