This recipe is a specialty of my Dad’s (Poppy Joe), and it’s been a favorite of mine for years. It’s highly versatile, in that you can make it as an appetizer, a main dish (with nice, crusty bread for dipping and a fresh salad), or even a sub sandwich. The sauce is the secret to this totally tasty dish!

Ingredients for the sauce:

64 ounces of ketchup
1 12-oz. can of beer
4 to 6 ounces of bourbon
1 12-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
6 slices of bacon (for enhanced flavor – optional)
¾ cup of brown sugar
1 16-oz. jar of marinara sauce

Ingredients for the meatballs:

3 lbs. quality ground beef (90% fat or less)
½ TBSP garlic powder (or more, to taste)
½ TBSP onion powder (or more, to taste)
1 TBSP Italian seasoning OR season salt
½ TBSP oregano (optional)


1.  Add sauce ingredients to a large pot, and cook for 1 hour, stirring frequently.
2.  While the sauce is cooking, mix together the meatball ingredients.
3.  Shape seasoned ground beef into balls of desired size; you should get 25 – 30 large meatballs OR around 50 small meatballs.
4.  After sauce has simmered for one hour, add meatballs (raw) to the sauce, being careful not to break them up while stirring; cook until meatballs are done. Enjoy!

If you’re making these meatballs as an appetizer (for a party or get-together, for example), you should make the meatballs smaller (think Swedish meatballs) – that way, there’s more to go around.

Note: Poppy Joe has the Italian seasoning and oregano as part of the ingredients list, but I listed them as optional. I don’t remember these meatballs as having a very “Italian” flavor, so I think it’s something he’s added along the line. I do love Italian food, but sometimes, Italian seasoning can be overpowering if it’s used in a non-Italian dish; this sauce is very flavorful (especially after the meatballs have cooked in it), so there’s really no reason for over-seasoning.

One last thing…. I consider myself the queen of shortcuts, so I’ve tried making these with store-bought, pre-cooked meatballs, and it just didn’t taste the same. So, if you want the real deal, you need to make the meatballs from scratch.

Until next time…eat creatively!

For a printer-friendly .pdf file of this recipe, CLICK HERE.

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