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Italian Meat Sauce with Sausage and Meatballs

When you think of a traditional Italian pasta Sunday dinner you probably think about a large plate of spaghetti and meatballs.  Making a traditional Italian pasta dinner from scratch makes a delicious weekend dinner for family and friends and the leftovers are easily converted into tasty weeknight meals. It starts with an authentic Italian meat sauce.

Italian Sunday Dinner

Italian Meat Sauce with Sausage and Meatballs
Italian Meat Sauce with Sausage and Meatballs

I like to include Italian sausage with the meatballs in my spaghetti sauce for deeper, richer flavor.  The sausage also adds a bit more variety to the dinner and some may prefer sausages to the meatballs.  You can decide what will work best for your family.  Whatever your favorite combo, make a double batch of this meat sauce recipe and freeze half for another day.  You'll be happy you did.

In some areas of the country, you would call this Italian gravy.  No matter where you live, you'll want some yummy bread to sop up this delicious sauce.  I find myself dipping in while the sauce is cooking on the stove.  Who needs pasta?  Just give me some chunks of crusty Italian bread and I'm a happy camper.

Italian Sausage and Meatballs
I like to serve this sauce with either linguine or ziti.  Both give the pasta a good surface to cling to.  The choice is yours, though.  Choose what your family likes.  If you are not eating pasta, zucchini noodles will be yummy.

Tip: Remember to save a cup of the pasta water to mix with a little of the sauce to coat the pasta when serving.  The pasta water helps to marry the sauce to the pasta, making your dinner even more delicious.

This is a weekend recipe because the sauce simmers for about three hours.  Don't let that scare you.  You'll just need to stir the pot occasionally to keep the sauce from burning.

Making Italian Meatballs from Scratch

Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes 12 meatballs

Homemade Meatballs
Homemade Meatballs

  • One pound ground meatball mix (beef, pork, and veal)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
Directions
Place all of the ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until combined.  Don't over-mix.  The meatballs will be tough. Divide the mixture into twelve equal parts and roll into balls with your hands. You can either use the meatballs to make the sauce right away or freeze them for later use.

Italian Meat Sauce with Sausage and Meatballs

Serves 6-8

Sausage, Meatballs and Tomato Sauce
Sausage, Meatballs and Tomato Sauce
  • One tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • One 6-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 3 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1-15 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1-2 cups of water, as needed
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, to cut the acidity
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • a heaping tablespoon, or two, of Parmesan cheese
  • a handful of fresh chopped parsley
  • One pound Italian sausage links
  • 16 Italian meatballs
Directions
Heat the olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat.  Pierce the casings of the Italian sausages with a fork or knife.  Brown the sausages in the oil.  You are not cooking the sausages, just browning them.  Remove the sausages to a plate.  

Add the meatballs to the pan.  Brown the meatballs.  You are not cooking the meatballs, just browning them.  Remove the meatballs to a plate.

Browning the Sausage and Meatballs
Browning the Sausages and Meatballs
Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the oil in the pan. There will be some yummy brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add the tomato paste and garlic to the pan, stirring to combine, and cook for a minute or two. Add one cup of water to the pan, stirring to release the brown bits from the pan's bottom.

Simmering Italian Meat Sauce
Simmering Italian Meat Sauce


Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan, except for the parsley and Parmesan cheese.  Stir to combine.  Taste the seasonings and adjust as needed.  Add the sausages and meatballs to the pan.  Cover the pan, leaving the cover slightly ajar.  Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce to simmer.

Stir the sauce occasionally to keep the sauce from burning.  Add the other cup of water if you think you need it.  At the end of the three hours, stir in the Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.  Serve with your favorite pasta and some warm, crusty bread.

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