Giant bowl full of spaghetti and meatballs with a fork sticking out

Meatballs and Red Sauce

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Freezer Friendly?: Yes
Prep Ahead?: Yes
Does it Keep?: 4 Days
Type: Meat Dish, Pasta, Sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Simmer: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 665kcal
Author: Alex Alexander
Beef meatballs and slow simmered red sauce are the perfect dish for a Sunday supper, family dinner, or just for two, with plenty of leftovers for the freezer. If you are intimidated by making your own meatballs, don't be. You got this! 
Print Recipe



  • 112 oz tomato sauce
  • 14 oz tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 large onion diced


  • 3 pounds ground beef Preferably 90/10
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan grated
  • 1/8 ceaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf crumbled
  • olive oil for frying
  • salt and pepper to taste



  • Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and onion and cook to soften for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and stir to combine.
  • Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, sugar, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, basil.
  • Bring sauce to a simmer and then lower temperature to low.  Add meatballs to the sauce after browned. Simmer on low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally.


  • Combine all meatball ingredients into large bowl and mix well with hands. Roll into approximately 1" balls.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a pan (preferably nonstick or cast iron) for frying.
  • Once olive oil is hot, place meatballs into pan and fry 2 minutes on all sides. Be sure to leave plenty of space between meatballs for best results.
  • Once the meatballs are cooked on all sides, remove them from the pan and allow them to rest on paper towels. Place second round of meatballs into the pan to cook. Continue to cook in batches until all meatballs are cooked.
  • Once all meatballs are cooked, gently place them into the sauce. Stir gently to cover as many as possible with the tomato sauce.
  • Simmer for 8 hours over low heat, stirring about once an hour. 



  • My 6.75 Qt Le Creuset Dutch Oven  held this entire recipe with about an inch of space. If you don’t have a pot this big, I would recommend splitting the sauce into two pans.
  • Using a cast iron or non-stick pan to brown the meatballs will make your life much easier



Frying the meatballs isn't for you? Totally fair.
  • BAKING Place all rolled meatballs on a metal cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Place entire sheet in the top of the oven. Broil for 5 minutes. Flip and broil another 5 minutes. Drop into sauce to cook the rest of the way through.


Calories: 665kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 166mg | Sodium: 2758mg | Potassium: 2426mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 2685IU | Vitamin C: 41.3mg | Calcium: 305mg | Iron: 13.8mg