Hearty Meatball and Italian Sausage Sauce for a Crowd

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Diana Rattray
  • Total: 2 hrs 55 mins
  • Prep: 25 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Yield: 12 to 15 servings

This is a hearty sauce with both meatballs and Italian sausage. It's the perfect sauce to make if you have to feed a crowd. 

Make this for a game day gathering, family or guests, or a potluck event. It's also an excellent recipe to make and freeze.


  • For the Meatballs:
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (fine)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon parsley dried flakes (2 to 3 teaspoons if it's freshly chopped)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 pounds ground beef (lean, preferably around 90% because they are cooked in the sauce)
  • For the Sauce:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 1 pound sausage (sweet Italian)
  • 1 pound sausage (hot Italian)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 3 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  • 3 (28 oz) cans peeled tomatoes (Italian, cut-up, or crushed tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon basil (dried leaf)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (granulated, or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (fresh chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon oregano (dried leaf)
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (grated, plus more for serving)

Steps to Make It

For Meatballs

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Beat the egg in a large bowl.

  3. Stir in the 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon parsley, and 1/2 cup of water.

  4. Add the ground beef and mix to combine. Shape into small balls. Set aside.

For Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat the olive oil in Dutch oven. Remove sausages from casings and add to the Dutch oven with the garlic, Cook, stirring with a fork to break up sausage, until it loses its pink color and garlic is tender. Drain and discard excess fat.

  3. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Add meatballs, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Stir frequently.

  4. Enjoy!


  • If you prefer to cook the meatballs outside of the sauce, line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack in the pan. Arrange the raw meatballs on the rack and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add them to the sauce and simmer in the sauce for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or more.
  • This is an excellent sauce to use with just about any type of pasta, or use it as a sauce for lasagna or a pasta casserole. Make it for a crowd, or freeze the sauce in batches.​

Recipe Variations

  • Add 1 to 2 pounds of sliced sauteed mushrooms to the sauce.
  • Chop 1 or 2 bell peppers and add to the sauce.
  • Shredded carrot can add some natural sweetness to the sauce. I usually add one shredded carrot.