Spaghetti with (or without) meatballs

Spaghetti with (or without) meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is a classic Italian-American dish.  It’s believed by many Americans, me included, as being an authentic Italian dish, but it’s actually an adaptation of Italian cuisine that has immigrated to the American culture. During my childhood spaghetti and meatballs was always a favorite. I didn’t have it too often since my mom traditionally cooked mainly Korean cuisine, but it was always a treat when I had the opportunity to have it at friends’ homes or at restuarants.

Since becoming a mom I’ve been on the search for the perfect spaghetti and meatballs recipe. I wanted to be able to make it from scratch, the sauce and the meatballs. I knew it would be more work but i also knew it was a healthier and tastier option. Spaghetti and meatballs is such a great kid-friendly meal but also a meal that can be enjoyed by adults alike. It was a must in my dinner rotation. Up until recently, there was always something not right with the recipes I’ve tried, but now I have THE recipe.

Try this recipe for your next family meal. It’s also great for a large crowd as you can make the sauce and prepare the meatballs the night before. Just cover the meatballs and keep in fridge until ready to bake the next day. Alternatively you can freeze them and enjoy it at a much later time. The sauce also tastes better the next day. The extra time allows the flavours to blend and mature.

Unlike traditional spaghetti with meatballs where the meatballs are cooked in the sauce, i like to keep the meatballs separate from the sauce. This allows you to offer a vegetarian meal or include the meatballs for the complete spaghetti and meatball experience. The only problem with this is trying to keep my kids from eating up all the meatballs before dinner is served.

Recipe adapted (with slight changes) from Simply Recipes.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

: 6
: 20 min
: 1 hr 30 min
: Easy

Traditional Italian-American spaghetti and meatballs recipe. Tomato-based sauce with herb-seasoned meatballs. A family favorite!


  • FOR THE SAUCE:3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (about 1 large carrot), very finely chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, very finely chopped
  • 4 (14-oz/400g) cans Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano brand)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian basil, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste concentrate
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • FOR THE MEATBALLS:1 pound (500g) ground beef
  • 1/2 pound (250g) fresh bulk Italian style pork sausage (alternatively you can use just pork or more ground beef)
  • 2 tablespoons Italian basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, very finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs (USED AT THE END!!)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • FOR THE PASTA:1-1/2 pounds dry spaghetti
  • Step 1 PREPARE THE SAUCE: Heat olive oil in a 4-5 quart pot on medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent (about 3-4 minutes). Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Step 2 Add carrots, mushrooms, basil, and parsley. Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Step 3 Add the tomatoes (with juice). Mash and stir the tomatoes. If you have a potato masher, it is very handy for this step. Continue to stir until the sauce starts to thicken (about 5 minutes).
  • Step 4 Add tomato paste and stir to blend. Reduce heat to low and let simmer while you start the meatball prep. Don’t forget to stir occasionally.
  • Step 5 PREARE THE MEATBALLS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (176 celsius). Add all the meat into a large bowl. Break it apart with a fork so that there is air within the meat. Add the remaining ingredients (EXCEPT 1/2 breadcrumbs!!) and mix by hand. Do NOT over-mix to avoid tough meatballs. Form into approximately 1-inch sized meatballs (or larger depending on your preference).
  • Step 6 Place the remaining 1/2 cup breadcrumbs in a separate small bowl. Roll each meatball with the breadcrumbs so that it is lightly covered. This helps absorb the fat giving you a more tender meatball.
  • Step 7 Place meatballs on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, flipping once during the half. When baking is done take out of oven and set aside.
  • Step 8 GO BACK TO THE SAUCE: After the sauce has been simmering for about 30-45 minutes add the red wine and cheese (and salt if needed). Let simmer for about 30-45 minutes longer.
  • Step 9 COOK THE SPAGHETTI: About 20 minutes before sauce is ready, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add in about 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and drizzle about 1 tablespoon over the pasta and toss to avoid sticking.
  • Step 10 TO SERVE: Place a thin layer of sauce on the plate, add pasta (use tongs to grab the pasta and slowly lower the pasta onto the plate, slightly turning your tongs at the end. This helps keep the pasta in a tight form in the middle of the plate). Add some meatballs (if using) over the pasta. Pour sauce over meatballs and pasta. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley if desired.