meatballs and spaghetti

[Psst! There’s a newer, more perfect version of this recipe over here.]

[Guest photography by Elizabeth Bick!] A few weeks ago, over a couple bottles glasses of wine, my friend Liz, a photographer, and I got to discussing the photography in the smittenkitchen, and she said she was dying to come in and take some pictures of me at “work” one day. We started fantasizing about doing a 1950s Mad Men-style shoot, rollers in the hair, a frilly but perfectly tailored apron and classic home cooking. In reality, the rollers and the silly apron didn’t quite happen, but Liz came over earlier this week (and then our other friends, a couple hours later for dinner) and we had a blast. So please welcome here today our very first smittenkitchen guest photographer, Elizabeth Bick. I suspect you’ll be as wowed by her photos as I am. [Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I do cook everyday in full lip gloss and an apron coordinated with my potholders. I can’t believe you even had to ask!]

pot rack and spices

Living in New York City, a place where you barely have to walk 10 blocks to find shaved black truffles over artisanal french fries or a fois-stuffed date by a chef with their name on that door, the one a few doors down and several products in the frozen food aisle, I couldn’t honestly give a damn about making futsy food like that at home. By the time I climb my 51 stairs to my apartment in two-inch heels with three heavy bags and, a dripping umbrella and a box of books our house guest has forwarded here, all I am thinking about is the kind of meal that will cancel it all out, and that meal involves not a single ingredient cooked sous-vide.


the smitten kitchen counter

I could argue that the entire point of this site is for me to find a single reliable recipe for each of my favorite comfort foods, and in most cases, I’ve eventually run into some luck: matzo ball soup, macaroni and cheese, caesar salad and crumb cake. Heck, I’ve even added some of yours, like chicken and dumplings, fried chicken and sweet cherry pie. I think we should all be able to make these things at home, whenever we want.

deb and her chins!"more wine?"

But meatballs and spaghetti have always eluded me. Either the sauce was too salty or too thin, or there just wasn’t enough of it or the meatballs were hard, dry or overcooked. I chose all the wrong meats and cooked them well or the right ones and cooked them until they were like shoe leather. I had no question I needed some professional intervention, I just didn’t know where to go.

mmmmeat!browned meatballmeaballs a-simmering

Well, silly me. I guess I did always know that if you’re looking for a failsafe recipe for something you’ve never gotten right before, Ina’s your woman. Her recipe for spaghetti and meatballs is, in a word, killer. In a few more, insanely good and exactly what I have been looking for, but it didn’t keep me from hacking it a bit, nixing the store-bought bread crumbs (as if!), adding some pureed tomatoes and jacking up some flavors. Which I guess is a lot of changes, if you’re keeping track. But the thing that matters is that they were delicious and comforting and I can’t wait to revisit this recipe in the shivery days of January when we decide to not leave the apartment at all.

browning the meatballs

parsley, bandaidmaking croutons

These photos: All of the photos in this post were taken by the inimitable Elizabeth Bick, who specializes in weddings, portraits and food photography. Thanks, Liz!

Also served: My raw egg and anchovy-optional Caesar Salad.

One year ago: Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

Paris! Tonight, we leave for a week in Paris. God, that is so much fun to say, will you indulge me and let me repeat myself? Yes, so, tonight we leave for a week in Paris. And I know what you’re thinking, that Deb and Alex, what is up with all the Paris trips? You see, the first time we went together, well, we got engaged. The second time, we wanted to see everything we’d missed the first time. And what draws us back there, despite the dismal dollar and the current shaky economic ground? Well, a friend offered us an apartment swap for a week, and people, you do not say no to an apartment swap in Paris. And so we go. Tonight! Whee!

Oh right, what about you? Don’t worry, I couldn’t ever really leave you and have set up several posts banked that will publish, like magic, in my absence. Heck, you might not even know I was gone at all, except for the fact that I won’t be able to respond to your comments until I get back. And by then, if all goes well, I’ll have my head in a croissant cloud. Le sigh.

Meatballs and Spaghetti
Adapted liberally from Ina Garten

[Psst! There’s a newer, more perfect version of this recipe over here.]

[Update 10/19/08: In hindsight and in response to several of your comments, I should forewarn that the amount of sauce below is a little low. I’d suggest even doubling it if you’d like a saucier experience–I suspect I will too next time. Thanks to all who have suggested it! I only wish I had updated this sooner.]

Serves 6

For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 1/4 cups fresh white bread crumbs (about 5 slices, crusts removed)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup good red wine
1 (14-ounce) can pureed tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can chopped or diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

Make the meatballs: Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, onion powder, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs. (Or perhaps 24, which is what I ended up with. I’m sorry I cannot give you a more precise measure; I am sure your amount will fall somewhere in the middle.)

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. (The good news is that if, say, you’re still waiting for your pot of water to boil for the spaghetti when the meatballs are ready, it’s hard to overcook these. I ended up simmering ours a whole extra 20 to 30 minutes, and they were not in the least dried out. Heaven!)

Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

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204 comments on meatballs and spaghetti

  1. You forgot all the good parts! Fine. I will post them on MY blog. It will be a cross-over blog day. Like when SVU characters appear on regular Law & Order. Or when Tori Spelling was on Melrose Place.

  2. Karen

    I love this recipe. Like you I spent years looking for a simple meatball recipe that worked and especially didn’t wind up being a meaty mess in my sauce. I’ll be sure to try your changes next time I make it (this weekend maybe?).
    Have a great time in Paris! I need to put getting a French friend on my “to do” list so I can arrange for an apartment swap too!

  3. My mouth is totally watering – exactly what I will make tonight!

    I’ve been screwing up meatballs & spaghetti for years – always thinking of it as a “quick dinner” for nights full of football and soccer. So I get crappy store-bought sauce and frozen meatballs, and think I can just throw it together and voila! No wonder it tastes like, well, something NOT good.

    So, tonight while my husband is out of town, I am going to take the time to make it your way, and really really enjoy it! Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. megan

    This looks amazing! have fun in Paris, i’m so jealous. :) where did you get your spice containers? i’ve been looking for uniform containers to keep them in.

  5. I love little orbs of fragrant herby meat…..what a perfect thing they are! To have a sack of these, frozen and ready in the freezer would be a tiny slice of culinary heaven in my cucina.

    And of course, uttering that line ‘apartment swap in Paris’…….eeeerrrrgggghhhhh.

  6. Cheryl

    Sounds delicious and I’ll be making it this weekend! But… Hmmmm… meatball preparation instructions says “both bread crumbs”, but I only see one in the ingredient list… the photo shows some toasted bread chunks — perhaps those are missing?

  7. Emily

    I love Paris. Le sigh indeed. When you’re there, though, you absolutely cannot miss (really!) the restaurant Le Procope. It’s at 13, rue de l’ancienne comédie, right next to the Odéon métro stop. This place is everything an old French brasserie should be (imho): slightly aloof but very helpful waiters, amazing but unfussy food, and atmosphere to die for. There are even little plaques telling you where Ben Franklin and Voltaire (among others) liked to sit. I haven’t been there in years, so I hope the experience is as fabulous as I remember.

  8. deb

    Breadcrumbs are fixed now. The original recipe had two kinds–fresh and dried. I find dried breadcrumbs to be pretty sketchy and sawdust-like, so I figured if we were making fresh breadcrumbs anyway, might as well make enough to cover both amounts. It’s so much better that way.

    I buy spice tins at one of two places, The Container Store or a site named Specialty Bottle. The latter is cheaper, but by the time you pay shipping, you’ve likely lost the price advantage. The four ounce size works for most standard spice bottles.

  9. Oh, I have got to try those meatballs! I’ve been searching for a great recipe for meatballs, and you are right… Ina knows her stuff when it comes to comfort foods!

  10. “The second time, we wanted to see everything we’d missed the first time.” HA! you will always miss wonderful things in Paris, no matter how many times you visit. so here’s to this trip and many more to come. have fun and say hi to Europe for me…

  11. Mmm, this sounds like the perfect Sunday night dinner. I love spaghetti and meatballs, but my meatballs never come out quite right. I have this memory, see, of my grandmother’s meatballs and “gravy” (what Italians, apparently, call spaghetti sauce), and I never match up to it, though my mom comes quite close. Word on the street is that soaking your bread in milk before adding to the meatballs makes them that much better, but I always feel weird about it. I think regular old breadcrumbs are more up my alley….

  12. RA

    Woo for Deb being in the photos! These are lovely. I was so afraid that I would have to go out and buy a magazine or something to see the spread, but luckily, my handy RSS took that fear away. I really love your sassy apron.

    Have a great week in Paris!

  13. deb

    The apron matches these new potholders I bought from some brand called Kittsch’n Glam they sell online but also at this little bakery/shop called Three Tarts. [Short aside, true story: Why did I need new potholders? Oh right, because one fell on the side of the stove and we can’t get it out. Solution? Buy new potholders!] The brand and store has much cuter patterns, too, like owls and little polka dots, but I love those primary blues and greens even more.

  14. I am always eluded by marinara sauce… It’s always too much of something for my taste. If you recommend Ina, then I will visit Ina. Any book in particular? Have a wonderful trip!!

  15. Wow! Have fun in Paris! These photos (and meal) look terrific. Thanks to Liz for the guest shots.

    It’s cooling down enough here to make those meatballs sound like just the thing for dinner.

  16. Susan

    Hmmm..David L is heading to NY, and YOU are heading to this the ‘friend’? Have a blast! I want to go so bad, but the MAN said if I want to go, I’d better find a friend.

    I love Ina’s recipes too. Those meatballs and sauce look perfect.

  17. Dawn in CA

    Hmmm… I can’t help but wonder if your Paris friend makes amazing ice cream and is named David? I saw on his blog that he’s in the U.S. for a trip… In any event, I am overcome with envy, but that won’t stop me from visiting your wonderful blog. Bonne Vacances! (I do hope that is spelled correctly. Since I don’t get to go to PARIS I’m a bit out of practice.) ;)

  18. deb

    The only thing bad about having guests in the kitchen is that I get so busy chatting that I am sloppier than usual and managed to cut myself not once but twice that night on… god-knows-what. (Actually, I blame my friends for distracting me, but I think we all know it was the wine!)

  19. Molly

    Liz and I were talking last night about what a blast she had photographing you and what delicious fun that dinner was! She is so psyched about her panini maker. :)

  20. Marci

    My all-time favorite sauce & meatballs recipe is Giada’s turkey meatballs and simple tomato sauce – I’ve even managed to win over my very Italian in-laws with it who did not believe me that they were turkey. Definitely a must-try. But I have been looking a meat-meatballs recipe and will have to give this a shot. My husband and I were in Paris for the first time in April – it was lovely but brutally expensive (and we live in Manhattan so that says a lot) – the Euro/Dollar ratio is a little better now actually but still not great. Have a wonderful time! And if you’re looking for good non-French cheap eats, go down to Rue St. Anne and get some of the best udon noodles I’ve ever had – you’ll know the place by the line of Japanese businessman at lunchtime.

  21. Susan

    Question…Why do you use a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil to brown the meatballs? Why not just one or the other? just curious…

  22. Adorable, you that is.

    I made goulash this week and I struggle with that sometimes too, however this time I hit it. PERFECT!

    If I had to carry groceries up stairs, ummmm I’d be choosy what I bring up too. I can’t imagine the days you buy laundry detergent & shampoo & dish soap. Heavy load

  23. courtney

    Glad to see you brown your meatballs before simmering. I have only found one place that simmers theirs only who’s meatballs I enjoy (in actuality I don’t order them out anymore except at said place because I am always so dissapointed).

  24. Janice

    Every dish to die for, every photo a treat. Love reading your blog. If you ever wanna house swap with someone who lives in the frozen isolated far north, gimme a ring… we have a great kitchen! Have fun in Paris. C’est tres cool!

  25. Katie

    I’m curious – does that make enough sauce? I’m guessing yes, since you didn’t mention having that problem, but when I looked at the sauce recipe, it doesn’t seem like a lot of tomato sauce, especially for a pound and a half of pasta. Btw, i really enjoy your website!

  26. deb

    Actually, Katie, now that you mention it — If you like a lot of sauce, I think it it worth doubling or 1.5-ing it. The amount makes enough, but only for a light dressing of sauce. I see no harm in making more…

  27. i’ve made ina’s meatballs, and somehow i found them lacking. not the ingredients, mind you, but the procedure. the best way to get a tender meatball, no matter what you put in them (meat, herbs, fresh vs prepackaged breadcrumbs, etc), after making your mixture and forming the meatballs, put them in some sort of container and cover them and refrigerate them for an hour or so.

    just remember to take them out of the fridge and let them warm up a skosh before browning them. i promise, your meatballs will be even better.

  28. sarawink

    Meatballs are one of the few things that I’m kind of scared of making. I think you (and the pics) have persuaded me to give them a try. Have a great time in Paris!

  29. Maureen

    Aughhh! I LOVE Mad Men! It makes me want to wear pretty dresses and drink wine all day while my kids are God knows where doing God knows what! Those salad croutons look so good, I think I could just eat them for dinner.

  30. JayBee

    Said in a tiny whisper so as not to offend anyone, but…

    (your own photos are better–except for the fact you’re IN these photos, which is a treat.)

    Lovely receipt (as they said in the olden days), and bon voyage!


  31. jael

    I like homemade breadcrumbs and I’m appalled by canned ones, but if I need to split the difference, there’s always panko. Ahhhh, panko. Although for the meatballs I made last night I just crumbled Saltines in milk and called it good.
    Great photos, Liz!

  32. jamiegets

    Nice to have a face with the posts and the recipes that are delish! You are adorable! Your friend is an amazing photographer. Love your site.

  33. I live in Paris, so if you need ANYTHING, good address for restaurant, food shopping (did you go to G. Detou last time? every french food blogger go crazy about this store…). or the insight of a french girl who LOVES your blog, just send me an e-mail!
    And have fun in Paris!!

  34. Dan

    I envy you your apartment swap. The Intended and I are hellbent on going to Paris (damn the economy) for our honeymoon in January. It’ll be the first tome for both of us.

  35. Oooooh, I just noticed that the recipe from 1 year ago is the first thing I ever made from your site: that absolutely sublime butternut squash and caramelized onion galette. Your blog has totally become my go-to. I’m making your super-easy and super-tasty eggs poached in tomato sauce for dinner tonight. Happy one year anniversary to me!

  36. Ron

    Bon Voyage! I just returned from two weeks in Paris and I am filled with envy hearing of your trip tonight–am I selfish? We did a house swap as well, which is such a plus with the dollar being so sad. Thanks for the great website and mouth watering photos (your photos, I mean). I never miss it. Have a wonderful trip and please overindulge in the foie gras.

  37. Liz

    Oh my, Deb you are so darn cute! It is nice to see the lady behind all these fabulous recipes. I tell you – I am an absolute raving fan of your blog and have told all my friends (I mean every-last-one) that they must check you out, if for nothing but to drool. And, have to agree with former poster (your photo skills really are superior).

    Also, I have been to Paris twice, as well. I am in love with Paris. There is a cafe right in Place St. Michel that is, if you are facing the fountain, on your left. Lots and lots of tight seating. They have the best escargot and espresso I had in all Paris. I mean it! We had loads of to-die-for food, but this place had the most perfect escargot you could imagine – even if you think escargot is a horrible idea, this is like little tiny mushrooms but tastier and floating in this garlic-parsley-butter-ness that is fabulous. Anyway, you should go. Sorry I can’t think of the name – it is something generic like Cafe Paris or something, indeed kind of touristy, but the food is true Paris.
    Have fun! We’ll miss you!

  38. lolly

    I just wanted to say that i too love your blog, and read it often, and try stuff out all the time — we just had the arroz con pollo and it was perfect. i have tried ina’s meatballs and was not that thrilled (maybe with your tweaks they are much better) but i have been loving rao’s meatballs and sauce, and they work every single time so if you’re in the mood to try another recipe out i definitely would. and this is not to say i am not an ina fan — i am (i have all cookbooks and use them often) but i didn’t think her meatballs were as good as her other stuff. have fun in paris!

  39. Great photos……
    enjoy Paris. We just got back, rented an apt., much better than staying in a hotel! I blogged about it everyday.
    Took photos of every meal, every croissant, and every piece of pate we ate!
    We loved it. Can’t wait to go back for our 3rd round!

  40. Jerzeetomato

    Ina’s sauce looks OK. There are things missing. Basil, pinch of oregano, tomato paste sauteed when the onions are half done (about two tablespoons worth) you then deglaze the pan with the wine. Parsley is pretty but it is not a substitute for basil. For the meatballs I use a equal mix of beef, pork and veal which is very tasty. The sunday sauce has more meat in it italian sausage, a few spare or short ribs, beef cubes, piece of chuck roast whatever you got to throw in the pot. These things get browned and then added back for simmering. I am a firm believer in simmering for a nice amount of time. About 2 hours. Your sauce tastes better if the meat is braised in the sauce for a decent amount of time. 25-30 mins sure if you are in a hurry if your not simmer an hour or more and sit and drink your wine and talk with your friends.
    Italian people take their ethnic foods seriously just like anyone else. I have seen lots of people make sauce. You have many nights to adapt and try different ways to find what you like. This is how I do it.

  41. wow…73 comments! Is that a record or something you’re accustomed to? I really enjoyed this post…the narrative, the photos and, of course, spaghetti & meatballs.

  42. Tammi

    Well I am Italian and I do have the family recipe for spaghetti and meatballs but I will try this one out to compare.

    Wow and apartment swap, that sounds fantastic!!

  43. prklypr

    I read this thinking – I already do a pretty good meatballs and spaghetti for a non-Italian – and lo and behold, my recipe is quite similar to yours (or Ina’s, as the case may be)! I use ground turkey (always worried about fat and such) and I actually cook them in the sauce instead of browning them first. This gives you a softer meatball but you get a lot of the meat flavor in the sauce. Sometimes I do it in the slow cooker – start the sauce stove top (brown onions, garlic, etc), then transfer to slow cooker, add raw meatballs and let ‘er rip for 4-6 hrs. I agree with previous poster – sauce needs some fresh herbs like oregano and definitely basil. I never used an egg in the meat but I will try it next time!

  44. Kirsty and Shell

    Wow, once again fantastic pictures and looks like a super fun time was had by all. My go to recipe for spaghetti and meatballs has been the one in Nigella Bites – its in the Rainy Day Cooking section and I’ve been making double batches of the meatballs, freezing them down and then making the sauce fresh as we need it. Half of a standard recipe tends to feed 2 hungry adults, 1 keen pre-schooler, extra helping for “the man” and some leftovers for lunch the next day – so all in all fantastic. The best bit about these ones is that the meatballs don’t need par baking or frying, they are just gently popped into the sauce. Try it, I’m sure you will like it.

  45. wes

    There is nothing like comfort food. An everyday meal without all the fuss and fashion is a real treasure. And I hope that with your head in a croissant cloud, you also bring back a recipe for croissants. I have one, but I would like a comparison.

  46. crispyK

    Meatballs and spaghetti are one of my favorite pasta dishes and I’ve always thought that it’s a kind of newyork-ish pasta dish as I’ve seen it been cooked in different films based in New York like ”The apartment” for instance where Jack Lemon uses his tennis racket to drain the spaghetti ! Anyway have fun in Paris,it must be amazing in autumn.

  47. Nan

    I’m somewhat of a spaghetti and meatballs snob…and I’ve read Ina’s recipe before and it’s on my “to make” list…but this one sounds a lot more once again, I shall me making a smitten kitchen meal…it’s getting the point where the mister actually asks if his food is”smitten!” Have a great trip to Paris – I’m le envious!

  48. Karima

    My grandmother always adds fresh mint ( in addition to parsley) to her meatballs. Also, we gave up frying them decades ago. Much easier and less greasy to bake them. I like the final product better too.
    Bake at 350 about 20 minutes, then turn meatballs and bake another 20 minutes or so.
    Sauce is all about a l-o-n-g, s-l-o-w simmer. Don’t add your meatballs to the sauce until you put the water on to boil for the pasta, otherwise, they fall apart in the sauce. Other meats, ribs, rabbit, sausage, even oxtail can be added early on and be included in the slow simmer.

  49. Mitch

    I used some country style pork ribs in the sauce, and they broke down into lovely chunks over 2.5 hours. One word of advice–our butcher was out of ground veal so I subbed ground lamb. Now, I love lamb, but the ground stuff added a very gamey, funky aroma to the meatballs. I’d urge not subbing ground lamb in this, or any meatball or meatloaf recipe.

  50. Elizabeth

    Holy cow! Clouds are parting. Birds are singing. This is the best spaghetti and meatballs I have EVER made. It’s not just the wine I’m drinking people (I had to open a bottle for this, of course). This is really great! Thank you Deb and many thanks to Ina. An awesome Sunday dinner for my hubby and three little ones.

  51. There is nothing like a fine repertoire of comfort food. I would rather not use pork or veal in my meatballs and find that I get equally good results with pure beef or a mixture of ground turkey and beef. The quality of the beef(grassfed) and the bread (bread soaked in milk) make a big difference too.
    These were so good I prepared over 100 of them for my son’s birthday:

  52. kate

    So I know that the post is about meatballs and spaghetti and all, but I do see that there was caesar salad as an accompaniment…

    I looked at your caesar dressing and saw that you had concocted your own, but I totally think that you should try the caesar dressing from The Joy of Cooking. Coleman’s instead of Dijon really gives it that extra kick, and it is true to the dressing’s origins, with the raw egg and all. I usually use the whole can of anchovies, and add some of the anchovy oil as part of the olive oil in the recipe. Its very similar to yours, and it is super delish…give it a try!

  53. Sally

    ” I guess I did always know that if you’re looking for a failsafe recipe for something you’ve never gotten right before, Ina’s your woman.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve never made anything from Ina that I wasn’t satisfied with — although, I do tweak some for individual taste preferences. I can’t wait for the new cookbook.

    So many ideas about tomato/marinara sauce and meat sauce! I’m not Italian, but I love Italian food. From what I’ve read, tomato sauce is pretty simple and cooked rather quickly; meat sauce calls for more ingredients and cooks slowly for a longer period of time. But I don’t think there’s any “right” way, it’s just what individual cooks do or what their mammas or nonnas did.

    I make a really basic tomato sauce (tomatoes, olive oil, onion and garlic) and store it in the refrigerator or freeze it. Sometimes I use it as is, sometimes I add more herbs or other ingredients to it when preparing a meal. It just depends on what I’m making.

  54. Cat

    Hi Deb!

    I wanted to say thank you for your Thanksgiving Q&A. We had our Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday and I did your squash with cilantro and chilies and pumpkin bread pudding. The squash was a huge hit even with my husband who doesn’t like squash at all. I messed up the pudding somehow as I wound up having to cook it 10 minutes longer than called for and the consistency was scrambled eggy rather than silky custardy. Still the taste was right on and I just brave faced it.

    I love your cooking style – and always enjoy the site.

    Thank you thank you!

  55. i haven’t tried Ina’s sauce recipe yet but i agree that these meatballs are to.die.for.

    have a wonderful time in Paris!!! I’m longing to get back there myself.

  56. My mother grew up next to a Sicilian family in New Jersey and learned how to make really good sauce and meatballs (her signature dish!). However, I have found that if, after you cook the meatballs, you intend to put them in the sauce, it is a huge timesaver to bake the meatballs instead of frying/sauteing them. No favor is lost, and you can add the scrapings from your baking sheet to enhance the sauce.

  57. Absolutely love your blog. I have made Ina’s recipe verbatim. Here is the problem. The meatballs are terrific but the sauce isn’t. I think the ultimate spaghetti and meatballs recipe is still elusive. Cannot tell you how much I envy your having an apartment in Paris for a week, what pleasure!


  58. Jessica

    I never post.. I just lurk. But ohmygoodness this one is such a simple classic that make you drool just looking at it.
    Now I have to make it for dinner! Darn.. lol!

  59. Nancy

    I made this on Sunday night and it turned out beautifully. The point of the simple sauce is to act as a counterpoint to the luscious meatballs, but adding fresh oregano and/or basil would work. The proportion of sauce to meatballs was good. I refrigerated the meatballs before browning, as one of the comment-posters suggested, and that worked well. The flavor/texture of the meatballs was the highlight (I used 2/3 beef, 1/3 pork).

  60. We just had this wonderful dish for dinner. Anything with Ina Gartens name on it catches my eye. I love everything I have ever made of hers and am one of those people that want to live in the Hamptons just on the slim chance I could become one of her friends she that invites over..
    I did however change a couple of things.I brought my ground pork home from the store and it had gone bad, so I substituted ground turkey.
    I used a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes Italian style because it is what I had. Instead of finishing the meatballs in the sauce, I baked them at 400 for about 10 min on a sheet cake pan with about 1/2″ of chicken stock. I like my meatballs to be distinguishable as meat balls and not blend into the sauce.
    This was a wonderful recipe and it is now a family favorite. Thanks!
    Have a wonderful time in Paris, I am soooo jealous.

  61. Becki

    ok, these were probably the juiciest, most flavorful meatballs I’ve ever made but I must have put a little more than a dash of red pepper flakes cause my sauce was spicey!! burned my lips!! still, the overall meal was yummy!

  62. My boyfriend and I live in two different time zones, but every month or so we have cooking dates, in which we make the same recipe at the same time and then eat together. Usually the recipe we choose is from the internet–so we can both see it–and this time we chose your spaghetti and meatballs. Even though I (ahem) did crowd the meatballs, it turned out really really well–especially for our first time making meatballs! It’s definitely going in our recipe files. Thanks for making another cross-state lines date night a success.

  63. SAS

    Beautiful photos! Good to see you for a change. The whole thing sounds divine. I am starring this in my reader and WILL BE making it soon. We have delicious grass fed quarter of beef in our freezer. Cannot wait to make some meatballs from the ground beef .. and also use my own canned tomatoes. Mmm! Thank you!!

  64. Elizabeth

    I like your blog, and do not wish to criticize your recipe, but honestly, I can’t imagine how it can produce good meatballs and sauce. I tried posting a comment under Ina’s recipe, but for some reason it won’t post. Maybe because I gave her recipe 1 star.

    My grandmother came from Abbruzzi, and this is what she put in her meatballs and sauce: ground round mixed with eggs, parsley, grated Romano cheese, breadcrumbs grated from a day-old Italian roll, chopped garlic and salt and pepper. She browned the meatballs in lard, then put in a few cloves of garlic and cooked them until they were golden. Then she poured in Italian tomatoes, brought them to a boil then lowered the heat to a simmer. She put in salt, pepper, dried basil, and 1 bay leaf. She cooked the meatballs in the sauce for about 90 min. That was her meatballs and sauce, and it was fantastic.

  65. Robin

    I made this for dinner tonight. I used pork and beef, and I didn’t have any parsley. I also used panko breadcrumbs. It was very good, but there were way too many meatballs for the amount of sauce. We ate 8 at dinner, I’m taking 10 to my mother tomorrow, and we still have 9 in the fridge. When I make this next time I will be sure to buy the parsley, and I will use half the amount of meat. I think I’ll also throw in some mushrooms.

  66. AJ

    Gaaaaaaaah! I just got back from the store with the recommended two 14oz cans of tomato sauce, logged back on and see the update. (pouting) So much for my brilliant plan to have the leftovers on Tuesday. Sigh … I’m sure it will still be great.

  67. AJ

    Update: meatballs were great, my husband loved them, and I ordered an apron from that site. Um, if you’re selling Kool Aid, guess I’m drinking!

  68. megan

    This was incredible. Godly. I discovered your blog on Tuesday and it has already changed my usually dinner-pathetic college life.

  69. Teresa

    Your (Ina’s) meatball recipe sounds quite similar to my friend Tracy’s supposedly sublime one–and alas, I can’t eat either of them as written due to the presence of pork. (I’m still trying to figure out how someone of Irish and Welsh extraction ended up with a deathly pork sensitivity–wouldn’t that gene have died out because the poor bastards would starve to death?) So I’ll have to modify as usual and pretend.

  70. trudy

    I hope you enjoyed Paris. Have been there a few times. 51 step to climb. I hardly make the 11 steps from my basement. Waiting to try the recipe, just made turkey meatballs with an interesting sauce.

  71. Jennifer

    I know this recipe was posted forever ago, but I thought it might be helpful to note for those who don’t eat pork or veal…

    I made this recipe substituting ground turkey in place of all of the meats and they were so so so delicious.

    Deb, you are amazing and your recipes never fail to disappoint!

  72. tricia lynn

    ok, this recipe has been on my back burner since i discovered your blog. yumazing. we made this with side caesar. my true test of a new recipe is when fiance wants to make it for someone else other than us. about half way through his first meatball, he asked, “who can we make this for?”…

  73. Kristy

    Hi, I recently found my perfect spaghetti and meatballs recipe, and it is very similar to yours! One little addition that I think rocks is a little chunk of mozzarella in the center of each meatball. It’s a little ooey-gooey surprise. Delicious!

  74. Patryce

    Delicious! I ended up using 3/4 lb ground beef, 1 1/4 lb sweet Italian sausage, ’cause that’s what was in the freezer. Didn’t really notice at the time that it was *turkey* sausage. Made 80 small (1 inch) balls and a dozen 1/2 inchers for my 5 year old. Baked them in the oven while the sauce simmered, about 25-30 min at 350. Deglazed the sheet pans with a little more red wine and added the goodies to the sauce. Very little grease, now I realize b/c it was turkey sausage, not pork! Doubled the sauce recipe, as others have suggested. Simmered them in the sauce for 30 minutes or so. Served 6 adults with plenty of leftovers. I think everybody only had 4-5 small meatballs, but we had a good green salad, some killer garlic bread made with roasted-garlic bread(roasted garlic baked in the bread, then butter and fresh garlic mashed together and spread in the cut slices, wrapped in foil and baked until warmed through) and passion fruit cheesecake for dessert.

  75. Joan

    Finished making the sauce and meatballs this morning and kept them separate but in the fridge until dinner time. The boys are expecting traditional red, slightly sweet, oregano tinged sauce. Are they going to be surprised. My mom used to make a recipe very similar to this except she sauteed green bell pepper with the onion so this feels like comfort food to me. I added fresh oregano to the sauce to bridge the gap between the more traditional sweet tomato sauce. Have a loaf of Pastor Ryan’s herb bread rising too! Thanks for the recipe and for mixing it up a little.

  76. Hi Deb,

    A wee courtesy comment to let you know I have mentioned and linked back to this recipe and your blog on my own blog, so that you know I am not stealing credit for your good works! I made this last week. I haven’t included a recipe or anything, because I made it exactly as you directed. My husband had almost 3 bowls of it, so it was successful! It is really good, it have lots of yummy tomatoness!

    Thank you!

    p.s. I tried to email you this comment, but I couldn’t get it to send. I am bad at the technologies!

  77. eliza

    Best meatballs ever! Ok, that’s a little hard to say considering that I had a substitution for just about every ingredient (swapped ground oatmeal for breadcrumbs, leftover tomato juice for the water, ground turkey for all the meat, a handful of fresh from the the garden spinach leaves, and so on….). Seriously great meatballs though! Thanks Deb.

  78. Julie

    This recipe was amazing! I held back from modifying it too much (my first instinct when seeing a recipe is to change everything!) and the only change I made was swapping out fresh basil for the parsley and I only used grass-fed beef (I don’t eat veil or pigs). I was afraid the sauce was going to be too sweet but all the flavors came together really nicely at the table. The meatballs were super moist and light, even thought I let them simmer in the sauce for more than an hour. The next time I make it, I will add some mushrooms to the sauce. I also cut the meatball recipe in half but kept the sauce the same and the proportions turned out great.

    Thanks for sharing!

  79. Gracie B.

    I LOVED THIS! I didn’t have veal, so I used a little more beef. It was amazing. This has been my lunch all week and it’s so yummy. Another hit as usual, Deb

  80. I am a vegetarian, but I absolutely love this site. Obviously it takes some tinkering to adapt some recipes to my preferences, but I wanted to share how I modified this one. Instead of the meat, I used a can of kidney beans and a can of white beans. Before adding the other ingredients, to the “meat” balls I smashed the white beans up so they became sort of a binder along with the egg. Worked great and my meat eating roommates approved.

  81. Anna

    This recipe was fantastic. I love to cook, and I love to cook and eat in abundance; however, I also have this general rule where I will not eat leftovers. Generally I feed them to my prince in his lunch every day, but this time, I kept these all to myself. Yes, I ate them leftover. The next day. Cold. And I had to force myself to sit down versus just gobbling from the refrigerator. In short, phenomenal. Thanks!

  82. Netty

    Sounds delicious – I am making speghetti right now and wanted some ideas – forgot the parsley – and I went to the store twice today – so I cheated and added some dry parsley – oregano etc……lots of minced garlic!

    Yummy …. sauce is cooking right now……thanks for your thoughts — visited NY a few years ago – loved the city – no where in the world quite like NY City.

  83. Theresa

    Hi there, I’m new to the site. I made the Meatballs and Spaghetti tonight and was amazed! The sauce was so fantastic. I’ve become quite conceited now having made your Chicken Marsala last week and now the Meatballs and Spaghetti. Thank you for inspiring me to put more effort into cooking. And congratulations on your new bundle of joy!

  84. Delia

    I was wondering if you have ever tried the recipe for Rao’s meatballs? It is by far my favorite! So soft and melt in your mouth good. I also love Rao’s marinara recipe. I think it tastes like sunshine.

    I love your site so very much, Deb! Keep it up and congratulations (again) on the new baby. He is so adorably cute (and I should know because I am a NICU nurse and have seen thousands of babies)! We baby nurses have a saying, either babies are cute or sweet. Cute babies are actually cute and sweet babies are, well….um….their parents think they are cute. Your baby is very CUTE.

  85. DaycareSher

    I tried these meatballs (had been searching for a good hearty meatball), and they were excellent. I’m making them again today on this chilly, rainy day in Virginia. Thanks Deb!

  86. Gillian

    These were sooooo good! I made them and had them the first time with spaghetti (which was good, but unnecessary, these are a meal on their own!) and the second time made meatball subs with the leftovers. Amazing. Wonderful texture, easy to make, so delicious! Will definitely make again!

  87. Annelise

    This recipe is a keeper. The meatballs were so moist even with the leftovers that got zapped in the work microwave. Although, what is your process for making homemade breadcrumbs? Cut them up, food processor, grate? How fine should they be?

  88. Stefanie

    I know this recipe was posted over a year ago, but I just discovered this blog about a week ago and I’m in love (with the recipes, the photos, the comments, Deb, Jacob, everything!). I made this for dinner tonight and it was a success. Deliciously moist meatballs and a nice change to the standard basil-oregano sauce.

    I made one modification though, I used half beef and half pork (no veal). It turned out wonderfully.

    This was the fifth of Deb’s recipes I’ve made and every single one is flawless and delicious! (And yes, I’ve made five of the recipes in a week since discovering Smitten Kitchen!)

  89. Jennsa

    Made this as written and have been weeping tears of joy and satisfaction into my spaghetti ever since. Really great recipe. Really serious comfort food. Off now to enjoy just a little more for breakfast…

  90. Dancer who eats

    Really great meatball recipe. It was so yummy but it dirtied so many dishes and pans. Next time my hubby craves meatballs, i will take him to an Italian restaurant…. I am just too lazy but I will happily eat all these leftovers!

  91. Why am I discovering this recipe now? I guess because after your Spaghetti with Black Pepper post, I decided I had better check out all your pasta recipes. This sounds good; agree totally on nixing the store-bought bread crumbs. (Have you ever read the list of ingredients. Yick.) I LOVE meatballs. My favorite recipe of 2006 was a Delia Smith recipe for Meatball Goulash, which I have been making lately with Murray’s ground chicken, which makes it a lot like chicken paprikash. And the chicken meatballs are light and fluffy. Do you really have extra-large, instead of large, eggs hanging around?

  92. Christyna

    Okay, it’s official: You’re awesome! I made this last night for dinner and they were a huge hit with my 5-year old son, and very picky (annoyingly so) fiance. I only had 3/4 of a pound of grass fed organic beef, but I basically followed the general directions of the recipe, making adjustments here and there to make it work with what I had. Like I said, they were yummy! In fact, I am currently, at this very moment, typing over a plate of leftovers that I just reheated. It’s even better the 2nd day (except this time I used rigatoni instead of spaghetti). Thanks for the inspiration!

  93. Diana Kay

    I made this last night in a spontaneous moment of thinking I needed to go hang out with my grandma and make us some dinner – And OHMYGOD, was it good! My grandma even called me about it today, saying she had some of the leftovers at work for lunch today and they were even better the second day! All I brought home was most of the extra sauce and meatballs, but I am SO going to be making some more spaghetti this evening to finish it off!

    The only real change I made was that I used 1/2 beef, 1/2 pork because I didn’t have time to find veal, and I left out the parsley because I didn’t think it was terribly necessary. Oh – Panko bread crumbs, too. I’m too lazy to make my own. Hahaha

  94. Christopher

    I made these last week and they were incredible! My boyfriend lived in Bologna for 12 years and he loved them too. I used the off-the-shelf breadcrumbs and with that substitution, found them very easy to make (I promise to try to make my own next time to compare).

    With the canned tomatoes and puree, the sauce is a snap. Makes great leftovers and a quick lunch at work the next day.


  95. Amy

    I made this last night for friends who have just welcomed a brand new baby boy. I packed up about half and delivered it with some good dried pasta, bread, and parmesan.

    The remaining sauce was too irresistible to put away…pasta-less, I sat down with a bowl of sauce & meatballs, a hunk of crusty white bread, and a glass of chianti…heaven! Thanks for this great recipe!

  96. eleonard

    Mmm, I just made this, the meatballs were fluffy and nicely browned. Great classic recipe. My bodega/grocery store in Brooklyn didn’t have ground veal but 1/2 pork, 1/2 beef came out good. Thanks for another great recipe.

    1. deb

      They need to cook longer or the pan needed to preheat longer. Those stainless steel pans are tricky, but when the heat is right (you really can’t preheat your pan too long before adding oil to them) and the food is cooked enough, the seal breaks and you can pretty cleanly remove them.

  97. Alix L.

    Hi Deb…thanks for the tip. I think next time I’ll just use my Calphalon fry pan that has the special non-stick coating that promises excellent browning. Not sure why I didn’t, duh. Went to two different stores looking for ground veal, no dice. So we nixed the ground veal. Went to assemble the meat and realized I forgot the bread crumbs. So had to make those from scratch. Realized my small food processor is no longer working so had to get out the big mommy one, ugh. Had my large pot for the spaghetti on the back burner, and my fry pan with the oil on the front burner. Proceeded to put the wrong burner on high and set my kitchen on fire. Toasted the microwave (5 foot flame from the stove top). Discovered my apartment doesn’t supply fire extinguishers and just barely found the baking soda. However, I did finish the meatballs even though they stuck and they were fabulous. Side note, did you know that you can find all the cobwebs in your house because soot clings to them. As well as every horizontal surface including both bathrooms….

  98. Judy

    I’ve been making a version of these for years and love them (no veal, up the parm, onion powder only I recall it) and I love them. My problem with the browning them oil part is huge chunks of them stick to the pan. I’ve tried fewer, no crowding, tried chilling them first, tried dredging in flour a bot – all to no avial. It’s just a presentation problem, not a flavor one, but it’s a bummer.

    And Rao’s Restaurant is where Ina got her recipe from, as she notes. They make an amazing jar marinara sauce and yes, I use it. If I go from scratch, I use canned tomatoes San Marzano (canned, Cento’s is a good brand but the it’s the tomato type that’s good to remember). I’ve heard you can get the seeds and am going to try to grow them – they’re so yummy.

    1. deb

      Judy — You should fully, fully heat the pan, then add the oil, fully heat the oil, add the meat (works best if at room temperature) and not move the meatballs until they do so easily. Sooner, they’re not cooked/sealed/browned enough underneath. If you heat the pan, then the oil, the meat will only release when it is time. I struggled with sticking foods for years before using this process, I promise it helps!

  99. jessica

    Oh sheesh. I just made these and couldn’t figure out why my meatballs were falling apart. I’m not an experienced chef by any stretch of the imagination (twas a mere couple of years ago I was still burning cakes made from mixes) and didn’t realize the bread with crusts removed needed to be chopped up in a food processor or something. A link to how to make fresh breadcrumbs would have been so helpful! I was thrown by your lovely photo of toasting breadcrumbs, so my meatballs have big chunks of toasted bread in them!

    Still delicious, just… crumbly ;o)

  100. Laura

    My boyfriend and I made the sauce for dinner last weekend. Yum! We used rum instead of wine, and made mango sausage instead of meatballs. Thanks!

  101. As an Italian Catholic from New Orleans, I’m used to my family’s recipes. Hate to say it but I’ve been converted!! This was outstanding! I followed it to a T but made my own noodles :) i can’t believe how wonderful this sauce turned out and what a great idea to add a little parmesan to the meatballs. You never cease to amaze me Deb!! I’ll be making this regularly

  102. peony1229

    I love this recipe. I added garlic powder to my meatballs because I don’t know any other way. Must have garlic. Delicious and simple. I will also never use store bought bread crumbs again! Using homemade bread crumbs made a such a difference flavor wise. I shared my bounty of meatballs with some of my colleagues and they all raved!

  103. Alessandra

    Nice blog and so many interesting recipes!
    I always wondered where this recipe came from.Who combined spaghetti and meatballs first? In Italy we eat spaghetti with tomato sauce and also meatballs but never together in the same dish.First and only time I had spaghetti with meatballs was when I travelled in the U.S.
    Is it something brought in U.S. by the first Italian immigrants? Does anybody knows?

    The Italian food cooked in the US it is normally different from the food we eat here, and I think this probably be true all over the world. I don’t think the Chinese stuff I eat here in Italy is anything close to the dishes you can eat in China!
    By the way when I cook the sauce if it is marinara I put garlic cloves only. If instead I cook a sauce with basil I use onion.
    My meatballs recipe is similar but I use fresh bread torn in pieces and dumped for a while in water or milk and no onion in the mix.
    In Italy the marinara sauce pasta is never dressed with Parmesan….
    Normally garlic or fish dishes are never accompanied by Parmesan.

  104. Annie

    Deb, we’ve made this several times before, and it has become our go-to meatball recipe, but I want to thank you for it especially tonight. We’re having Valentine’s Day in, and this was the perfect meal! We were like Lady and the Tramp — spaghetti + meatballs = true romance!

  105. Derek Hoover

    Just now making. My favorite thing ever is to be in the kitchen, with the laptop on the counter, using your recipes. Can’t wait to try this one! Haven’t had any recipes that my partner and I haven’t loved yet!

  106. Ashley

    I’m making these meatballs RIGHT NOW, browning up the last few. HOLY COW, they are YUMMY! i like that this recipe doesn’t chopped onion. I think it messes with the texture. These have so much flavor it’s ridiculous! My new favorite recipe for meatballs. :)

  107. WifeToAnAmazingCook

    I made this yesterday for the second time and it is – hands down – the yummiest meatball and sauce recipe ever. It made 23 meatballs which means lots of leftovers in the freezer (just waiting to turn into meatball subs and two more nights with spaghetti). The little people ate this with gusto and my husband and I relished every bite. Heavenly!

  108. Virginia

    Hi Deb!

    I did not grow up with meatballs in my life, so I’m a little confounded by the fact that spaghetti and meatballs have become my comfort food as of late. I’ve decided they must just be intrinsically comforting, so I’m rolling with it.

    Anywho, I am in a household of 2, and I don’t think that we could eat 6 servings of meatballs in one sitting (nor should we?). Your post is tagged as “freezer friendly,” but I was wondering what should be frozen. The whole shebang-sauce and balls? Just the meatballs–make the sauce on-demand? And what’s your best recommendation for reheating? I don’t have a butcher in the hood, so ground veal is somewhat of a destination-location grocery item. Making a huge batch and working on it throughout the winter is appealing–do you have some guidance on how to make that delicious every time?

    PS–your work makes my life better. thank you.

  109. Marie

    What’s not to love about smittenkitchen! The lovely recipes for sure, but also your voice and your prose! This is my favourite blog with my favourite voice! And today I discovered the baby food section – an added bonus! Thank you, you are coolest inspiration – keep on your amazing work!!!

  110. Hello Deb,
    Definitely want to try this, but any replacements for veal? I can’t get it here certainly, and can’t find beef either. Can I do all pork, or is there something else I should be doing?

  111. Heather

    This was hands down, the best meatballs and sauce I’ve made. I’ve been cooking sauce for over 20 years now, and have come up with several versions based on what was taught to me by a lady from Italy. I crave this combination now. YUM!

  112. Spence

    I’ve recently become a believer in name brand tomatoes for my sauces. I find the Hunts tomatoes to break down the way fresh ones do. Others, apparently because of the way they are picked and prepared, will take the dice to the grave.

  113. Valerie

    Made this tonight with my 9 year old daughter, and we had so much fun making it. The perfect end to our snowy day here in New England. Thanks Deb!

  114. Tamara

    I made this last week and it was FABULOUS. I used all dry breadcrumbs (didn’t feel like making fresh!) and omitted the parmesan entirely – still tasted perfect! Thanks for a great adapted recipe! Incidentally, I had a Barefoot Contessa on my DVR the next week where Ina made meatballs. :)

  115. I love the meatballs in this recipe from Ina and enjoyed looking at all the great photography of you making this. I will be featuring this on my blog as one of the best spaghetti recipes from mom blogs in 2013. Thanks

  116. Ornella

    I just made the meatballs and now I am making the sauce…oh boy! oh boy! Amazing juicy meatballs! I used pork and beef ground meat, but otherwise used everything else…thanks a lot…definitely a keeper as every recipes I got from your website or one of your books:)

  117. Katie

    Made this last night with half beef and half pork but otherwise as directed. So good! I had my doubts about the sauce with seemingly a ton of onions but not much otherwise in the flavorings department plus a short simmer time, but it turned out delicious! Thanks!

  118. BlizzardGirl

    My finished sauce was very thin and watery. Added some tomato paste at the end to thicken it up. I don’t need a super thick sauce, I just like something that will stick to the the noodles. I pureed my own tomatoes from the garden. Perhaps that was why? But the canned ones have lots of juice. Can anyone offer any suggestions to help prevent this?

    1. deb

      BlizzardGirl — The ones from the garden are probably more juicy than those in the can. You could drain them a little before you cook it, or cook the sauce longer before adding the meatballs so that it reduces a bit.

  119. Lynne Prince

    My niece, Rebecca made these for our family while at the beach last week. Delicious!! She made enough for 12 servings – Thanks goodness. Smittenkitchen has been a go-to for my sister, Donna in Seattle, who turned me onto it (I am in PA) a few years ago and the niece is from VA. It gets around! Thanks.

  120. Whitney

    Could I do the meatballs in the oven? Every time I make meatballs (which is very few), I’m always surprised at how long it takes to form and brown each meatball individually. When feeding a crowd, it would be nice to have a shorter step. But would it dry out the meatballs?

    1. deb

      Whitney — Ooh, I hope my recipe isn’t confusing. You brown them in batches; maybe a dozen at at time in one big skillet. That said, yes, it can definitely be time-consuming. You could also drop them right in the simmering sauce. There’s a little bit more of a loose-edge thing going on (you might have some more bits in your sauce), but it saves a lot of time and is definitely the way my mother made them growing up.

  121. Amy

    Hi Deb. I love your recipes and blog- thanks for all the great ideas and meals. A question about freezing these- would you cook the meatballs completely, cool them and then freeze? Or freeze them uncooked?

    I appreciate that you have a freezer-friendly tag for some of your recipes, maybe you could add some tips about where in the recipe to freeze them, and then how to best reheat it for us busy mamas?

    1. deb

      Amy — I agree, it would be better. The freezer tag was added a year or two ago upon request but most recipes, such as this, predate its existence. I’d vote for freezing once cooked and in its sauce. Things inside sauce seem to freeze and defrost better. If you were going to freeze them uncooked, I might just mix up the ingredients and then leave it in a solid packet in the freezer, as you would ground meat — very well wrapped, dated, etc. and form them once you’ve defrosted it. It’s always best to freeze things with as little air around them as possible, and that would be hard with individual meatballs, not in sauce.

  122. Amy

    I too have been on a quest for the best spaghetti and meatballs. A restaurant near me used to have some that were so delicious and I’m always trying to duplicate them. The restaurant was taken out by Hurricane Sandy, sadly, so I haven’t had them in a few years. I’ve tried a bunch of recipes and I finally found ones that were super close and super good. They were David Lebovitz’s meatballs for meatball sandwiches from his blog. Moist, delicious and so easy, they’re even baked! So no frying needed. Although he says you can fry them, if you’d prefer. The restaurant put a chunk of mozzarella inside each meatball, so the second time I made them, I did that too and they came out perfect! I still need to find the perfect sauce. I will try this one next time around. :)

  123. gigi

    Love the meatballs, we make them with ground turkey and cook them in oven though. Have had great success with freezing the unbaked meatballs too. Freeze the little balls on a sheet pan, double bag them when frozen and so easy for almost instant dinners or when someone has a hankering for a meatball sub. They thaw really quickly. They’ve never lasted more than a couple months in the freezer as the thought of instant dinner is too tempting. Will be trying the little nugget of mozzarella in the middle, that sounds yummy.

  124. My family and I absolutely loved these meatballs and the flavor/consistency of the sauce–YUM! I’m so glad I found it, even seven years late. Keep the family friendly recipes coming and thanks for all the great ideas!

  125. Gloucester

    Thank you for a delicious dinner (and several more to come)! Tweaks: panko, sage rather than parsley, lamb in place of veal (butcher had pre-mixed beef/pork/lamb), and a sprig of thyme in the sauce. I chose the option you suggested of dropping raw meatballs directly into the sauce.

    Really lovely and satisfying. I find I really enjoy lighter, brighter tomato sauces with meatballs.

  126. Steph G.

    Just wanted to say I love this recipe. I’ve made it several times over the last few years and each time I’ve done something a little different. Today, I used 2 28oz cans of san marzano tomatoes (I’m a tomato snob and will not use anything else now) and grated my own parmesan, and actually threw the rind into the sauce while it simmers. Sadly, I’m under the weather and my palette isn’t up to par, but my fiancee says it’s awesome!

  127. Debra

    I made these finally the other night for a dinner party and the meatballs were the best I’ve ever made, however I didn’t read the instructions right and didn’t add the water. What does the water do to the mix?

  128. ladyinabox

    I don’t really like spaghetti and meatballs, nor does my husband. However, I made this last weekend by request from a friend who needed some comfort food (don’t we all these days?). Other than doubling the sauce and omitting the red pepper flakes, I followed the recipe to the letter, never having made anything like it before.

    TL;DR: It was wonderful! Just the thing we needed. Deb, you changed my mind on this classic dish. We will surely have it again.

  129. Thanks for splitting up the comments so people who have made it have a special spot. I made this for the first time 3-4 years ago, and it is my absolute go to recipe for meatballs. I double or triple the recipe so I can keep some in the freezer, in family meal size containers. I follow this recipe pretty exactly.

  130. Allison

    I tried a dairy-free adaptation of this recipe by replacing the 1/2 c. of parmesan in the meatballs with 1/4 c. nutritional yeast. To make up for the binding property lost in the cheese, I replaced the extra-large egg with two large eggs. Tasted delicious and held together great!

  131. Heather

    I’ve made these before and they turned out great, but I can’t remember what I did for the onion— is it 1 cup of onion or 1 whole onion? I’ve just chopped up half a pretty standard sized onion and I’m at about 1.25 cups. Should I call it a day or throw in the other half…? Thanks!

  132. Dheepa

    I am a long time reader and user of your blog and first book but have never posted. I am just amazed at how your recipes never fail! And all feel so doable!

    My many prior attempts at tomato sauces and meatballs have resulted in bleh sauce and bone dry meatballs. THIS one turned out beautifully. Your recipes just never fail!

    Made a couple of small adjustments for the meatball- I used ground turkey and added a 1/4c of cooked onion. soft and delicious despite the lean meat!