Spaghetti and Meatballs

The combination of spaghetti and meatballs is hard to resist. At least from the point of view of a child, spaghetti and meatballs is without a doubt one of the most entertaining recipes that have ever been created.

These are some of my best memories from my childhood: mounds of spaghetti, a fork twisting strands in a spoon, delicious meatballs, and the struggle to remove exactly the perfect amount from the bowl.

The recipe for this particular spaghetti and meatballs dish was sent to us by Rick Mindermann, who works at the Corti Brothers, an Italian grocery store in our neighborhood. To say that Rick is a living encyclopedia of food knowledge would be an understatement. His love for all things related to food and cooking in general is contagious.

The following recipe is a dish that I modified somewhat from Rick’s original, and we absolutely adore it! A few days ago, my father made the announcement that from this point forward, this is the method that we will use to prepare 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 delicious as the tomatoes you use to make it.There are fewer seeds and a thicker flesh in San Marzano tomatoes, which are an Italian type of plum tomatoes (also known as Roma tomatoes). With these characteristics, San Marzano tomatoes are particularly well-suited for tomato sauce.

Compared to other canned tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes are more expensive, but I believe that the additional cost is well worth it. Simply use canned plum or Roma tomatoes in their place if you are unable to locate them.

Making Ahead and Storing 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 covered and in the fridge. The meatballs will freeze better than the spaghetti, but you can freeze both.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

PREP TIME20 mins
COOK TIME50 mins
SERVINGS6 servings


For the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup very finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped cremini brown mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if possible)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese blend
  • Salt, to taste (about 1 teaspoon)

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
  • 1 splash red wine

For the pasta

  • 1 1/2 pounds dry 100% semolina spaghetti, thin spaghetti, or bucatini
  • Salt, for the pasta water


  1. Prepare the sauce:

    Heat the olive oil in a 4 to 5-quart pot on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer or until fragrant.

    Add the carrots and mushrooms, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir to blend, and cook for a minute longer.

    Add the canned tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Mash and stir the tomatoes with a potato masher until the sauce starts to thicken, about 5 minutes over medium-high heat.

    Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently while preparing meatballs, stirring occasionally.

    Onions, Mushrooms, Carrots, and Tomato Paste Cooked Together in a Pot for Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

    Herbs Added to Pot While Canned Tomatoes Is Smashed Using a Potato Smasher for Spaghetti & Meatballs Recipe

    Spaghetti and Meatballs Sauce in a Pot, Mixed Using a Wooden Spoon

  2. Form the meatballs:

    In a large bowl, use your hands to mix the beef, Italian sausage, basil, parsley, mushrooms, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, and pepper. Do not over-mix or the meatballs will be tough.

    Use a small melon baller, cookie scoop, or heaping teaspoon to form 1-inch round meatballs. Roll and compress into tight balls, but don’t overwork the mixture.

    Bowl of Meatball Ingredients All Mixed Together for Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

    Meatballs Portioned Using a Cookie Scoop and Placed on a Parchment Wrapped Baking Tray for Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Meatballs on a Parchment Paper Lined Baking Sheet after Being Shaped into Balls for Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

  3. Brown the meatballs:

    In a separate wide, shallow pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes.

    Depending on pan size you may need to brown 2 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.

    Meatballs Browned in a Large Pan for Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

  4. Finish and simmer the sauce:

    Add the red wine to the sauce and stir in the cheese. Add salt to taste. Add the browned meatballs and gently stir. Simmer the sauce and meatballs for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Red Wine and Parmesan Added to Pot of Sauce for Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe
    Meatballs Added to Pot of Sauce

    Meatballs Stirred into Pot of Sauce With a Wooden Spoon

  5. Cook the spaghetti:

    While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot with 4 quarts of salted water 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.

    Cooked Spaghetti in a Colander for Spaghetti and Meatballs

  6. Serve:

    To serve, place a thin layer of sauce on each plate, add the pasta, add sauce and meatballs, and then sprinkle with grated Parmesan-Romano cheese.

    Plate of Spaghetti and Meatballs Topped With Parmesan
    Table Setting (L to R): Toasted Bread on a Wooden Board, Burgundy Table Cloth, a Platter of Spaghetti and Meatballs With a Slice of Tasted Bread and Topped With Basil, a Glass of Water, Bite Size Bread Pieces on the Table, a Bread Piece Dipped into a Small Saucer With Olive Oil and Crushed Red Peppers, a Small Bowl With Parmesan, and a Plate With More Spaghetti and Meatballs



What is Spaghetti and Meatballs?

Spaghetti and Meatballs is a classic Italian-American dish consisting of cooked pasta (usually spaghetti) topped with tomato sauce and meatballs. The meatballs are typically made from ground meat (commonly beef, pork, or a combination), breadcrumbs, eggs, herbs, and seasonings, formed into balls, and then baked or fried before being simmered in tomato sauce. This dish is hearty, comforting, and a favorite in many households.

What type of pasta is best for Spaghetti and Meatballs?

Spaghetti is the traditional pasta choice for Spaghetti and Meatballs, but you can use other pasta shapes if you prefer. Linguine, fettuccine, or penne are also popular options. Ultimately, the choice of pasta comes down to personal preference. Just ensure that the pasta is cooked al dente (firm to the bite) to complement the texture of the meatballs and sauce.

How do I make tender and flavorful meatballs for Spaghetti and Meatballs?

To make tender and flavorful meatballs, start by combining ground meat (such as beef and pork), breadcrumbs, eggs, grated Parmesan cheese, minced garlic, chopped parsley, salt, pepper, and any additional seasonings of your choice in a mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients gently until just combined, being careful not to overwork the mixture, which can result in tough meatballs. Shape the mixture into meatballs of uniform size, and then bake or fry them until cooked through and browned. Adding a bit of milk to the mixture can also help keep the meatballs moist.

Can I make Spaghetti and Meatballs ahead of time?

Yes, Spaghetti and Meatballs can be made ahead of time for convenience. You can prepare the meatballs and tomato sauce in advance and store them separately in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. When ready to serve, reheat the sauce and meatballs together in a saucepan over medium heat while you cook the pasta. This allows the flavors to meld together and saves time on busy weeknights.

What are some variations of Spaghetti and Meatballs that I can try?

While the classic Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe is beloved by many, there are endless variations you can explore to suit your taste preferences or dietary needs. For example, you can make turkey or chicken meatballs instead of beef and pork for a lighter option. You can also experiment with different herbs and spices in the meatballs or add vegetables like finely grated carrots or zucchini for extra nutrition. Additionally, you can use alternative sauces such as marinara, arrabbiata, or Alfredo sauce for a different flavor profile.


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