My father-in-law (AKA “Pop Pop”) is fully Italian and an absolutely incredible cook! This authentic Italian meatballs & homemade pasta sauce recipe was passed down from his grandmother (Thomas’ great-grandmother)! Obviously adapted and changed through the years, but absolutely delicious nonetheless! It’s pretty easy to make overall, and the hardest part is probably just the waiting. Good things come to those who wait, right?! It also makes a ton of sauce so you can have leftovers to save, which will make your life easier the next time you’re craving pasta!
Tips for making Italian meatballs & homemade pasta sauce:
- For the meatballs, you can use the mix of ground beef and Italian sausage. Or you can also just use the ground beef mixture without making any changes!
- For cooking the meatballs, you can cook in the sauce, fry in oil, or bake in the oven. I love them dropped right into the HOT sauce to cook. They get pretty tender and are fabulous. Another option is heating avocado or vegetable oil in a large skillet. Fry the meatballs on all sides until browned and cooked through! Lastly, you can bake them in the oven at 375F degrees until the internal temperature reaches around 145F degrees.
- Serve over whatever pasta shape you like! Obviously spaghetti is a great option here, we just used what we had!
- The recipe makes A LOT of pasta sauce, so feel free to save some for later or freeze some for the next time you’re craving some pasta!
If you love this one, you may also love:
- Orecchiette Pasta with Italian Sausage
- Chicken Parmesan & Kale Caesar Salad
- Bacon and Gouda Mac & Cheese
Alright, let’s get to making the recipe! I have both the pasta sauce & meatball recipe written out below! You have options on how you want to enjoy them, so it’s up to you! Bon appétit!
Pop Pop’s Italian Pasta Sauce
- 1 small shallot chopped
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 1 small carrot finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
- 2 28oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes whole peeled
- ½ cup Italian red wine
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 oz tomato paste optional (adds thickness)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- In a large pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil.
- Add in the shallot, onion, carrot, and garlic and saute for 4-5 minutes. Then, pour in the red wine to deglaze the pan a little bit and saute for another minute.
- Add in the canned tomatoes. Season with oregano, basil, sea salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Add in the tomato paste if using. Break down the tomatoes a little bit with a wooden spoon and stir everything together well.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Let it slow cook on the stovetop for as long as you want. The longer the better. Or at least 2-3 hours. Make sure to stir frequently.
- If making the meatballs, you can cook them right in the hot pasta sauce as an option. See details on the meatball recipe.
Pop Pop’s Italian Meatballs
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 2 Italian pork sausages (casing removed) optional
- ½ cup romano (or parmesan) cheese grated
- 1 tbsp fennel seed
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 3-4 cloves garlic finely chopped
- ½ cup stale Italian bread or baguette soaked in water or milk & drained well
- ¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley chopped
- 3 eggs
- To prepare the stale bread mix, in a medium size bowl, add in the bread and cover it with water or milk. Milk is more authentic. This will soften the bread. Let it soak for a few minutes and then squeeze as much excess moisture out as you can.
- In a separate large bowl, add in all of the ingredients. Ground beef, sausage (casings removed), bread mixture, romano, fennel seed, sea salt, pepper, garlic, parsley, and eggs.
- Mix well with your hands or a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated together.
- On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, roll out 24 meatballs.
- You can cook the meatballs in the hot pasta sauce. All you do is drop the meatball in the HOT sauce and let them cook for about an hour or until cooked through. This is my preference.
- Or you can fry them in a large skillet with avocado oil or vegetable oil. Just brown on all sides and cook until done in the center.
- Last option is baking them. Definitely not authentic, but is an option! You can bake them in the oven at 375F degrees until the internal temperature reaches around 145F degrees.
- Serve with your favorite sauce and pasta, on a hoagie roll for a meatball sub, or however you desire! Enjoy!