Sunday Sauce with Meatballs

Guys, tomato season is my JAM. I put tomatoes in just about anything – sauces, soups, scrambled eggs, salads, you name it. Fresh tomatoes can shine as the star of a meal, or as supporting actor in a side dish.

As tomato season rounds down, it’s fitting that my first ever post is for fresh Sunday Sauce. This is such a treat in our house – even when we eat it every week! I’m making a huge batch so we have some to freeze and enjoy into the winter months. In a few weeks, I’ll post my “winter” sauce recipe – which is more of a traditional Sunday gravy with canned tomatoes and simmering meat.

Growing up in my house, we had Sunday dinner as a family. Whether cooked at home or enjoyed out at a restaurant, we spent dinner it together. My husband’s family is Italian and they have sauce every Sunday as a family. So when we moved to San Francisco 4 years ago, Rob and I continued the family Sunday tradition! Now we share it with our friends and family on the west coast.

And let. me. tell. you. The produce in California is out of this world. We are so lucky to have dozens of tomato varieties at the local farmer’s markets. You can make this sauce with lots of common tomato varieties you can find at the grocery store like Roma or Plum – even heirloom tomatoes. I went all out and got a big flat of Early Girl tomatoes (my beloved Momotaro tomatoes are done for the season) – and then added another 4 pounds because this stuff is crack. (Seriously, this time of the year it looks like I’m canning for a bomb shelter with all the tomatoes I hoard.)


*Pro tip – sometimes you can find bags of overripe tomatoes on sale. If you plan to make sauce within 24 hours, BUY THESE. They have an extremely short shelf life but are often full of flavor and sweetness.*

There are three things I love about this sauce, besides getting to eat it. First, it’s super easy. As long as you have patience, you have to TRY to mess this up. The ingredients are simple – but the longer you let the sauce simmer and cook down, the more delicious and thick it becomes (it’s even better after it’s been resting a few days!). You don’t really have to measure anything, and it’s easy to substitute ingredients depending on your taste. This is a perfect recipe during football season when my husband BECOMES the couch all Sunday.

Second, it’s super versatile. I use it on its own as a traditional sauce with meatballs (recipe also included below), but you can use as a base for other dishes like bolognese, chicken/eggplant parmesan, or in lasagna. I even switched up the ingredient ratio last week and roasted the tomatoes first for roasted tomato basil soup. F*ck yes.

Finally, this doesn’t require any fancy kitchen gadgets. All you need is a cutting board, knife and a few pots and pans. Because I sometimes make large batches, I use a manual tomato press that skins and removes most of the seeds. But you can easily peel the tomatoes and scoop the seeds out by hand – it just takes longer. I actually prefer the chunkier sauce that comes from crushing the tomatoes by hand, and continue to make it this way once in a while.

BTW friends – the meatballs are an ode to my mother in law, who to the day still makes the best meatballs in America. This recipe is modified from hers – can’t take all of the credit for the joy they bring!

I hope you enjoy, and keep checking back for upcoming recipes!


Sunday Sauce

  • 10 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes (Roma, Early Girl, San Manzano are great options)
  • 2 large sweet or yellow onions, diced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine – I’m partial to a wine like Chianti or Montepulciano
  • 7-8 basil leaves
  • Tomato Paste (optional for thickness)
  • Bunch of parsley (for garnish)
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving


  • 1.5 pounds of ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 generous cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp water

Kitchen gadgets:

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Tomato knife (optional for cutting overripe tomatoes)
  • 2 large pots
  • Tomato press (optional if not crushing tomatoes by hand)
  • Fry pan
  • Mixing bowl


  1. Chop the onions and mince the garlic. Set aside.
  2. Pull any stems off tomatoes and cut a shallow X across the bottom of each tomato. Just enough to pierce the skin.
  3. Fill the first pot up halfway with water and turn on high to boil. This will be for blanching the tomatoes.
  4. Heat the second pot (used for sauce) over medium heat. Add the olive oil and chopped onions and saute until the onions are translucent, usually 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  5. Add garlic to onions and saute another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add salt and pepper, stir, and saute another minute.
  6. Add wine and stir to make sure the onions and garlic are mixed in.
  7. While onions and garlic continue to cook down, gently drop the tomatoes in the boiling water in batches. Don’t leave the tomatoes in the boiling water longer than 30-45 seconds – you don’t want to actually cook them. Blanching the tomatoes helps the skin peel off easily. This step is extremely important, mainly to save you time. I once tried to skip this step because I thought really ripe tomatoes would peel easier. BAD idea. Took me 2 hours longer than usual.
  8. If using a tomato press, follow the manufacturer instructions. Mine suggests chopping the tomatoes into one-inch pieces and pressing them in batches. I usually press each batch 3-4 times because a lot of the good tomato flesh can still be stuck to the skins on the first or second press. Pour the tomato puree into the sauce pot with onions and garlic.
  9. If crushing by hand, peel the skins off the tomatoes. They should peel pretty easily. Chop tomatoes into quarters and scrape out the seeds in each quarter. Crush each quarter individually into the pot. Repeat with each tomato, occasionally stirring the sauce.
  10. Let the sauce simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. The cook time can vary depending on the temperature, humidity and juiciness of tomatoes. The sauce will significantly cook down, sometimes to as much as half of the original volume. Depending on how thick you like your sauce, you may want to let simmer an extra hour or two. If the sauce is still too thin for your liking, add tomato paste to thicken.
  11. Serve with the meatballs and your favorite kind of pasta and fresh parsley and cheese sprinkled on top.

The Meatballs

  1. I like to prepare the meatballs just before serving dinner in the summer/fall. With my winter sauce, I like to drop the meatballs into the sauce so they can finish cooking in it – they add a great depth of flavor. But with this fresh tomato sauce, I like my meatballs a bit crispier, right out of the fry pan and into the bowl. There is something about tangy, fresh sauce and a rich juicy meatball held together with fresh pecorino that just makes my heart flutter! It’s the closest I can get to a true Roman pasta house in my own kitchen.
  2. Turn fry pan onto medium-high heat and add olive oil.
  3. Combine all of the remaining ingredients into a big mixing bowl. Squeeze gently by hand to mix. Be careful not to overmix – it can cause the meatballs to be tough and hard.
  4. Grab a scoop of the mixture, enough to create a meatball the size of a golf ball. Gently roll around in your hands to make the meatball and set in fry pan. Repeat with the remaining mixture (may need to do in batches depending on pan size).
  5. Slide a fork under each meatball and flip when browned, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side. Brown on multiple sides or until fully cooked, about 8-10 minutes total per meatball.
  6. Serve with Sunday Sauce.

*Another Pro Tip: After meatballs are cooked, pour a little of the grease from the fry pan into the sauce to add a little flavor complexity. The grease also helps the sauce stick to the pasta when served.

Don’t forget to leave a comment or review after you try this! Thanks for visiting. 🙂