Tomato Gravy and Meatballs: An Italian Delight!

As a lover of authentic Italian cuisine, I am thrilled to share with you my recipe for Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs. This classic dish originates from the heart of Southern Italy and has been passed down through generations of the Bella family. In fact, a certain pizzeria restaurant in town claims to serve the best gravy meatballs recipe this side of the Atlantic, but after you try Mama Bella’s tomato gravy meatballs recipe, you’ll see why it’ll become your go-to recipe.

The aroma of homemade spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove is what first lured me to the kitchen as a child, and now it’s my turn to share this delicious comforting recipe with you. This is one recipe that will make everyone gather around your table no matter their nationality.

This recipe is easy to make once you have prepared all your ingredients. You can make the tomato gravy and meatballs on busy weeknights ahead of time or host a dinner party on Sundays like they do in Rome. Whether it’s for an intimate dinner or a large family gathering, this dish is versatile enough for any occasion.

So come along with me, let me guide you through my Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs recipe so that you can have the taste of Italy in your kitchen just like Mama Mia used to make!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Mama Bellas Tomato Gravy and Meatballs
Mama Bellas Tomato Gravy and Meatballs

Attention all foodies! I have discovered Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe, the latest sensation in Italian cuisine. This recipe has taken my taste buds on a wild ride, and I am convinced it will do the same for you too! Here’s why you’ll fall in love with Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs recipe:

First of all, this recipe is packed with fresh Italian flavors that are hard to resist. The sweet onion and garlic cloves are sauteed in extra virgin olive oil and combined with fresh thyme, basil, and parsley to create a heavenly aroma that will fill your kitchen. The homemade meatballs are seasoned to perfection with parmesan cheese, milk, eggs, and breadcrumbs to give them a tender texture and a burst of flavor.

But wait, there’s more! The gravy is made from a tomato puree base combined with crushed tomatoes and sugar to create a tangy yet sweet taste. The result is a mouthwatering broth that serves as the perfect complement to the succulent meatballs.

This recipe is incredibly versatile as it can be paired with spaghetti or can be used as a topping for pizza or calzones. You can even serve it as an appetizer with some crusty bread on the side. It’s guaranteed to be a hit at your dinner table!

Finally, this recipe is easy to make and requires only basic cooking skills that everyone possesses. With straightforward instructions accompanied by a helpful recipe video walks you through each step of the process.

In conclusion, Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe is an excellent addition to any cook’s repertoire. With its fresh ingredients, versatile nature, and easy preparation, it’s hard not to fall in love with this dish!

Ingredient List

 Sizzling Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Gravy
Sizzling Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Gravy

Ingredients for the Tomato Gravy:

  • 1 Sweet Onion – the basis of flavor for the gravy.
  • 4 Garlic Cloves – make sure you mince them well to fully release their flavor.
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil – high-quality olive oil is always best to give a smooth and rich taste to the gravy.
  • 3 28-ounce cans Crushed Tomatoes – San Marzano tomatoes are a great choice if you can find them.
  • 1 28-ounce can Tomato Puree – for a richer and thicker sauce.
  • 2 tsp Salt – enhances the tomato flavor and helps season the meatballs.
  • 1 tsp Pepper – provides some heat to balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes.
  • 3 tbsp Sugar – this small amount of sugar is added to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves – adds an earthy and subtle aroma to the sauce.
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped – for that classic Italian flavor.

Ingredients for the Meatballs:

  • 2 lbs Ground Beef – 80% lean beef is recommended as it ensures that your meatballs will be tender and juicy.
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated – use freshly grated parmesan cheese for maximum flavor.
  • 2 cups Italian Breadcrumbs – plain breadcrumbs work too if you prefer fewer herbs in your meatballs.
  • 3 Eggs, lightly beaten – this binds all the ingredients together and gives structure to your meatballs.
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 large Onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper

Making sure that you have all your ingredients prepared beforehand will make cooking much easier. Some basic pantry staples like salt and pepper, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and onion are essential in any Italian-style recipe.

The Recipe How-To

Now that we have all of our ingredients, it’s time to whip up Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs. Get ready for a flavorful and hearty dish that will transport you to Italy with every bite.

Preparing the Meatballs

First, let’s work on our meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 pound of ground beef with 1 small onion (grated), 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of milk, 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley, and 1 large egg. Mix everything thoroughly but be careful not to overwork the mixture.

Pro tip: Wetting your hands with cold water before forming the meatballs will prevent sticking.

Using your hands, form medium-sized meatballs and place them on a baking sheet. You should end up with about 12-14 meatballs.

Cooking the Meatballs

Heat your skillet over medium-high heat; add a generous amount of olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add in the meatballs in batches to brown on all sides. This should take about 5-7 minutes per batch. Set aside once browned.

Making Tomato Gravy

In a large pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat, add another generous amount of olive oil. Once heated, add in 1 finely chopped onion and sauté until translucent. Add in 3 minced garlic cloves and sauté for another minute.

Next, add in one can each of tomato puree (28 oz) and crushed tomatoes (28 oz), along with 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and freshly cut herbs like thyme and sweet basil. Keep stirring until everything comes to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer.

Add in the browned meatballs carefully into your tomato sauce by placing them gently into the pot making sure not to break them apart.

Let this tomato gravy gently simmer for 1 ½ hours or more if possible. The longer it simmers, the better it tastes!

Serve and Enjoy

Serve over fresh pasta or homemade spaghetti accompanied by warm bread and lots of grated parmesan cheese on top of those hearty gravy meatballs!

I hope you found this recipe tutorial helpful in guiding you through making Mama Bella’s Tomato Sauce Gravy and Meatballs recipe at home that even your Italian grandmomma would be proud of!

Substitutions and Variations

 Comfort Food at its Best: Mama Bella's Tomato Gravy and Meatballs
Comfort Food at its Best: Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs

When it comes to making Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe, there are several substitutions and variations you can try to match your preferences or dietary restrictions.

Firstly, if you’re watching your fat intake and prefer a leaner option than ground beef, you can substitute it with ground turkey. Turkey meatballs are equally delicious and healthy. For vegetarians, you can skip the meat altogether and make vegetarian meatballs using lentils or mushrooms.

For the tomato puree and crushed tomatoes base, you could experiment with different types of canned tomatoes for variety. San Marzano tomatoes are commonly used in Italian cuisine, but you could also try fire-roasted or diced tomatoes.

Substituting sweet onion with red onion or shallots will bring a slightly different taste to the recipe, adding some extra color to the dish. In addition, if fresh basil is not available you can use dried basil however keep in mind that fresh herbs are always better than dried ones.

Additionally, if you don’t have fresh thyme, a pinch of dried thyme will do. You may want to add a bit of sugar if your canned tomatoes are too acidic or tart. For dairy-free options when preparing the meatballs, try coconut or almond milk – this option works great with turkey meat-based alternatives.

If you want to go beyond traditional spaghetti and meatball sauce pairing – this recipe is just as good with garlic mashed potatoes or creamy polenta. You may also skip meatballs entirely and use this sauce as a starting point to make other Italian dishes such as lasagna or eggplant parmesan.

This recipe is versatile enough for experimentation – taking something familiar like tomato gravy meatballs and giving them your creative twist! Be adventurous in the kitchen!

Serving and Pairing

 Aroma So Inviting, You'll Be Hooked Even Before it's Ready
Aroma So Inviting, You’ll Be Hooked Even Before it’s Ready

There’s nothing quite like a hearty bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe is the perfect dish to serve at family gatherings or after a long day at work. Once you’ve prepared your sauce and meatballs to perfection, it’s time to bring it all together for a delicious meal.

The simplest way to serve this dish is over a bed of homemade spaghetti, but don’t be afraid to get creative! For instance, you can pair it with other pastas like penne or rigatoni, or switch out the wheat for veggie noodles made from zucchini or sweet potato.

Another tasty option is to turn your meatballs into sliders by sandwiching them between two fluffy buns, fresh tomato slices, and a slice of melted mozzarella cheese. You can also create a meatball calzone by adding your gravy, meatballs, and cheese into folded pizza dough.

No matter how you choose to serve this recipe, be sure to top everything off with some fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese. It adds just the right amount of savory flavor to make every bite absolutely divine.

To complement the bold flavors of Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe, I recommend pairing it with a glass of red wine such as Chianti or Barbera. These full-bodied wines will help balance out the acidity of the tomato sauce while highlighting the herbal flavor notes of the fresh thyme and basil used in this recipe.

In conclusion, get inventive with your serving and pairing options. Whether you’re enjoying a night in with your family or hosting a dinner party with friends, Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe is sure to impress everyone at the table. Bon appétit!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 Homemade Tomato Gravy: Thick, Rich and Perfect for Drenching your Meatballs
Homemade Tomato Gravy: Thick, Rich and Perfect for Drenching your Meatballs

Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs is a dish that can be made ahead of time, and the leftovers stored for later consumption. In fact, many people prefer to make this dish a day before they plan on serving it to allow the flavors to meld together even more.

To make ahead of time, simply cook the meatballs and the tomato gravy according to the recipe instructions. You can then refrigerate them separately until you plan to serve them. When you’re ready to eat, reheat both the meatballs and gravy in a pot on low heat until they reach a temperature of 165℉. This ensures that the ingredients are thoroughly reheated and safe to eat.

If you have leftover meatballs and tomato gravy, store them separately in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator for up to three days. They can also be frozen for up to two months. When it comes time to reheat, defrost the meatballs and the gravy (if frozen) overnight in the refrigerator before heating them up together on low heat.

Reheating this dish is easy and uncomplicated. Gently warm it up over low heat until hot and steamy. Be sure not to overcook, as this can dry out the meatballs or cause the tomato gravy to break down.

Whether you’ve got a busy schedule or just want an easy meal on hand, Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs is perfect for make-ahead meals and reheating whenever you need it. Just a few minutes in the kitchen can provide you with homemade comfort food all week long!

Tips for Perfect Results

 The Ultimate Comfort meal: Mama Bella's Italian-Style Tomato Gravy and Meatballs
The Ultimate Comfort meal: Mama Bella’s Italian-Style Tomato Gravy and Meatballs

To ensure that you’ll have amazing results with Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs recipe, I’ve compiled some essential tips that you should keep in mind when preparing it.

1. Don’t Overmix the Meat Mixture

When making the meat mixture for the meatballs, it’s important not to overmix it, as this can result in tough and rubbery meatballs. Mix just enough to combine all the ingredients, and be gentle with the mixture.

2. Use Fresh Herbs

Using fresh herbs like thyme and basil will really elevate the flavor of Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs recipe. The aroma of fresh herbs will permeate throughout the dish, imparting depth and complexity to its flavors.

3. Cook Meatballs Separately Before Adding to Sauce

To ensure that your meatballs stay tender and cook evenly, it’s essential to cook them separately before adding them to the sauce. This will also prevent them from falling apart during cooking.

4. Taste Before Adding Extra Sugar or Salt

The sweetness of tomato puree and crushed tomatoes varies depending on their brand and quality. Therefore, it’s important to taste your sauce before adding any extra sugar or salt. Adjust accordingly to your taste preference.

5. Let the Sauce Simmer

Don’t be in a rush when cooking Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs recipe. Letting the sauce simmer at a low heat will allow all the flavors to meld together beautifully, resulting in a rich, hearty dish.

By following these simple tips, you’ll achieve perfect results every time with Mama Bella’s Tomato Gravy and Meatballs recipe.

Bottom Line

Mama Bellas Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe is an ultimate comfort food that will satisfy your taste buds and leave you craving for more. The mix of fresh thyme, basil, garlic, and onion blended in extra virgin olive oil gives the dish a pleasant aroma that will make your kitchen feel like Bella Pizzeria restaurant.

Additionally, this recipe is versatile in that you can substitute some of the ingredients to suit your preference or dietary needs. With every variation you make, it will still produce an excellent flavor that will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds.

Finally, Mama Bellas Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe can be stored for later use, making meal prep even more accessible for busy people To achieve perfect results, follow the tips we have provided, such as using a food processor to finely chop the ingredients and cooking meatballs separately before incorporating them into the sauce.

In conclusion, Mama Bellas Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe is not just an ordinary dish; it is an experience that you ought to try. Once you take the first bite, you will be transported back to memories of homemade spaghetti or Sunday Sauce prepared by your Italian Nonna. So gather your ingredients and share this recipe with loved ones to enjoy a traditional yet delicious Italian meal together.

Mama Bellas Tomato Gravy and Meatballs

Mama Bellas Tomato Gravy and Meatballs Recipe

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Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian-American
Calories 1092.4 kcal



  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 slices white bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup grated locatelli cheese or 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper


  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped fine
  • 3 (35 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (I use Tuttaruso in the blue can)
  • 1 (35 ounce) can tomato puree (I use Tuttaruso in the blue can)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme


  • In food processor chop onions, garlic, parsley. Soak bread in milk, then put in food processor with eggs and cheese. Add this mixture to ground beef with salt and pepper. Add bread crumbs to make soft firm ball. Roll meatballs, place on baking sheet and bake in 350 degree oven 30-40 minutes. Put in gravy and simmer for 1-2 hours.
  • Sautee' onions and garlic until soft. Add remaining ingredients, stir and simmer 1 hour. Add meatballs and simmer another hour.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 1041gCalories: 1092.4kcalCarbohydrates: 109.7gProtein: 43.9gFat: 56.4gSaturated Fat: 14.8gCholesterol: 214.3mgSodium: 4616.2mgFiber: 12.3gSugar: 63.6g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Meat
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