Sunday Sauce with Meatballs

Total Time:
2 hr 45 min
25 min
2 hr 20 min

4 to 6 servings

  • Sauce:
  • 2 (35-ounce) cans plum tomatoes with basil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • Meatballs and Ribs:
  • 1 pound ground sirloin or lean ground beef, pork, turkey, veal, chicken, or any combination
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped, plus 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound pork spare ribs, trimmed
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, for sauce and ribs
  • Sauce:

Strain the plum tomatoes in a colander to extract the juice, breaking the tomatoes apart with your hands. Discard the pulp and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 4 cloves garlic, the onion, red pepper and black pepper. Saute until the onion is soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add juiced tomatoes, red wine, Parmesan and salt. Add the tomato paste and the water and stir together over medium heat. *Cook's Note: Tomato paste should be added after making meatballs and ribs.


Put the ground meat in a mixing bowl. Beat the eggs and add them to the meat along with 6 cloves garlic, the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, Parmesan and milk. Mix this all together with your hands. Wet your hands with water and continue to wet them as you pinch meat from the bowl and roll into 2-inch balls. Roll the balls in the flour.

Heat 1/2-cup of oil in a large skillet. Add 3 cloves chopped garlic and saute until golden brown. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the meatballs and saute over medium-high heat, turning them until they are brown all over.

*Cook's Note: As soon as you can pick them up with a fork, they are ready. You don't want them to be well done. If the meatball slides off the fork when you pick it up, it needs to cook a little longer.


Cut the ribs apart and remove the membrane. Saute them in 1/2-cup oil until very brown and remove.

Return the garlic to the oil and add tomato paste (for the sauce) to the pan; Cook, stirring, over medium heat for about 3 minutes until it softens. Remove from the heat and add to the sauce.

Add the meatballs and spareribs to the sauce. Bring to an easy boil, then simmer over low heat for 2 hours. Add the basil and simmer for 15 minutes more. The spareribs should be very tender, falling off the bone and the meatballs should float in the sauce

View All

Cooking Tips
More Recipes and Ideas
4.6 22
If there were 10 stars to give, I'd give 20...I've made a LOT of sauce recipes in the past 30 years, but this one is THE ONE. I doubled it, and I'm so glad I did because after the meatballs and ribs were gone, I used it for shrimp and spaghetti, which was sublime. Thank you Tony Danza!!! <3 item not reviewed by moderator and published
I tried this recipe because I was searching for an alternative way to use pork spare ribs other than BBQ. The sauce was good, but I didn't feel the flavor matched with pork. Still searching for alternative uses for pork spare ribs. item not reviewed by moderator and published
I used the juice from the tomatoes/added more than one can of tomato paste. I was confused on the meat for the meatballs. A WHOLE pound for beef and the choice of the pork/turkey/chicken. Maybe I didn't understand it? I cook the onions&garlic for the meatballs, so that there would be no crunchiness from the onions and garlic. I didn't use the rib. Maybe someday. So far, its good! Oh..I used less that 1/2 c of the wine. I used 1/3 of a cup. But, next time, I'll probably use less. : item not reviewed by moderator and published
I've only done the meatball portion of this recipe, but instead of frying, I omit the flour and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes. Then I throw them in the crock pot with some sausage and sauce. It is AMAZING! The first time I made them was my son's first birthday party...everyone raved. This one is a keeper! item not reviewed by moderator and published
One more thing.....add less salt than they say in the meatballs..The cheese will have enough salt. item not reviewed by moderator and published
this recipe is amazing!! will make this dish again & again!! item not reviewed by moderator and published
I tweaked this a bit with more garlic and red pepper. We cooked it day one and served it day 2. It was fantastic and we have had rave reviews from our guests that want us to do it again. item not reviewed by moderator and published
Too much salt in the meatballs. No need for so much salt added; the cheese has enough salt in it. Cut the salt down, if even added. Use a tad more fresh garlic for flavor, and some fresh parsley in the meatballs Other than that the meatballs were exceptional item not reviewed by moderator and published
This was unbelievable! I followed it almost exactly and was everything I was hoping for. The only change I made was I substituted red wine vinegar for the red wine since I can't have any. I liked the flavor it added but the acidity was too much so I had to cut it with some sugar. I've been craving an Italian meal from scratch and have never tried to make sauce before. Needless to say, my family loved it and there will be plenty for leftover meals : I can't say enough about this recipe... the pork was delicious, so tender. I don't even really like pork either so that's saying a lot. Great job Tony! item not reviewed by moderator and published
The best I have found!!!!!!!!!!!!!! item not reviewed by moderator and published

Not what you're looking for? Try:

Spinach Stuffed Braciole in a Sunday Sauce with Pappardelle

Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray