Sunday Pasta Sauce and Meatballs

Rigatoni and Meatballs

Growing up, Sunday was always pasta day.  My father would start his sauce on Saturday – giving it the day to simmer and develop its flavors. The only thing that ever changed was the type of pasta he served.  Sometimes ravioli or cavatelli (my personal favorite) – all made by my grandmother.  Other times it was just really good quality boxed pasta, usually penne or rigatoni – cooked al dente.  I have continued this tradition in my own home, however my  husband always prefers rigatoni.  Someday, I would love to the get attachment to make them homemade!  Here is our family recipe, passed down from generation to generation.

Sunday Pasta Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound pork neck bones (they look like miniature ribs)

1/2 pound beef (boneless bottom round usually)

1 medium onion, chopped

4 – 5 garlic cloves, minced (more or less depending on how much garlic you like – we like a lot)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 bay leaf

2 – 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes in puree

1 tablespoon tomato paste

salt and pepper to taste (depending on what tomatoes you use, taste for salt before adding any extra)

In a large stockpot, heat oil.  Season both sides of pork and beef with salt and pepper.  Brown in hot oil.  Remove from pot and set aside.  Lower heat to medium and add onion, garlic, basil, oregano, bay leaf and pepper to taste.  Cook until onion starts to get soft.  Add tomato paste and mix well.  Add tomatoes, browned meat and 1 tomato can of water. Taste for salt, and add if necessary.   Stir, cover with a lid and keep at barely a simmer for 3 – 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  The sauce is done when it is thickened to your liking and has developed its flavors.  This recipe can be doubled or tripled as needed.  My father typically makes his in a large electric roaster and freezes the extra for future use.


1 pound ground beef (sometimes I add 1/4 pound really good garlic sausage)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

2 large eggs

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs softened in a little milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients together with your hands.  Roll into 1-inch balls.  At this point you can either brown in olive oil on top of the stove, or (and this is my preference) bake them in a 375 degree oven for 10 – 15 minutes until browned and cooked through.  They are then ready to add to the sauce.  I usually add them during the last hour of cooking so that the sauce picks up some of the meatball flavor.  Of course, you can double or triple this recipe and once cooked, place in the freezer for future use!

Both of these recipes are very budget friendly.  The pasta sauce costs just under $4.00 to make 8 cups of sauce.  The equivalent in store-bought sauce is anywhere from $6.00 – $10.00 – quite a savings!  The meatballs cost a little over $3.00 (the beef cost $1.99/pound) to make 16 one-inch meatballs.  At my local grocery store, frozen meatballs cost $4.99 a package.  Another savings!

I hope you enjoy these family recipes as much as we do!  What recipes do you serve that were handed down? Do you have any special foods that you serve on specific days? I’d love to hear from you!


16 thoughts on “Sunday Pasta Sauce and Meatballs

  1. Oh, yum! When we were little, my (half-Italian) mom would often start a Crock Pot full of pasta sauce and her homemade meatballs on Sunday morning for us to enjoy at dinner. Our other slow cooker Sunday staple was 15-bean soup, slow simmered with smoked ham hocks and enjoyed with corn muffins.

    I love the fresh parsley and romano in your meatballs–that sounds excellent!

  2. These sound delicous. I wish I had family recipes that were handed down but my husband likes completely different food to my family and probably wouldn’t like any of my childhood favourites!

    • My husband’s family is German, so sometimes our family meals have quite a combination of dishes! Some are his favorites, some are mine…and some are new for both of us!

  3. I would like to try this out this weekend. But could you give me little more details on what you do with the meat in the Pasta Sauce. I’m just guessing your remove the Pork bone after 3-4 hours of cooking. Also guessing the beef just breaks down and you shred any chunks that are left in the sauce?

    • We typically leave the meat in unless we are serving company – then we fish out the bones and the bay leaf. The beef breaks down and we leave it in the sauce, unshredded. When the pasta is served, we toss the pasta with the sauce, and serve the extra sauce (with meatballs and larger pieces of meat) on the side. I hope this helps!

  4. I make this wonderful leprechaun casserole every St. Patrick’s Day that was handed down from my ancestors. It’s also a family tradition for a few generations to make this delicious French toast recipe every Thanksgiving morning. In my household growing up, it was tradition that whoever got the bay leaf in their spaghetti dinner had to do the dishes. :o) Love family traditions and recipes! I want to carry them on when I have children someday.

  5. this looks yummy! I’ve never been able to make a really good sauce, though I’m Italian… but I will give this a try!

  6. Geez do I love your blog or what… I have some ground beef that i defrosted and couldn’t figure out what to make. Thought, well that wedge salad was so good I will search ground beef on your blog… Guess I’m making meatballs! thanks!

  7. Pingback: 11 Low Cost Meal Ideas Under $1.42 Per Serving « A Modern Christian Woman

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