tomato sauce

Raffaele Tomato Sauce with Meatballs

Published on Author Dave1975

There are certain family recipes that are handed from GrandMothers to Mothers to Children for hundreds of years. They are the recipes that make a family take a step back and remember what it used to be like and that good food is good food no matter what century it is made in.

This is a recipe that has been passed down to everyone in my family. It is something I grew up eating 3 times a week. A fresh batch was made every Sunday morning and we had left overs twice throughout the week. It is a staple from my childhood and now that I make it for myself, it is something that I cherish even more.

If Jennie & Angelo Raffaele  (my grand parents in the picture above) were writing this, they would say to you,  You look skinny. Manga! Manga!.

Enjoy and let me know how it goes!



Meat Balls:
  • 2 slices of Italian bread
  • add 2 x-large eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • ~4 tbsp grated romano cheese
  • 1 1/3 lbs hamburger (75-85% fat)
  • Chunk of salt pork or fatback. You can use oil but the salt pork adds more flavor. Ask the meat guy at the grocery store and he will hook you up with this.
  • Optional Pork Ribs, Italian Sausages, Steak, etc. Vegetarian? Try chunks of eggplant.
  • 2 Tbsp Chopped Yellow Onion
  • 1 chopped clove of garlic. I usually add another 2 cloves just to up the ante.
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 tomato past can of water
  • 1 35oz. can of Italian Plum tomatoes, hand mashed or quickly blended
  • 1Tsp Salt


  1. Dry bread overnight in bowl on kitchen counter. In the morning break bread into small pieces. Wet pieces with water to soften and drain off excess water.
  2. In a large bowl combine eggs, bread, salt, garlic powder, Romano cheese and mix well with a fork or roll up your sleeves and use your hands.
  3. Add hamburger meat and mix well with hands until ingredients are distributed evenly.
  4. Form meatballs. Meatballs should be a little smaller than a racket ball in sizeor at least thats how we liked them. If they are too large the sauce will not be able to penetrate throughout the entire meatball.
  5. Render salt pork in a frying pan. Cast iron pans work the best because they hold and distribute heat so well.
  6. Fry the meatballs on 3 or 4 sides over medium heat. You are just trying to brown the meatballs, not cook them all the way through. Do not skip this step. Browning the meat gives the sauce a much deeper flavor and rich color.
  7. Remove the browned meatballs from the pan and let them sit on a dish for now.
  8. If you decide to use additional meat in the sauce, repeat the browning step, in the same pan, for each piece of meat. I add sausages at a minimum and am always on the look out for some nice pork ribs. The flavor they bring to the sauce is just unreal.
  9. Add onions to pan and cook until translucent.
  10. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Make sure you do not over cook or brown the garlic.
  11. Add the tomato past and stir to dry up all the grease in the pan.
  12. Add the water and mix well. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate all of the goodness left behind from the meat browning process.
  13. Add the contents of the frying pan and plum tomatoes to a 4-5 qt stock pot.
  14. Add salt, meat, and juice from the dish where you had the meat resting to the stock pot. The pan may seem like it is too crowded at this point but dont worry. As the sauce cooks, the components will break down and the meat will shrink. You can also add another can of water if you want more liquid.
  15. Cook for a minimum of 3 hours on low heat and stir every 15 minutes or so. This is where patience comes into play. 3 hours may seem like a long time, but any shorter and the sauce will not have time to meld with the meat. I usually cook it for 4 hours just to be safe.
  16. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  17. Eat! Cook up you favorite pasta and enjoy. For an added touch, try putting a spoonful of Ricotta cheese in your dish. This was always a special treat for my family.
  18. Freeze any leftovers you may have. This can be quickly microwaved and makes a great mid-week meal.