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November 27, 2023

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Tender Italian meatballs simmered in rich tomato sauce—just like Grandma used to make—served over a big bowl of al dente pasta. If there is a meal more deeply satisfying, we have yet to taste it.

Categories:

white platter of spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs topped with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley

Classics to serve with spaghetti and meatballs:

Our Best Spaghetti And Meatballs Recipe

We’ve turned to the ultimate nonna, Marcella Hazan, for inspiration, who calls for only three ingredients in her classic, velvety, rich tomato sauce. Canned tomatoes, butter, and onions. From there you’ll simmer beef and pork meatballs, and serve it with a big bowl of spaghetti noodles. Make our Red Wine Sangria and Easy Tiramisu or Olive Oil Cake for dessert. Mamma mia!

Canned tomatoes & sauce, onions, butter, ground beef & pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan & spices in prep bowls

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Ingredients For Homemade Spaghetti And Meatballs

  • For the sauce – Canned whole stewed tomatoes, canned tomato sauce, white onions, salted butter

  • For the meatballs – 80/20 ground beef, ground pork, eggs, Italian-style breadcrumbs, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, Parmesan cheese, garlic

  • Spaghetti

  • Salt and pepper

beef, pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper in a glass bowl
beef, pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper mixed in a glass bowl to make italian meatballs
italian meatballs on a sheet pan made with beef, pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper
hand crushing whole canned tomatoes into a large pot

How to Make Meatballs

  1. Make the sauce in a large pot.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper.

  3. Mix well, then with wet hands. If you don’t like touching raw meat, you can wear latex gloves. Rub a little olive oil on the palms of the gloves to prevent the mixture from sticking.

  4. Form golf ball–size balls (about 2 tablespoons each). A small scoop (either ¾ ounce or 1 ounce size) will work great if you have one at home.

  5. Carefully add the meatballs to the sauce. Return the sauce to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.

  6. Serve the meatballs and tomato sauce over spaghetti topped with additional parsley and Parmesan.

A pot filled with tomato sauce, crushed whole tomatoes, white onions and 2 sticks of butter
A pot filled with cooked tomato sauce, crushed whole tomatoes, white onions and 2 sticks of melted butter
Italian meatballs simmering in a large pot filled with spaghetti sauce
a white platter of cooked spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and meatballs topped with parmesan cheese and fresh parsley

How to Store Leftovers + Tips

  • Time! Simmering the meatballs in the tomato sauce long enough for them to really soak up the buttery, tomato goodness is key.

  • Mixing! Don’t overmix your meatballs. Italian meatballs should be moist, yielding, unbelievably tender, and you can ensure that yours turn out just the way you want them by handling the meat as little as possible.

  • Ingredients! Do use fresh herbs, fresh cheese, and fresh garlic cloves!

  • Make this a real Italian meal with bread (our Parker House Rolls would be perfect for the sauce) and a nice vegetable dish, like Roasted Cauliflower or Roasted Fennel.

  • Leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days.

  • Meatballs can be wrapped and frozen for future use. We prefer to store them uncooked, but cooked meatballs can be frozen too. The sauce can be frozen. Gently reheat on the stovetop.

meatballs tossed with cooked spaghetti and tomato sauce topped with parmesan and parsley
Italian meatball cut in half with a fork with cooked spaghetti and tomato sauce topped with parmesan and parsley

More Great Pasta Dishes From The Modern Proper

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  20 min
  • Cook Time:  1 hr 10 min
  • Calories: 659

Ingredients

  • 3 (28-ounce) cans whole stewed tomatoes
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 3 large white onions, halved
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • ¾ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 pounds cooked spaghetti, for serving

Method

  1. In a large pot, combine the whole tomatoes and their juices, crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them, tomato sauce, onions, and butter. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened, about 40 minutes. Using tongs, carefully discard the onions. See Note.

  2. While the sauce is simmering, make the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well, then with wet hands, form golf ball–size balls (about 2 tablespoons each). You should have 40 to 45 meatballs.

  3. Carefully add the meatballs to the sauce. Return the sauce to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.

  4. Serve the meatballs and tomato sauce over spaghetti topped with additional parsley and Parmesan.


Note: If you prefer a smoother sauce, blend the sauce with an immersion blender after you remove the onions.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories659
  • Protein33 g
  • Carbohydrates54 g
  • Total Fat35 g
  • Dietary Fiber6 g
  • Cholesterol149 mg
  • sodium1989 mg
  • Total Sugars15 g

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Questions & Reviews

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  • Sarah

    Does this recipe work well if you cut it in half?

    Should work fine, hope you enjoy Sarah!

  • Andrea

    Well, I made the meatballs and put half of them in the freezer before cooking them and then read the question 😔 will the meatballs be okay you think?

    They'll be ok! When you're ready to make them, let them fully thaw before cooking them.

  • Hannah

    Can you leave out the egg in the meatballs or is there a substitute? Trying to work around an allergy.

    You can leave it out. Texture won't be quite the same but it'll still work!

  • Browne

    Hi there! If we wanted to skip the butter, is that okay? Should we substitute with anything else?

    Yes, but I would add a lot of olive oil and a pinch or two of sugar.

  • Erin

    What fat percentage on the beef? 80/20? Or should I use something more lean? Thank you in advance!

    Either should be fine! Hope you enjoy Erin!

  • AE

    These meatballs are SO good! Great flavor.

    Thanks, so glad you loved them!

  • Megan

    I never leave recipe reviews, but this one deserved a shout out! It was not only delicious, but my picky toddler (who has refused to ever eat any form of meat) devoured these meatballs!! My husband and I loved it as well. The only change I made was cutting the recipe in half to accommodate our small family. 5 star meal!

    Thanks Megan, we are so happy you and your family loved it! (especially your toddler!)

  • Anna

    The amount of liquid was insane. My huge dutch oven was so full, I couldn't stir it without it over spilling. Thank god for surface tension when I wasn't stirring it. Sauce was like tomato water... but still GREAT meatballs...

    Hmmmm.... I've been making this recipe every Christmas Eve and a few times throughout for the last 4 years and I've never had it watery like you are describing. So sorry it wasn't a hit for you. The sauce is on the thinner side for sure, but mine normally looks just like the photo.

  • Hayley

    This recipe was unbelievably delicious!
    The sauce was rich and velvety and the meatballs were full of flavor.
    My teenage son has officially voted it as his favorite pasta and he is our family pasta connoisseur.
    Winner Winner Spaghetti and Meatballs Dinner!

    Thank you so much Hayley, we are so happy you and your family loved it! Be sure to thank your son for us as well!

  • Mary

    Honestly, THE best meatball recipe I've ever tried!

    THANK YOU SO MUCH MARY!