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Grandma Cooper’s Tomato Sauce with Meatballs

Because this sauce is so divine the recipe makes a double batch.  A double batch can be made by each guest but requires a 7 litre/7 quart slow cooker or dutch oven.  In a group setting it is suggested that 2 guests make one recipe just divide vegetables and sauce between 2 pots and guests can roll their own meatballs. This recipe works well started in the morning and cooking in the slow cooker for 8 hours or simmering on the stove for 3 hours.  Flavours are fantastic made a day ahead.


Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves chopped or minced
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1 green pepper diced
  • 1 8 oz package of button mushrooms thinly sliced or diced
  • 2 small cans tomato paste 156 ml each
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 750 ml jar tomato juice
  • 2 jar (approx. 750 ml) passata or strained tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 small carrot finely grated
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground veal
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • favourite dry pasta for serving


Sauce Instructions:

  • Heat a large sauté pan or dutch oven over med high heat, add the olive oil and sauté onions for 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic, chopped green and red peppers and mushrooms to the onion mixture and continue until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent.
  • While vegetables are cooking add tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato juice, oregano, basil, carrot, sugar, crushed red peppers to the slow cooker if using and set on heat. Alternatively if using a dutch oven add ingredients to the vegetables once they are cooked and bring to a boil and set on simmer while you prepare meatballs.
  • Taste and add any salt and pepper seasonings.

Meatball Instructions:

  • Add all meatball ingredients into a bowl starting with the ground meats.
  • Using clean slightly wet hands mix ingredients until meat and spices are evenly distributed.
  • With your hands form meat mixture into small meatballs 1 - 2 tablespoons in size. Roll in the palm of your hand until you see no cracks.
  • Formed meatballs can then be added directly to the simmering sauce. Make sure sauce is divided into 2 slow cookers or large pots before adding meatballs unless you have a 7 l pot.
  • Meatballs will cook in the simmering sauce for 3 hours on the stove or for 6 hours on high in the slow cooker covered. For the last hour of cooking you may want to remove the lid to let the sauce reduce. You can also skim away any fat that rises to the surface of the sauce with a large spoon.
  • Serve on top of your favourite pasta, with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a side salad.