Homemade Meatballs and Tomato Sauce


My Gramma Ginger is one of the best conversationalists in the world, in my opinion (she’s also one of the namesakes to this blog). This is probably due to the fact that she never sits down with a group of people without a list of prepared questions for any lull in the dialogue. Although she has never asked me this specific question, it came up during a recent get-together with friends. This certainly seems like a question that is quintessentially Ginger-esque – “what would you cook for the president if they came over for dinner?”

While I’m not 100% sure this my go-to presidential dish, it’s definitely in my top 5 contenders. I got the idea to add raisins from eating at Frankie’s Sputino in Brooklyn a few years ago, and their inclusion has been the only change to my recipe in the past 8 years. I make this dish at least once a month, and I consider these the perfect potluck or impromptu dinner party food.

You gotta get your hands a wee bit dirty here and allow yourself the time to let the flavors sit, but how long has it been since you’ve played with a big bowl of tomato chunks? C’mon, it’s fun.  Keep in mind – this takes a full 3 hours to make the sauce, but I promise you, the result is worth the wait.

What you’ll need:

  • Whole peeled Italian tomatoes – 2 28 oz. Cans
  • Garlic – 5 cloves, peeled and diced
  • Red pepper flakes – 1 tbsp.
  • Basil – 4 tbsp., chopped 
  • Beef – 1 lb.
  • Hot Italian sausage – 3 links
  • California raisins – 1 cup
  • Italian bread crumbs – 1 cup
  • Eggs – 2
  • Pecorino Romano – 1 cup
  • Sage – 4 tbsp., chopped
  • Red pepper flakes – 2 tbsp.

Tomato Sauce

  1. Add olive oil to a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Allow olive oil to get hot, but not bubbly, and add garlic and red pepper flakes. The garlic should brown but not burn.
  2. While the garlic is cooking, use a separate large mixing bowl and pour in the tomatoes with their juices.
  3. Crush the tomatoes using your hands until the mixture has the consistency of chunky tomato salsa. (If you prefer, you can buy crushed tomatoes instead of peeled tomatoes.)
  4. Place tomatoes into the olive oil and cook on low heat for 1. 5 hours uncovered.
  5. Add basil into the sauce and salt to taste.  Cover the sauce and cook for 1.5 more hours


  1. In a large mixing bowl, place all of the ingredients. Using your hands, combine everything together until it is well incorporated and all ingredients are blended evenly throughout the mixture.
  2. Roll the meat mixture into ice cream scoop-sized balls. Place on a cookie sheet roughly 1/2 inch apart. Place into a pre-heated oven for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
  3. Remove the meatballs from the oven, remove from the cookie sheet and place into the tomato sauce for 10 minutes and serve hot.
  4. After plating, top with a generous helping of pecorino romano or grated parmesan cheese

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