Mama Lama's Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

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“This recipe was passed down to me from my great grandmother Josephine Lama who immigrated from Sicily to America through Ellis Island in 1904.”
12-15 meatballs

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Season pork ribs with a little salt and pepper and sauté in oil until well browned. Add 2 cups of the onions and sauté a few minutes, then add 4 cloves of the minced garlic. Saute onion garlic mix until onions are softened. Cut off the hard part of whole canned tomatoes, crush them with hands and add to pan with meat and onions.
  2. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and water and deglaze pan, scraping up all the brown bits. Add the basil, two teaspoons of the Italian seasoning, four tablespoons of the fresh Italian parsley, wine and half of the Parmesan cheese and stir well. Simmer for 2.5 – 3 hours. Since you are simmering it so long, you need to make sure it is simmering slow and not boiling rapidly. Just simmer it slow, and stir often it does not burn the bottom of the pan.
  3. While sauce is simmering you can prepare the meatballs. Fry other 3/4 cup of onions, add the other two cloves garlic just before onions are softened, and cool mixture. Soak breadcrumbs (I use Progresso Italian sytle) with milk and mix in ground beef, veal and pork. Then mix in scrambled egg, the other 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, the other teaspoon of Italian seasoning, the rest of the Parmesan cheese, and make into balls about the size of golf balls. They should be very soft, so add a little more milk if necessary. Mama Lama said as soft as possible but still able to hold together into a ball.
  4. After about two hours of the meat sauce simmering, add the meatballs to pot with red sauce where they will cook for another 45-60 minutes. You need to be gentle with the meatballs at first since they are very soft and delicate until they cook a little, and you have to move the pork ribs to make room for them in the pot. This makes about 10-12 medium-sized meatballs.
  5. After 2.5 to 3 hours of simmering, the pork meat will have mostly fallen off the rib bones. Remove the rib bones with tongs carefully from the sauce, returning any remaining pork meat still attached to the bones back to the sauce. Add a little water if the sauce is too thick. I usually serve this sauce over rotini or rigatoni pasta with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on the side. This dish is even better served the next day.

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