Gramma Karen’s Amazing Italian Meatballs

By | 2018-01-30T14:45:17+00:00 January 9th, 2018|

I am 100% Italian. Both of my Grandparents  on both sides, came over from Italy from towns just a little south of Rome. Every Sunday my mother, Rose, made us, lasagna, spaghetti, rigatoni, cavatelli, or maybe ravioli, with her delicious Italian meatballs. Then, during the week she made us meatball sandwiches. We loved our Italian meatballs and today my grandchildren also love MY meatballs, especially with rigatoni!

I have kept my recipe a secret for years, but now I am going to break my silence and share Gramma Karen’s famous Italian meatballs and sauce. FYI, this recipe has been improved from the days of Grandma Rose. Also the sauce recipe comes from my family’s region in Italy. Your family may make it differently. Go for it!

Mange Bene!

Gramma Karen’s Italian Meatballs & Red Tomato Sauce Recipe

30-45 Minutes Easy
2.5 Hours 8

Gramma Karen's Amazing Italian Meatballs

  • 1.5 or a little more pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal if they have it–not easy to come by. If you can’t find it, you can just leave it out.
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2-3 Italian sausages–removed casing
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of each of the following seasonings: oregano, basil, parsley, garlic salt
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups Italian bread, crumbled or cubed (or substitute with Italian breadcrumbs)
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

First, Combine beef, veal, and pork, and sausage in a large bowl. Add garlic, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Gramma Karen's Amazing Italian Meatballs - Step 1

Blend breadcrumbs/cubes into meat mixture. Add milk. The mixture should be very moist but still hold its shape.

Gramma Karen's Amazing Italian Meatballs - Step 2

Roll into meatballs–bigger than a golf ball but smaller than a baseball.

Gramma Karen's Amazing Italian Meatballs - Step 3

Heat olive oil and garlic in a large skillet. Brown meatballs in batches, turning every few minutes in order to get each side without burning. When the meatball is very brown and slightly crisp remove from the heat and add to Tomato Sauce.

Gramma Karen's Amazing Italian Meatballs - Step 4

  • 2 large cans 29 oz. Hunts Tomato Sauce
  • 2 cans of water (using the Hunts cans)

Add the tomato sauce and 2 cans of water into a large sauce pan or dutch oven and bring to a boil–occasionally stir to keep from burning. Once sauce starts to boil reduce heat to a simmer.

Gramma Karen's Amazing Red Sauce with Italian Meatballs - Step 1

Drop the browned meatballs into the sauce and let it cook for 2 hours, occasionally stirring to keep from burning. You may need to add more water as the sauce thickens.

Gramma Karen's Amazing Red Sauce with Italian Meatballs - Step 2

All the seasoning and flavor comes from the meatballs and together they makes the best sauce!

About the Author:

Hello, my name is Karen McCullough. When I am not a Gramma I am a professional speaker who travels across the country working with organizations, businesses and associations on Generations in the Workplace. I love speaking and traveling, but when I am not on the go I really love being the Grandmother. My Family encouraged me to start a blog to share ideas and the fun things I do with my grandkids. I am really thrilled that they notice, and encouraged me to create a space to share and connect with other Grams. That said, I hope you enjoy my website. I will try and keep you updated on the adventures, activities, ideas and recipes of Gramma Karen.


  1. Tracey Page January 16, 2018 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Looks delicious. Will have to try. Love you Karen.

    • Karen McCullough January 16, 2018 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comment Tracey. This site is going to be a lot of fun. My son really impressed me when he asked if I was open to a Gramma Site. At first I was not that keen on it—Gramma is such an old lady term, but maybe I could make it more hip! We’ll see. You inspire me and I am sad that there is no Body Pump 5:30 at the Heights Y today. Love you.

  2. Ellen Delap January 16, 2018 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Yum! I am all about grandkids! I look forward to more posts!

    • Karen McCullough January 16, 2018 at 8:48 pm - Reply

      Hi Ellen, I am so happy to know that you too are a Grandma. Being a Grandma is great! Thanks for your post. I am having a lot of fun writing these and yes, there will be more to come.

  3. Chris Brown January 16, 2018 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Delicious! Thanks so much for sharing your family’s recipe. Just reading it thru makes my mouth water.

    I’m planning to make this over the weekend! Thanks Karen!

  4. Linda McAdams January 16, 2018 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I enjoy cooking and this recipe is inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  5. Delinda January 16, 2018 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    Wow, Karen … looks delicious! But I am stunned that there are no seasonings in your red sauce … that all of the flavor comes from the meatballs! Wow … I never knew!!

    • Karen McCullough January 16, 2018 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      Right Delinda… just add the spicy meatball! The fat from the meat is all you will need for this delicious sauce from Southern Italy. Every region has their own flavor. My family never put onions into their sauce or meatballs. When we moved to San Antonio from Ohio our neighbors were Mario and Luciana Bertoni from Bologna, Italy. Luciana put diced carrots and onions in her sauce. The carrots made it sweet. My family’s sauce is light and really good. When you have grandkids they will love it because it is so light. Good luck and let me know what you think…

  6. Mary Lu Moss January 17, 2018 at 12:20 am - Reply

    Really cool site, Karen! You are quite the versatile lady. Proud of you!!

    • Karen McCullough January 17, 2018 at 2:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks Mary Lu! We go way back to Cleveland. Thanks for noticing.

  7. Debra Newton January 17, 2018 at 1:53 am - Reply

    Reads delicious! When do you add the 1 1/2 cups flour, with the breadcrumbs? Or do you roll the meatballs in the flour before cooking? I heard you speak at “Ladies Day” at the MEA Headquarters in Lansing, Michigan. You were amazing and motivating!

    • Karen McCullough January 17, 2018 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Hello Debra! WOW we are going back to Ladies Day at the MEA! That was over 10 years ago. You are LOYAL!!! The flour is ONLY for the very end when you roll each meatball in flour before browning in the oil and garlic. The flour keeps the meat from sticking and it gives the meatballs a crispy coating sealing the meatball so they stay soft and yummy. The breadcrumbs go in with the cheese and spices and the two eggs. Let me know how they turn out and stay tuned for more recipes.

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