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Spaghetti and meatballs is such a comfort food classic! The meatballs are made from ground beef and Italian sausage, served with a sauce with mushrooms, onions, basil, and Parmesan. Dig in!
Photography Credit:Elise Bauer
Spaghetti and meatballs, what’s not to love? Spaghetti and meatballs has to be one of the most fun dishes ever invented, at least from a kid’s perspective.
Mounds of spaghetti, fork twirling strands in a spoon, tasty meatballs, even the very serving of the spaghetti, trying to lift just the right amount from the bowl — these are some of my favorite memories from childhood.
This particular spaghetti and meatballs recipe was given to us by Rick Mindermann of our local Italian grocery store Corti Brothers. Rick is one of these walking encyclopedias of food knowledge, whose enthusiasm for all things food and cooking is infectious.
I adapted the following recipe slightly from Rick’s original, and we love it! My father even declared the other day that from here on out, this is how we are making meatballs.
Tips for Making the Best Meatballs
It’s all about the meatballs, right? Here are some tips to ensure that yours are the best:
- Mix the meats: Use a combination of ground beef and Italian pork sausage for the best flavor.
- Include chopped mushrooms: Mushrooms release moisture while they cook, so not only does including mushrooms in your meatball mixture add flavor, it helps keep the meatballs from drying out.
- Use a light hand: Don’t over-mix the ingredients, or the meatballs will be tough. Work the ingredients just enough so that the mixture comes together.
- Cook in batches: Rather than crowd the pan, cook the meatballs in batches in a single layer.
Why San Marzano Tomatoes?
Your tomato sauce will only be as good as your tomatoes! San Marzano tomatoes are an Italian variety of plum tomatoes (a.k.a. Roma tomatoes), with fewer seeds and thicker flesh, that are particularly well suited for tomato sauce.
Canned San Marzanos are pricier, but in my opinion, well worth it. If you can’t find them, just use canned plum or Roma tomatoes.
Making and Keeping Meatballs
You can make the meatballs and sauce a day or so ahead of time if you like, and store them in the fridge in a covered container. Just reheat in a saucepan or in the microwave when it’s time to make the spaghetti.
Spaghetti and meatballs will keep for 3 to 4 days (or longer), covered and in the fridge. The meatballs will freeze better than the spaghetti, but you can freeze both.
MORE CLASSIC PASTA DISHES TO DIG INTO:
- Mini Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- Fettuccine Alfredo with Mushrooms
- Baked Ziti
- Spaghetti Pasta Carbonara
Updated October 2, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! The recipe has been slightly adapted from the original. Enjoy!
Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 chopped sweet yellow onion
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 cup very finely chopped carrots
- 1 cup chopped cremini brown mushrooms
- 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if possible)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese blend
- Salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1/4 cup red wine
For the meatballs:
- 1 pound ground beef (at least 16% fat)
- 1/2 pound fresh bulk Italian style pork sausage
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup finely chopped cremini brown mushrooms
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese blend
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Red wine
For the pasta:
- 1 1/2 pounds dry 100% semolina spaghetti, thin spaghetti, or bucatini
1 Prepare the sauce: Heat olive oil in 4 to 5 quart pot on medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer or until fragrant.
Add the carrots and mushrooms, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste concentrate, stir to blend, and cook for a minute longer.
Add the canned tomatoes, basil, and parsley. Mash and stir the tomatoes with a potato masher until the sauce starts to thicken, about 5 minutes over medium high heat.
Reduce heat to low and simmer gently while preparing meatballs, stirring occasionally.
2 Form the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix by hand the beef, Italian sausage, basil, parsley, mushrooms, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, and pepper. Do not over-mix or the meatballs will be tough.
Use small melon baller (or teaspoon) to form 1-inch round meatballs. Roll and compress into tight balls.
3 Brown the meatballs: In a separate wide, shallow pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Brown meat balls on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Depending on pan size you may need to brown two batches of the meatballs. Cook them in a single layer; do not crowd the pan by stacking them.
Do not overcook the meatballs; they will continue to cook in the sauce. You just want to brown them on all sides. Towards the end of browning the meatballs, add a little bit of red wine to deglaze the pan.
4 Finish and simmer the sauce: Add the red wine to the sauce and stir in the cheese. Add salt to taste. Add meatballs and gently stir. Simmer the sauce and meatballs for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5 Cook the spaghetti: While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot with 4 quarts of salted water in it to a boil (1 tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water). When the water returns to a boil add the pasta to the pot.
Leave the pot uncovered while you cook the pasta on high heat with a vigorous boil. Put a timer on for 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions for al dente pasta (cooked but still a little firm). Drain.
6 Serve: To serve, place thin layer of sauce on plate, add pasta, add sauce and meatballs, and then sprinkle with grated Parmesan-Romano cheese.
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What You’ll Need To Make My EASY Spaghetti and Meatball Recipe
For the most flavorful meatballs, I recommend using equal parts beef, veal, and pork at most supermarkets, this blend is labeled “meatloaf mix.” If your market doesn’t carry the blend, you can use half beef and half pork (since ground veal isn’t readily available).
For the cheese, be sure to use the real-deal imported Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy domestic Parmesan pales in comparison. You can always tell if it’s authentic by looking at the rind, which is embossed with the name over and over. If the cheese is already grated, it should be labeled “Parmigiano-Reggiano,” not “Parmesan.”
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large egg
- 1 pound ground beef chuck
- 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes in puree
- 3/4 pound spaghetti
Set a large pot of salted water to boil. In a bowl, combine Parmesan, parsley, garlic, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add beef and breadcrumbs mix gently. Form into 16 balls.
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium. Add meatballs, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente. Drain, and return to pot add meatballs and sauce, and toss gently. Serve with Parmesan.
Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs
A friend told me the other day that he wasn’t a fan of spaghetti and meatballs because it’s such a basic meal. And it is – it can get a little boring and dull.
But when you bake your meatballs on a bed of spaghetti and homemade marinara sauce topped with a crapload of cheese, there’s nothing basic about it. AT ALL.
I mean, it may just be the best spaghetti and meatballs you will ever have. Seriously. Even the spaghetti-and-meatball-hater inhaled about 4 servings in one sitting without uttering a single word. Boom.
Solving Spaghetti With Meatballs' Biggest Problem
One of the main criticisms made about modern spaghetti with meatballs is that it fails to achieve an essential quality of any good pasta dish: the seamless marriage of pasta and sauce. The problem, more specifically, are those hulking fist-sized meatballs plopped on a pile of noodles. Like a baby elephant as a house pet, bouldery meatballs are out of place on thin strands of spaghetti. There's some charm to the mismatch, but it's also objectively not a good fit—while they share the same plate, taking a bite usually means alternating between one or the other, and never eating both together.
This is what I wanted to address with my recipe, and the solution is simple: First, make enough meatball mixture to not only form balls but also to have some extra on hand to break down into the sauce, forming a hybrid, meatball-flavored ragù as the base. Second, form smaller balls closer in size to a golf ball, so they can better nest into the tangle of pasta comically large meatballs are better left to a pasta-free version. I could have gone even smaller, down to the marble size of Abruzzo's pallottine, but I wanted to honor the Italian-American spirit of the dish by keeping them just a tad oversized.
What's funny is that I knew from the start that breaking some of the meatball mixture into the sauce was going to be a part of this recipe, but only learned later, while doing research into the dish's origins, that that's similar to what they do in Abruzzo, simmering the meatballs in an already meaty tomato sugo. (Just to give credit where it's due, the idea of a meaty tomato sauce with meatballs is also known to Italian-Americans in the form of Sunday gravy, so my "innovation" here is hardly a new idea.)
- for the meatballs
- 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound ground veal
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1⁄₂ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- for the sauce
- 1⁄₄ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 11⁄₂ cups)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 2 fresh bay leaves, or 3 dried bay leaves
- 1⁄₂ teaspoon peperoncino flakes
- Three 28- ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti is a cylindrical pasta, which is long and thin. It is a traditional staple food of Italy. Authentic Italian spaghetti is typically made from durum wheat semolina.
Meatballs are small balls of ground meat, sometimes along with other ingredients, such as bread crumbs, minced onion, eggs, butter, and seasoning.
These balls can be cooked in different ways like frying, baking, steaming, or braising in sauce. This Spaghetti and Meatballs tastes delicious! Like other pasta recipes, this too tastes the best when topped with a sprinkle of parsley and some parmesan cheese.
Spaghetti and Meatballs: Recipe
- 1 lb. spaghetti
- 1 lb. ground chicken or mutton
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- 1 egg
- Garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt
- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- Freshly ground black pepper
Also Read: A plate of Spaghetti Aglio Olio equals comfort
Mama’s Best Ever Spaghetti and Meatballs
I have searched far and wide to bring you the best ever spaghetti and meatballs recipe.
Over the years, I have tested, re-tested, and experimented in an attempt to make killer meatballs. Mama’s Best Ever Spaghetti and Meatballs is my husband’s favorite meal of all time so I had to get it right. Who has been to Italy? I haven’t but it’s at the very top of my bucket list!
So what makes a good meatball? It has to be so tender that it cuts easily with a a fork. You need to use a ground beef that is lean but still has some fat content (around 80%) to make a juicy meatball. You can also use half ground pork or veal which combines well with the beef.
The meatball has to be bursting with flavor so that’s where garlic, parmesan cheese, and parsley come in. The bread crumbs and egg act as a binder to keep the meatballs together. You can use panko bread crumbs or toasted white bread.
Once you have all of the meatball ingredients in a bowl, dig in there with your hands to mix it all together. There’s no better instrument than your own clean hands to incorporate all of the ingredients.
I have tried several methods to cook the meatballs! I find that frying the meatballs in extra-virgin olive oil to brown the sides, then finishing the meatballs off by cooking them in a pot of sauce is the best way to bring out the most flavor.
A homemade, made-from-scratch tomato sauce is worth every single second. It’s actually much easier than people think! Good, quality canned tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and fresh basil are the simple ingredients used to make the sauce. A touch of sugar cuts the acidity of the tomato sauce. Simmer it for at least 30 minutes to develop the rich flavors and you have a truly authentic marinara sauce.
One key tip is to generously salt your pasta water. It’s a perfect opportunity to season the pasta from within, which gives it nice flavor.
Toss the hot pasta with the homemade marinara sauce, mama’s best ever meatballs, and a heavy dose of parmigiano reggiano cheese. It’s a huge bowl of comfort food! Reserve a bit of sauce to add to the pasta when you are ready to serve.
- small spaghetti squash 1 1
- very lean ground beef (95% lean) 1 lbs 454 g
- plain bread crumbs 1/4 cup 1/4 cup
- grated, reduced-fat Parmesan cheese (divided) 3 tbsp 3 tbsp
- water (plus extra for cooking squash, divided) 3/4 cup 3/4 cup
- chopped fresh parsley 2 tbsp 2 tbsp
- eggs 1 1
- garlic powder 1 tsp 1 tsp
- black pepper 1/2 tsp 1/2 tsp
- low-sodium spaghetti sauce 2 cup 2 cup
Chicken Pot Pie with Phyllo
Sweet Home Beef And Veggie Pot Roast
Combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onions, and salt in large wide pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard onions. Using immersion blender, process sauce briefly to break up any large pieces of tomato (texture should be even but not completely smooth). Season sauce with more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat.
Combine breadcrumbs and milk in small bowl stir until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Let stand 10 minutes.
Place beef and pork in large bowl and break up into small chunks. Add 1 cup ground Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Whisk eggs to blend in small bowl whisk in garlic. Add to meat mixture.
Using hands, squeeze milk from breadcrumbs, reserving milk. Add breadcrumbs to meat mixture. Using hands, quickly and gently mix meat mixture just until all ingredients are evenly combined (do not overmix). Chill mixture at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Moisten hands with some of reserved milk from breadcrumbs, then roll meat mixture between palms into golf-ball-size balls, occasionally moistening hands with milk as needed and arranging meatballs in single layer in sauce in pot. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.
Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.
Using slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to platter. Add pasta to sauce in pot and toss to coat. Divide pasta among 6 plates. Top each serving with meatballs. Sprinkle meatballs with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve.
How would you rate Spaghetti and Meatballs?
Love this MB recipe, have used it for years. They always come out very tender and tasty. Great for meatball sandwich too. Never had a problem with the MBs falling apart during the cooking process, even when I’ve replaced the wet French bread with seasoned panko or regular bread crumbs, simply cut the amount in half otherwise they are too bready. I always double the recipe in order to freeze some. Note: I also press the onion juice from the cooked onions upon removing them from the pot, using a sieve, then putting the onion juice back into the tomato sauce. For a bit more umami I also give a few squirts of anchovy paste, and often add dried red pepper flakes. Just made a batch today!
I am a little confused, I got this recipe from a link about “8 mistakes to avoid when making meatballs” . The need to sear the meatballs was emphasized either in the pan or the oven. This recipe calls from dropping the raw meatballs in the sauce. I have always cooked my meatballs before putting them in the sauce.
Great recipe, except that one egg makes a firmer meatball. I learned this because I made it thinking I had two eggs instead of only one. But the one-egg meatball is less likely to fall apart and is no less delicious.