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Italian Meatballs with Sunday Gravy

    Whether you grew up eating Sunday sauce or gravy, your family will love these traditional Italian meatballs in red sauce – the ultimate comfort food!

    Traditional Italian Meatballs in Sunday Gravy - The Lemon Bowl

    I remember my first date with my husband like it was yesterday. It was a snowy, blustery day in downtown Boston. We met on Sunday, December 9th 2001 at the corner of Mass Ave. and Newbury Street. We were both 20 minutes early.

    It was 3PM and I had forgotten my scarf so we spent the afternoon strolling through shops, walking several miles around town hopping in and out of stores so that I could find a replacement. Little did I know this would be the last time my future husband would ever act so excited about clothes shopping.

    Traditional Italian Meatballs in Sauce - The Lemon Bowl

    After several hours of wondering through shops, sipping hot cocoa and warming up with clam chowder, it was time to part ways. Me? I was headed to a Britney Spears concert that night with friends. Rich? He had to be home by 6PM sharp for Sunday dinner. I was enamored.

    Jessie Eli Aria

    Fourteen years and 2 kids later, Sunday dinner remains a sacred part of our family life and I am ever so grateful we often get to share the tradition with my mom, sisters and their kids.

    Traditional Italian Meatballs in Sauce - The Lemon Bowl

    My Father in Law passed away 6 years ago this month so making Sunday gravy in his honor brings us closer to him. You see, they don’t call it sauce in New England. It’s gravy. Scented with onions, garlic and chock full of tender, light meatballs, it is magic in every bite.

    This one is for you, Sal! We love you and miss you.

    Your fork is waiting.

    Traditional Italian Meatballs in Sauce  - The Lemon Bowl

    Italian Meatballs with Sunday Gravy

    3.65 stars average
    Whether you grew up eating Sunday sauce or gravy, your family will love these traditional Italian meatballs in red sauce – the ultimate comfort food!
    PREP: 45 mins
    COOK: 15 mins
    TOTAL: 1 hr
    Servings: 12


    Sunday Gravy (Red Sauce)

    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 large onion (diced)
    • 2 cloves garlic (grated)
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper
    • 8 cups whole peeled tomatoes (two 32-ounce cans)
    • 4 cups tomato sauce (low sodium)
    • 2 pounds sliced mushrooms (optional)
    • 1 cup red wine (optional)
    • fresh basil and parsley (to serve)


    • 1 pound ground sirloin
    • 1 pound ground pork
    • 1 pound ground chuck (or veal)
    • 3 cloves garlic (grated)
    • 2 eggs (lightly whisked)
    • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
    • ½ cup grated parmesan
    • ½ cup minced parsley
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon pepper
    • cooked pasta of choice (we use DeLallo whole wheat pasta)


    • To make the sauce, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot and stir in diced onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium and saute onions until translucent, stirring frequently, about 8-9 minutes.
    • Stir in whole peeled tomatoes and tomato sauce carefully breaking apart tomatoes with a wooden spoon. (Alternatively, I like to break them apart with scissors in the can before adding.) Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer while you begin working on the meatballs. (You can add red wine and mushrooms at this time if using.)
    • For the meatballs, start by pre-heating oven to 350 degrees and lining two or three baking sheets with foil.
    • Place all meatball ingredients (sirloin through pepper) in a large bowl and use your hands to mix together until everything is thoroughly combined.
    • Using a cookie scoop, start forming mixture into meatballs and line into a single layer on the baking sheet.
    • Bake meatballs for 15 minutes then remove from oven and carefully add to the sauce simmering on the stove. Continue simmering sauce with the meatballs for 30 minutes or longer.
    • Serve over pasta of choice.


    If you have a leftover parmigiano reggiano rind, add it to the sauce for flavor.
    This recipe can easily be cut in half.


    Calories: 424kcalCarbohydrates: 20.1gProtein: 30.2gFat: 24.3gSaturated Fat: 8.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 15.4gCholesterol: 128mgSodium: 1764mgFiber: 3.2gSugar: 8.7g

    SHOW AND TELL ON INSTAGRAM!Show me your creation and rate it below! Mention @thelemonbowl or tag #thelemonbowl! I would LOVE to see!

    Want more dinner ideas? Check out my Healthy Entrees board on Pinterest!


    Liz DellaCroce

    Liz Della Croce is the creator and author of The Lemon Bowl, a healthy food blog. Since 2010, Liz has been sharing delicious recipes that just so happen to be healthy. By using real ingredients with an emphasis on seasonality, Liz has built a growing audience of loyal readers who crave good food for their families. Click Here To Subscribe to my newsletter:


    1. Sounds like a yummy recipe….instead of doing the meatballs in the oven, can I instead put them in a crockpot with the sauce and cook it all for a few hours ?

    2. I love family traditions so much. Plus, any tradition that involves this gravy (I feel the need to call it sauce as a dutch west michigan girl but I’m resisting) is a tradition I can get down with!

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