This was Mom's most requested dinner for special occasions with crowds larger than our regular 8 person family. It was always served with warm garlic bread and a large salad dressed with homemade sweet oil & vinegar dressing.
When we were little, Mom's pasta of choice was spaghetti, but she switched to rigatoni in the 1960's and never looked back.
I admit that it took a little talking to get Mom to agree to let me measure her spices (& count the crackers!) for this entree but I'm so glad she did. We think of Mom any time one of us makes this dish & always agree that ours is good, but not as good as Mom's. But what is? =^..^=
Pour both cans of juice into a large pot and place over medium-low heat. Add a tiny amount of water to the cans to get all of the juice out & into the pan. (Mom was raised in The Great Depression and didn't waste any ingredients.)
Chop BOTH large onions & all 4 cloves of garlic. Divide in half for sauce & half for meatballs. Add "the sauce half" to the sauce.
Measure the spices and add to the sauce. Stir well & add the bay leaf. (Remember to take the bay leaf out later before serving OR make it a game & whoever gets the bay leaf on their plate gets the first dessert!)
Simmer, stirring about every 10 minutes, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. (I set the timer on the microwave so I don't forget to stir.) As the sauce starts to reduce, remember to scrape the insides of the pan to add the thickened tomato residue to the sauce. Simmer for about an hour.
Add the tomato paste & tomato sauce, again adding a tiny amount of water to clean out the cans. THEN add one paste can of hot water AND 2 sauce cans of hot water. Stir together well & return to simmer, stirring every 10 minutes.
Around this time, put all the meatball ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. The mix needs to be pretty stiff & hold together well, so add more cracker crumbs, if needed. OK, I admit it. I mix this together by hand, as Mom did, but do it any way you prefer.
Once the sauce is simmering again, stir well one more time, then start adding the meatballs. Mom made about 50 smallish balls, rolled round, then shaped slightly oblong to cook better. Drop them into the sauce as you make them.
Simmer, stirring more frequently (like every 7 minutes), for about 2 more hours, until the meatballs are done and the sauce thickens.
In the last hour, put a large pot of water on to boil, then cook the pasta (as directed) when the sauce is just about done.
Drain the cooked pasta & place in a large bowl. (Remove the bay leaf from the sauce, if you think of it.) Top with some of the sauce & mix well.
Serve with a bowl of meatballs and a bowl of extra sauce. Top with fresh parmesan cheese, if desired. Buon Appetito!
Another dinner idea... a Meatball Sub! =^..^=
NOTE: If you make less pasta and have extra sauce & meatballs, they freeze well.