perfect meatballs and spaghetti

A little background: Smitten Kitchen is approaching its 13th anniversary on the internet, and I’m hoping for all of our sakes that its 13th year is nothing like mine (some very bad bangs decisions and a whole lotta awkwardness). When I began this site, I knew how to cook very few things. What I did know was what I wanted from the things I was cooking and where the dishes I was auditioning either exceeded my expectations or fell very short. I logged it all here like a dutiful aughts-era blogger with no larger agenda for what it would become, because how could I have known? I never knew I’d still be at it 1200 recipes, two cookbooks, and two children of unparalleled cuteness (no bias here whatsoever) later, although still in a small kitchen because I’d missed the Buy Tech Stocks or Possibly Have Become A Banker memo, but this is not a complaint — not about this lot, not in this lifetime.

I’ve learned how to cook hundreds of things over the years, and I’ve learned hundreds of things from the things I’ve cooked. An editorial conundrum I had never considered but that comes up pretty frequently is what I should do with a recipe way back in the archives that I no longer cook the way I once did. I could leave it. I mean, this website is an Important Historical Artifact. It’s essential that every stupid thing I’ve said in 13 years remain preserved intact on the web for all time. For, like, science. Needless to say, I am not devoted to this point of view.

meatballsready to bake

I could change the recipes, and at times, I have. In general, I make changes to recipes when they’re not working the way they should, when the original way of making them is unnecessarily complicated, or when a small piece of new information will drastically change it for the better. However, this often leads to confusion. Imagine being in the middle of making a recipe and you reload it and it’s totally different. It’s happened; I’ve gotten the panicked DMs. Plus, just because I wasn’t happy with it doesn’t mean nobody else was. I try to make the changes clear but I blame nobody who doesn’t want to read small type while making a recipe you’ve made for 8 or 12 years now.

add meatballsall cooked

Sharing a new, better version of an older an old recipe seems the most straightforward (see: even more perfect apple pie, foolproof cacio e pepe, luxe butterscotch pudding, and tall, fluffy buttermilk pancakes, but I don’t do this very often. More often, I’ll make a recipe the newer way I prefer, write it up, take photos, and then… table it, until I figure out what to do with it. (v.5 of a roast chicken saga is not, to me, an engaging premise.) Earlier this year, I realized that my “let’s figure out what to do with this recipe later” list had grown quite large and it was a shame to keep you from what I consider newer, better versions of classic SK recipes. So, this month, let’s try something new.

drained spaghettitoss with some sauce

Newer, Better Month, which begins right now on Smitten Kitchen, is a chance to revisit recipes I’ve been making forever with new knowledge, new techniques, and new real-life time constraints. March seems like the perfect time to do it. It’s such a slog of a month, if you ask me; too wintry, too few holidays, and this year, a bit of bleh in the middle too. I’m eager for a little distraction.

first the spaghetti

And I want to begin with spaghetti and meatballs. One of my earliest cooking influences happened the day I watched an early-2000s Barefoot Contessa episode in which Ina Garten tells us her husband invited friends or colleagues over for dinner and they were probably expecting something fancy but she (surprise) was making spaghetti and meatballs. She knew then what so many more of us know now: entertaining doesn’t need showy, and as most of us aren’t getting treated to impeccable meatballs and spaghetti at home on a regular basis, this would be a welcome treat.

meatballs on top

In 2008, I made them Ina’s way. They’re, of course, fantastic. But it makes an epic amount, frying meatballs is messy, there’s never enough sauce, and I prefer a simpler one that lets the meatballs shine. Although it didn’t physically pain me to look at it at the time, I know this isn’t everyone’s thing, but rewatching the episode now and seeing sauce poured over undressed pasta (vs. finishing the pasta in the sauce so they harmonize as the gods or at least the nonnas intended) is like fingernails on a chalkboard. The recipe below is the way I make it these days, and (surprise) now that I can make them beginning to end in under an hour, I do it fairly often, much to the delight of kids, friends, and I hope soon you too.

perfect spaghetti and meatballs
perfect spaghetti and meatballs


One year ago: Luxe Butterscotch Pudding
Two years ago: Butterscotch Pie
Three years ago: Everyday Meatballs and Roasted Yams and Chickpeas with Yogurt
Four years ago: The ‘I Want Chocolate Cake’ Cake and Cornmeal-Fried Pork Chops with Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes
Five years ago: Kale and Quinoa Salad with Ricotta Salata
Six years ago: French Onion Tart
Seven years ago: Multigrain Apple Crisps
Eight years ago: Pina Colada Cake and Whole Wheat Goldfish Crackers
Nine years ago: Monkey Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze and Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart
Ten years ago: Devil’s Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks and Red Kidney Bean Curry
Eleven years ago: Greens, Orzo and Meatball Soup and Big Crumb Coffee Cake
Twelve years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Foolproof Cacio e Pepe
1.5 Years Ago: Tomato Bread + A Bit About Spain
2.5 Years Ago: Burrata with Lentils and Basil Vinaigrette and Eggplant Parmesan Melts
3.5 Years Ago: Crispy Peach Cobbler and Corn Chowder Salad
4.5 Years Ago: Smoky Eggplant Dip and Strawberries and Cream with Graham Crumbles

Perfect Meatballs and Spaghetti

  • Servings: 4 and up to 6 with sides
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

There’s actually a lot flexibility in the meatballs. A blend of pork, beef, and veal is traditional. I usually go half-half with the first two, but I’ve also made these entirely with ground turkey (a mix with dark meat it in is much better) and they’re a little softer (you could use a tablespoon less milk) but taste delicious. You can skip the parmesan and replace the milk with water if you want to make it dairy-free. You could use ricotta instead of milk for extra richness. You could add finely chopped prosciutto to the meat mixture, or even use ground sausage meat for half of the meat mixture. You can use 1 tablespoon finely grated onion instead of onion powder, and you could make your own breadcrumbs from any old piece of bread and grinding it up — use 2/3 cup instead of 1/2.

This recipe makes a moderately saucy pot of spaghetti and meatballs. If you like or want extra sauce, add a second full-sized (28-ounce) or half-sized (15-ounce) can of tomatoes and amp up the seasonings accordingly. I really prefer what is usually sold as crushed tomatoes here; it’s a not-totally-smooth puree that clings nicely to the spaghetti and meatballs in a way that chunkier blends do not. If you can only get whole or diced tomatoes, mash or blend them up a bit, and add 1 tablespoon tomato paste so it’s a little less watery. When I have basil around, I usually cook the meatballs with a sprig of it to infuse the sauce, then fish it out before serving.

  • 1 pound ground meat (see note up top for suggestions)
  • 1/2 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk, any kind
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, plus more to serve
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, plus more to serve
  • 2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt, divided
  • Red pepper flakes and/or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti

Bring a large pot of very well-salted water to boil and heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup, and coat it lightly with a nonstick spray.

Place meat, crumbs, milk, parsley, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, onion powder, eggs, and one-third of your minced garlic in a large bowl, and mash everything together with a fork or potato masher until evenly mixed. Using wet hands if needed, form mixture into 2-inch meatballs (I used a 3 tablespoon scoop) and arrange on prepared tray. Roast for 12 minutes, until cooked through (you can cut one in half).

Once water is boiling, cook spaghetti until one minute shy of tender. Set aside 1 cup of cooking water before draining pasta.

In a deep saute pan or wide saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add remaining two-thirds of garlic and a pinch or two of pepper flakes and let sizzle until garlic is golden, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomatoes (beware the spatter!) and season with remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Let mixture simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, although longer will do it no harm if your meatballs aren’t ready yet.

When meatballs come out of the oven, add them to the sauce and stir so they are coated. Reduce heat to a low simmer, put a lid on the pot, and simmer meatballs in the sauce for 10 minutes. At this point, should you not be eating them right away, you can remove them from the heat and set them aside.

When you’re ready to serve: Return your spaghetti to its empty cooking pot. Push meatballs aside and grab a few ladles of their cooking sauce and pour over spaghetti. Add half of reserved pasta water and cook spaghetti and sauce over high heat for one minute, tossing the whole time. Use additional pasta water as needed to loosen. Use tongs to transfer spaghetti into a large, wide serving bowl. (If you give the bowl a little spin as you lower the spaghetti into it, you can make cute little piles.) Add the meatballs and their sauce on top. Garnish with parsley and additional grated cheese. Eat right now; do not wait.

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254 comments on perfect meatballs and spaghetti

  1. SallyT

    HAPPY birthday!!! Does this mean you’re getting bat mitzvahed?! Love this new concept, and love how consistently creative you are!

  2. Cindy

    Is it weird that I know exactly which Barefoot Contessa episode you’re talking about? Her boss came to dinner, and Ina made ice cream sodas for dessert!

  3. emilyadi

    I recently made a double batch of your everyday meatballs (funnily enough, posted three years ago to the day!) and ended up baking half on the sheet pan. While the balls cooked in sauce were moister, the sheet pan balls had a better exterior flavor from browning.

    With this updated recipe that (which seems to use a hybrid oven/stove approach), you’ve got me wondering–which is your preferred method? Are there times when you use the everyday meatballs method on spaghetti, or is it solely reserved for non-spaghetti ball applications? Thanks!

    1. Martha Smith

      I would also love to know the answer to this!! The everyday meatballs actually changed my life as I was a tomato sauce hater before I tried them! They’re one of my favourite meals now but I recently had a baby so they’ve become harder to get on the table. I double up my batches as well and freeze the balls and sauce separately to make it easier but a quicker recipe sounds appealing…IF they’re as good :)

      1. deb

        Sorry for any confusion. (And the delay — busy afternoon!) They’re very much the same flavors! I have since become converted to roasting meatballs. It’s faster; they look better. And because you can then weave in the steps, I get spaghetti and meatballs on the table in 45 minutes, which is just magic to me. So, no need to change your loyalty if you’re happy with the everyday meatballs. But this is the way I put it together with spaghetti these days.

    2. Exactly what I was wondering – the everyday meatballs are a staple in our home and have wowed guests time and time again. I’ve made a variety of other types of meatballs across the stove and oven and none ever compare.

  4. Francoise

    Since I discovered oven roasting/ broiling meatballs, I NEVER fry them! Any recipe that tells me to do so, I say yep, nope and off to the oven they go. Soooo much easier, quicker, and less mess. Not traditional, I know, but: my kitchen, my way 🤓

    1. Thank you for this! I might actually brave meatballs for the first time because this sounds manageable. My best friend from elementary school told me about smittenkitchen when I was first out of college. I was immediately hooked! Your style of cooking and writing has been profoundly influential in my life. You’ve made cooking new and unfamiliar things so much more accessible. Under your tutelage, I have made countless challahs, korean ribs, butter pickles- things I may have never tried to make. And on top of that, you put forth such an open minded joy. Thank you for everything!

  5. Laura B

    We love spaghetti and meatballs! Will be trying this soon. Has anyone made it without the eggs? We have a recently diagnosed egg allergy to cook around … do the meatballs stay together ok without it?

    1. Julie

      My friend forgoes the egg and subs in more milk OR buttermilk to give it some richness and also tenderize everything. If you’re afraid of them falling apart, you can shape them into balls and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

    2. Betsy

      I think this recipe is basically the same as the SK everyday meatballs, technique just different? I’ve made those without eggs – used “flax egg” instead with good results. (Dairy allergy over here too, so also used water and omitted Parm – still good!)

      1. Sara

        Hi Deb!! Since giving up a vegetarian life a number of years ago, I still haven’t made meatballs (sad!) because my Italian family drilled in to me that they need to contain beef, veal, and pork to be any good — but I still don’t eat the latter two. What are your thoughts on a all ground beef meatball — worth it? Any changes I should make to accommodate? Thinking about finally taking the plunge, though it feels scary to defy my ancestors ;) ;)

    3. Mandy

      Sorry about the egg allergy! I have been working with Aquafaba lately for similar reasons. If you haven’t ever heard of it, it is a total game changer! Basically, it is the liquid poured out of a can of chickpeas, and it’s magic.

    4. LisaT

      I have been making meatballs for years without egg, due to an egg allergies kids (now young adults). I just add a few more breadcrumbs, milk and sometimes parmesan cheese. Using some sausage in place of ground beef helps hold the meatballs together, too. Anyway, they taste great!

    5. Elizabeth deForest

      I have been making meatballs without eggs for years because my husband can’t eat eggs. The egg stretches the meat so I leave out the milk (son can’t have dairy) crumbs and egg and mix them up a bit more with my hands. As they get mixed they cling together better.

  6. Julie

    What changed my meatballs for the better was to mix together the breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, eggs, olive oil, a bit of chicken stock, and milk and then let them sit for 10-20 minutes. Then I gently incorporate into the meat and bake, broiling at the end to give them some color. I’ve never made a more tender meatball. These look divine!

  7. Jenny

    I’m really glad you’re doing this, thank you! Sometimes I hesitate about making a very old recipe in the archives (especially cakes I’m making to feed friends) because I wonder if you would still rate them compared to more recent amazing cakes. I never considered making black bottom cupcakes (I think subconsciously I assumed they were burnt?!) until I saw the new photos and now cannot WAIT for an excuse to bake them, they look so good.

    1. deb

      Ha! Thanks. First, I promise that nothing in the archives is garbage or unmakeable. I just wouldn’t leave it without a very clear warning. A good way to check if you’re nervous is scroll to the end of the comments for the most recent ones; they’re always from people who have made it.

      Mostly when I remake very early recipes these days, I can see that I was too tentative to change an original recipe, treating it like canon. Years later, I’m a much more confident cook and I know what I consider worth my and our time. So, when recipe changes are made, it’s usually just making it easier and more realistic for weekday nights where possible, which wasn’t in the least my concern 12 years ago.

  8. Liz

    Interesting! I love your everyday meatballs that are poached in the tomato sauce, but perhaps I will be convinced to try this new way.

  9. Sarah

    Yes agree !! I’m a huge fan of your every day meatballs (love them with your garlic bread).
    What’s the change here and why the need??

  10. Louise

    Deb, thinking of you as you face the sad anniversary of losing your dear father. Missing a parent is hard…sending hugs your way ❤️

  11. Ann S.

    You should try making them with ground bison/buffalo instead of regular ground beef. Lower fat profile on bison, which allows you to use a ground sausage instead of just ground pork with the veal.

  12. Elizabeth

    I have two favorite things about your site. #1 I know you’ve tried every recipe and #2 that you post updated recipes (see Cacio e Pepe and Zucchini Bread). Thank you for posting these updates! It’s so rare for recipes to be revisited, and I love that you do just that.

    1. deb

      Some parchment paper isn’t okay over 400, but most is fine. It will say on the box. Also, I generally ignore it anyway, but didn’t want to lead anyone astray.

  13. Cindy B.

    I make my meatballs and pasta (I don’t always make spaghetti) pretty much this way. I rarely use more than one kind of meat in my meatballs and I air fry them, if it’s during the week and want a quick dinner, or cook them in the sauce if I’m making it on the weekend and have the time to let them cook. They don’t take very long to cook in the sauce and I love the taste of the meatballs and how the meat flavors the sauce. It’s always good to revisit and tweak things. We evolve over time; so should our cooking.

    Thinking of you today will continue to think of you as the incredibly sad anniversary comes closer. Your tribute when I first read it made me cry and still makes me tear up just to see it. Sending you love.

  14. mchohenstein

    Would you recommend freezing them after baking and cooking them in the sauce to thaw them out? Or do you think it works better to freeze the raw meatballs and up the cooking time by ten minutes or so? Thanks!

    1. SMatt

      Let me know if you figure this out, I’m wondering the same thing! I think I’m going to try cooking first and then freezing and re-warming in the sauce since that makes even less work on a busy evening.

    2. Yes I would also like to know this please Deb – I’d like to double the meatballs and sauce part of the recipe and freeze half for another day.
      Love the idea of revisiting recipes, and also seeing what some of your favourites are. I’ve just set myself the goal of learning to make some new classic-everyday style dishes so this is perfect timing.

    3. Sara

      I have been making meatballs this way forever. I always make extra and freeze some. Cook and then freeze. You can thaw them in the sauce or the frig.

    4. Jackie

      I always make big batches of meatballs like this and freeze. Sometimes I just put them right in the sauce frozen but mostly I partially defrost in the microwave and drop them in. I can turn out dinner in 20 min this way.

    5. deb

      I think either work. I would probably, personally, bake them, put them in the sauce and save that 10-minute (or longer) simmer for after they defrost, to finish it. Because you’re going to re-warm and re-simmer them anyway; why do it twice.

  15. janmorrison12

    I love you. I know it isn’t cool but I don’t give a care. The why is inexplicable but if you must fasten on a why – meatballs. It’s been such a trying winter and Michael P. hardly posts anymore and I’ve been dieting and not drinking but tonight I’m having Irish whiskey and my fella is making a curry and you have a post that promises such goodness. So…

  16. MJ

    May I suggest that you move the spaghetti-cooking paragraph later in the recipe? It makes more sense to me to do it after you’ve started the sauce, or even after the meatballs are out of the oven, so that the spaghetti is still reasonably warm when you finish the dish. Also, this sounds easy and delicious; thank you for the new version!

    1. Celine

      I had the same feeling. Sauce can get better if it cooks longer, but pasta can get worse, and I usually assume a recipe writer puts steps in a certain order because you are better off doing those steps in that order for a reason, but this could lead to overcooked pasta if you’re not on top of it.

    2. deb

      So, you can absolutely do it later but I intentionally wove it in when I did because I like to get it out of the way as soon at the water is boiling. Since you’re finishing it in the sauce, thus reheating it, it’s not necessary to wait until the end to make it. It will not overcook because you undercooked the pasta.

      It sounds so basic but I wanted to lay this recipe out here and like this (versus just piggybacking it on my previous meatball recipe) because when I was a beginner cook, I always struggled with the order of things, how to use my time best. So the meatballs would be done and the pot of pasta water would then take 10 to 15 minutes just to boil (my stove is not the best) and then another 10 minutes to cook the pasta and suddenly the spaghetti alone added 30 minutes to a “quick” recipe. Hope that explains that rationale better.

  17. Margot

    Baking meatballs is the way. to. go. They may not be quite as awesome, but it means we eat them a lot more often! My favorite recipe for meatballs is from “Dinner, a Love Story” and I learned the baking technique from the “Meatball Shop Cookbook.”

  18. Alice

    YAY for revisiting old favorites! I’ve been making meatballs exclusively in the oven ever since your chicken meatballs! Still my favorite meatball recipe, btw. Umm…I’m guessing it’s the pancetta. :D

    Can’t wait to see what else you spruce up. I admit, I have high hopes for a bolognese revisit. I learned how to make bolognese with your recipe many, many times, but have since tried Marcella’s (white wine instead of red, whole canned tomatoes rather than paste, and the addition of milk), and now I like to combine my favorite parts of the two. Tomato paste, lots of milk, aaaand whatever wine I have on hand. Most recently, I’ve tried Kenji’s, and found all the extra umami ingredients very high maintenance but very delicious. Would love to see how your recipe has evolved!

    1. deb

      I was thinking about Bolognese, too! I use a wine-y one that doesn’t work as well these days with kids. I have a few tiny quibbles that don’t seem to be shared with others about Marcella’s, but understand why many consider it the gold standard. As always, open to suggestions for revisits! If not this month, then another.

      1. emilyadi

        When/if you revisit it, please share your quibbles! I’ve made your lasagna bolognese two ways, one with yours recipe and one with hers, so I’m curious about your thoughts on the differences.

        1. deb

          Actually, is this a safe space? If so, and honestly, this is just my own personal thing, but I think that because she calls for 1.5 cups of chopped tomatoes, people usually use canned diced tomatoes, an ingredient I deeply do not care for. They’re often chemically treated so that their shape remains intact while they’re cooked, meaning that no matter how many hours you cook the sauce, you have cubes of tomato throughout that look like they just left the can. I also prefer a more minced soffritto/battuto than she explicitly lays out; I’m not into visible chunks of carrots or celery in my final sauce. And I work with different proportions, basically the sizes we buy products in. Again, these are small nitpicks but in a recipe with all of 8 ingredients, the changes add up. Obviously, it’s time to write this up!

          1. emilyadi

            Thanks for sharing! In reading your thoughts, I realized I feel the same way. When I make Hazan’s bologenese, I typically use whole canned tomatoes (which I puree) and I process the carrots/onions/celery very fine as I also don’t like large chunks.

  19. Jane

    Thanks for this update. I often find myself looking on your website first when I’m about to make a classic dinner recipe I haven’t done in a while—just to see what your hints and updates might be—thank you!

    Let me share one of mine: There is a recipe out there somewhere for turkey pesto meatballs that are the fastest, best weeknight meatballs, because the pesto does a lot of the work of pork in the meatballs or a complex sauce. In fact, meatballs are so flavorful that just a simple doctoring of tomato sauce out of the can dresses it up. One of the commenters on the recipe page shared her quickie sauce method and it’s the perfect complement. Not even gluten-free pasta can ruin it, especially if you drench it with the sauce as you describe. Maybe you could perfect that one for us some day. :-) (I would mention the website, but I’m not sure that’s kosher. Email me if you want to know.)

  20. sara

    I have been making my meatballs this way for nearly 20 years. I would see a new meatball recipe but think “nope”, my way is quick and easy. Now I am going to try getting fancy and dress the pasta.

  21. Rachel Joy

    Deb! What about the Everyday Meatballs from 2016? We LOVE those and I have made them 4 times the past couple months, twice for families with new babies, and received rave reviews. It’s SO good! How do you compare that recipe with this one? Or do you use these two recipes for different purposes?

    1. deb

      Different purposes. Similar meatballs but I’ve been converted to roasting them. It’s faster and they look better. You don’t have to choose, though. I am loyal to both. :)

  22. Katie C.

    I make many of your “old” recipes. This week I made the spinach quiche and earlier the sautéed matchstick zucchini. In fact, I just had some cherry yogurt and a slice of the quiche for breakfast…and of course, tea!

  23. Sandy

    As always, it is a total pleasure to read your site and recipes. Am I the first to notice this minor blip in the text?
    When meatballs come out of the oven, add the to the sauce and stir to coat them.
    You probably meant: …add the meatballs to the sauce…

  24. Deb…I love your recipes and print dozens of them, but I also love the lead-in and your pictures. How can I print all of it ?
    I hope there’s a solution to this.

    1. cookingmylife

      I do a/2 or more screen shots and then cut and paste into a word document – 2 pages at most and print double sided. It sounds like much more work than it is. If you have a Mac make sure to do the CMD Shift 4 to select the specific parts of the screen you want each time. hth!

  25. Grace Coop

    With ref. to printing all parts of the recipe including photos, I copy and paste onto a word doc using the “Keep source formatting” option – this gives all the text + photos and then print or more often, save the doc in my ever growing smitten kitchen folder.

  26. I have tried this one is home and they looked delicious, but i have added soya milk in the recipe and taste was yummy. kind of Indian soya bonda, thanks for the recipe.

  27. Elle

    Thanks for continuing to be so honest and practical. In that vein, I have always just made the sauce and put the raw meatballs into simmering sauce. I always add dry basil to the sauce, fresh parsley to the meat. Cheese in/on both. It works, and doesn’t take any longer. Sure, made a day ahead, the flavors have time to meld more, but this way, I have one less pan to wash.

    1. @ELLE
      This is the way I make my long cooking sauce, too, as passed down to me by my Italian grandmother. I also sub Parm cheese for bread crumbs. Makes for a firmer meatball. Her meatballs were slightly different than I make mine. She did use bread crumbs, put in a little milk and fried them in a skillet (and poured the grease into the sauce); my dad and his siblings ate them almost faster than she could fry enough to get into the sauce. I drop them into the sauce raw, too, which I start with either browned stewing beef, pork necks or Italian sausage.

      I’ve also been able to adapt it to my slow cooker so I’m not having to stand over it off and on for so many hours.

      1. chris

        All meatballs or anything realy , is diff then your mom/grandma/cousin joe/sister/brother. We make a la minute judgements as we cook. I have 2 cans of bread crumbs in the pantry, one says Italian, the other has, in giant felt marker RESEASONED, in front of the word Italian.

        All my crumbs , that I use have enough stuff added that they never fit in the can they came in. I reseason a half can at a time. If I am about to use a lot I do the whole can and then use and run off goes in the “new” can.

        Pasta water is always ready to go salted, ready. When pasta is done Never oil the pasta, sauce it, it sticks better. Drain the pasta pour in 8 ounces or more of sauce, toss well to coat. Some people will toss in (evenly) some Peccorino Romano, and then toss.

        Additional sauce and cheese, ( in the pot would never satisfy some people, my wife and I).

        I fry meatballs, but I have and on occassion bake them high temp, 400F. And yes the exuded oils (cheese meat and herbal) go in the sauce. They will boil to the top eventually and I “scuma” the sauce, that is I skim out the oil, and I bring it to a hard boil again and the scuma.

        Mixed meat in meatballs is nice, but the family favorite (for my kids) is home ground sirloin. I said nothing and both kids looked at me and said , “Best Ever Dad” and bugged me how I did it. (Kitchen Aid Attachment). But, even store made sirloin is better. Sometimes chuck or whatever they use has a tallow like taste and ruins the sauce.

        Like cheap wine cheap meat cheapens the dish, and can make it taste like gunk.

  28. lauriewendy

    This has me practically drooling! Do you know about how many meatballs it will make? I don’t have a 3 Tbsp scoop, and I’m bad at eyeballing size, so it’s help me to have a number to aim for. Thanks!

    1. chris

      make one perfect size for you, scale it , then scale plops of meat and roll all at 1 time.

      I used to make full bakers sheets at a time, we then baked them, in a pizza oven(600 degrees), they were then poached in sauce at service, (when you ordered it).

      Scale is great tool, My great Gran from Sicialia never counted eggs or measured flour in cups, she scaled everything.

      She was amazing!

  29. As someone who has been making your version of Ina’s spaghetti and meatballs for years, I’m very excited to try this new version. And I love the idea of incorporating prosciutto slivers into the meatballs. Our tastes change over time, so it seems totally fair to want to share updated recipes!

  30. Rachel

    Having made the “old” version of spaghetti and meatballs, I thought I give the newer, better version a whirl for dinner tonight. Perfect spaghetti and meatballs replaced the previous version as soon as it crossed our lips. Absolutely delicious!!! So glad that I doubled the meat mixture and put half in the freezer for later! When the time comes to thaw and cook the mix, I’ll double the sauce, which is uber easy to make. Thank you!!

  31. OMG. soooo good!!!! the only slight change i made was to add little bit of sugar (gasp) to the sauce. the meatballs are heavenly. so good. i had to grip the table to stop eating

  32. I made them gluten-free by using gf panko and gf pasta. Everything worked great and the meatballs had such a deep flavor!

    Other changes, some accidental:
    1. 2 tbsp pesto subbed for the parsley in the meatballs
    2. Forgot to add the minced garlic to the meatballs
    3. Garlic powder instead of onion powder bc I didn’t have it
    4. Doubled the sauce (would definitely do this every time)
    5. 2 tbsp pesto in the sauce

    I loved the extra flavor boost from the pesto, so I’ll continue to do that whenever I have it on hand.

  33. I love this recipe update! Yum. I made this recipe about 4 nights ago (the old way) and I substituted almond meal for the breadcrumbs to make it grain free (I can’t believe who I’ve become…) and they were absolutely magnificent, the almond made them super tender and succulent. I will never bake/fry my meatballs again! Anyway I thought gluten avoiders might like to know this trick.

    1. Emmie

      But the recipe calls for baking the meatballs—I don’t understand your statement you will never “bake/fry” meatballs again. How did you fix them per this recipe?

      1. comment-fairy

        Emmie, I read that Hobblesthebear “fixed” the meatballs by replacing breadcrumbs with almond meal. It’s more of a “trick” than a “fix” —- no claim that the recipe was broken.

        On the contrary, Hobblesthebear seems to be a fan of this recipe. Their claim that they will “never bake/fry again” shows that they have learned a new favorite technique from this recipe: just baking, without also frying.

  34. Lauren

    Never having been a fan of spaghetti and meatballs ( I know…right?) I have not thought many recipes interesting enough to try. The first photo had me drooling, the “dry meatballs” on the baking sheet was the clincher. Now I am not only going to try these, but am willing to risk having a go at your other recipe that has so many fans, as well. This site has always been a “game changer” for me, thanks Deb. Apple Sharlotka, Egg Salad with Pickled Celery, and Double Chocolate Banana Bread have been in the “rotation ” since Day One.Never make them any other way but yours!

  35. Super excited for this new feature!! As the mom of a 3.5-year-old and a 1.5-year-old, I rarely have time to cook anything that takes more than an hour. But I still enjoy cooking and don’t want to have to rely on something that comes out of a box in the freezer (hello, chicken nuggets and fish fingers) more than once or twice a week. Looking forward to starting with the spaghetti and meatballs (always a win with my fam). Thank you, Deb!!

  36. Mollie

    Hi Deb,

    We made this recipe with minced chicken, and there were way too many eggs in this recipe. I’ve looked at a Ina Garten recipe, and it had half the eggs. Is that perhaps a typo?

  37. I am a huge fan of roasting meatballs- much neater!
    Also, one of my favorite hacks for testing a meatball (or meatloaf) for seasoning is to make a small patty and fry in a pan. Also a nice cook’s snack :)

  38. Lyra

    Oooo I’m going to have to try roasting the meatballs. I always understood the reasoning behind frying them and then cooking them in the sauce, but I never liked doing the frying step because my meatballs inevitably turn into little triangular balls where they get flat because they’re frying on a flat pan. (yes I’m vain about my food)

    But now this way it looks like I can get perfectly spherical meatballs and not have to babysit them in the pan.

    Loving the idea of doing the updates to old recipes! It’s a really interesting way of seeing how our skills as cooks grow as our lives and priorities shift.

  39. CherieDam

    Best tasting spag and meatballs I have ever made! Message reinforced by husband. The sauc was to die for and the meatballs so tasty. I doubled the garlic. Used 28oz of fire roasted tomatoes and 28oz of crushed tomatoes as we like it saucy!! So good!! Will not be able to have it any other way now :)

  40. John

    So delightful and so easy! Without a doubt the best consistency of meatballs we’ve ever made. I thought they were going to be too wet with the two eggs and the milk but once they were baked they were absolutely PERFECT! Sauce was really great too, but I might amp that up a bit next time if I have a little extra time. The basil you suggested was a great idea. Added flavor and aroma immediately. You’re fabulous!

  41. Meredith

    I made these last night for a dinner party and they were absolutely perfectly amazing. I was struggling with what to make for adults and a few kids and this was just the right things. Other than doubling the recipe, I followed it exactly and wouldn’t change a thing. THANK YOU!

  42. guest

    I had been “on the market” for a new meatballs and spaghetti recipe and was so glad to see your new post! Saw the recipe on Sat night and they were in the pot for Sunday night supper. Quick, easy, tender…happy mom, happy kids….

  43. I have just found your site…and I’m so glad that I did. Love this recipe; your writing is fun and fluid and makes me feel like I’m standing in your kitchen with a glass of wine in my hand. Thanks for sharing :) Looking forward to following your blog.

  44. Judi

    Last week [I am so sick of the cold, snow, ice and below freezing temps! ,]
    I decided to make my recipe [ based on the loving memory of my mom’s cooking ] of meatballs and spaghetti. For those of you who do not eat pork or sausage [me], I only use organic meat and veal [one pound each], blend with the usual egg and – yes- whole wheat bread crumbs – and seasonings.
    I have never liked the idea of frying the meatballs first so I open up my can of Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes in Puree, add my basil,oregano,crushed red pepper flakes, minced fresh garlic, etc. and then, when the sauce has warmed and seasonings blended, I drop my 3 tbsp size meatballs directly into the sauce. They are moist and done within 15 minutes! Truly, comfort food in the winter.
    Spring is not far behind!

  45. GlendaFader

    Do you cook spaghetti and let it sit drained. Do you toss it in olive oil or does it separate easy,when you put the sauce and pasta water with it. Just want to make sure. Thanks.

  46. I haven’t made these meatballs yet but I got meatball advice from an old Italian Nonna so I’m passing it on.

    Always mix the spices, eggs, breadcrumbs etc together well, then add the meat. If you touch the meat a lot, the meatballs will be tough, kind of like pastry – the less you touch it, the better.

    Enjoy, Clare

  47. Just made these last night and they are fantastic. Perfect texture, nice meaty flavor that’s not overpowered by extras, and I can’t wait to eat the leftovers! I actually made a double batch since my ground beef and pork came in 1-lb packages… One note, mine took more like 18 minutes to cook through, and I had better luck getting them off the foil after they’d cooled down for a few minutes.

  48. Mary Ellen

    Deb, have you ever cooked the meatballs in the tomato sauce after theyve been browned? I find that it gives the tomato sauce a wonderful meaty flavor in the background.

  49. Lara

    as a German, I’ve always wondered about this meatball thing you Americans do with spaghetti. I find it very impractical to eat when you could also just put your ground meat in the sauce to make a Bolognese that you can slurp up with the pasta. Plus, none of that meatball-forming-and-then-baking-or-frying work. But alas, it must be a culture thing :) I must say, these look delicious. I found that tomato sauce gets even more perfect with one teaspoon honey or sugar added!

    1. Teresa

      Lara, I am Italian and if you believe it or not, in Italy meatballs are NEVER EVER served with spaghetti or any kind of pasta. We usually use the sauce on pasta but the meatballs are served separately as second dish with vegetables on the side or salad. Sugar is never used either in the sauce unless it is made with fresh tomatoes that are a bit sour so a pinch of sugar makes it sweeter, but never with store bought tomato sauce or diced tomatoes. Don’t know why in USA spaghetti & meatballs is claimed to be typically italian because it definitely is not in Italy.

      A side note for the other ladies asking how they can substitute eggs….bread soaked in milk (or water for dairy free version) or a cooked mashed potato is a wonderful binding agent that keeps them soft as well.

  50. Charity

    I have been making your everyday meatballs (without the crumbs and cheese) and adding spaghetti for a long time; never thought baking the meatballs would make such a huge difference, but omg, it really makes them perfect! Even with an all-beef meatball, they were so soft and amazing! Thanks!

  51. Christie

    I made these tonight with all turkey. I was prepared for them to be quite soft but I think they may require more cooking time than the other meat mixture? I cooked for 16 minutes in the oven and 10 in the sauce but still had some pink. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  52. Linda Willsi

    I love this new process. I have no problem making a long slow sauce making when I have the time. I feel like this is a great way when time is a little short to put a great meal on the table in a shorter time

    Thank you for this site. I follow it all the time.

  53. M. Glynn

    I made this last night and it was super easy and quick! It was only the second time I’ve made meatballs because I’ve always found the frying such a hassle. These meatballs were incredibly flavourful and tender. I did not alter the recipe but did use 50/50 pork/beef. Great hit with my husband!

  54. Firstly I’m so impressed with 13 years on the internet. Happy blog birthday to you. I have to confess I’ve never made meatballs as I was convinced they would fall apart on me. Thanks for sharing the techniques and a recipe packed with flavour. The family will be getting a treat at the weekend

  55. Allie

    Made this last night with ground turkey. I ended up using way less milk than called for (only about 2 tablespoons). And I chilled the meat mixture for about 20 minutes before making the meatballs, just to make it a bit easier to handle. The meatballs were beloved by all in my family (including one very picky eater) and the sauce was delicious! Thanks for another amazing recipe!!!

  56. Dana

    I made this last night, and my generally-non-pasta-eating, non-red-sauce liking husband stopped mid-way through his meal* and said, “Hey, this is really good!” Putting this into the rotation for sure.

    *He’s always willing to try anything I make, even if it includes non-favored ingredients :)

  57. So easy to make, so delicious (even with a bunch of substitutions). Since I keep kosher and don’t eat garlic, I didn’t use the cheese or milk, chopped up some fresh fennel for extra flavor, and used ground turkey. This will be a weeknight staple from now on!

  58. Josh

    Perfect! A super quick and tasty iteration of the beloved classic. Followed to a tee- adding only a Parmesan Reggiano rind and a splash of pasta cooking water to the sauce.

  59. Mae

    I’ve never tried putting meat balls when cooking spaghetti. But when I read your blog it makes me curious about what would it taste. Will try to cook this following your recipe on my birthday. :)

    1. deb

      Yes. Usually it’s just very smooth but that’s okay if it’s fine with you. Oh, and I find it can get too thick faster so loosen it with more pasta water if needed.

  60. ljay2

    If these were intended to be Italian meatballs – better to put the onion (especially fresh and not powder) in the sauce with the garlic for more flavor and NOT in the meatballs!! Also, no parsley or basil in the sauce?? WOW
    I don’t think there’s an Italian on earth who puts onion in their meatballs. Sorry Deb!!

  61. Liz

    I made a double batch of these last weekend. I used half pork and half beef. They were such a hit that I made them again this weekend! Easy and so, so good!

    My 6 year old ate at least 8 of them each time and today will probably have them in a sub.

    I have made so many of your recipes and every one has been on point. Thank you for being one of my favorite recipe resources for 6+ years!

  62. Sara

    Hi Deb, solid fan here!
    I’ve made your everyday meatballs (which are almost identical to my regular favorite recipe) – with one change. When I tried using the breadcrumbs, it had a breadcrumby flavor I didn’t love, so I went back to using my regular grated zucchini instead. It adds the same softness and you can argue that it has some minor health pluses as well (though who are you kidding, it’s just half a cup of breadcrumbs – I don’t deserve any awards here!) Have you ever tried subbing grated zucchini?

    1. deb

      Did you keep all of the other wet ingredients at the same level? I have played around with zucchini with a different recipe I’ve been working on but I kept getting tough meatballs, couldn’t figure it out…

  63. Emily

    I made this a few days ago, and the meatballs in particular are so good – so flavorful! I didn’t think I liked meatballs very much (they’re fine, but not my favorite thing), but this recipe might have converted me.

    Small changes I made from the original: Used turkey in place of the suggested meat blend, skipped the eggs (because we ran out), grated some onion instead of the onion powder, and used the full amount of milk (because I didn’t have eggs).

  64. Jordan

    I made these tonight using 100% turkey and almond milk (a few tbs less as you suggested.) And then a second batch for my gluten-free brother (because nothing can ever be simple) and I subbed in about a quarter cup of chickpea flour for the pinko because that’s what I had on hand. They were so delicious! This will be my go-to from now on. Or at least until the next version;)

  65. Grace

    Thanks Deb I loved this recipe for meatballs and the oven makes it so easy. I made a triple batch (sans pasta) and put it in the freezer for when bub no.2 is due. May as well if I’m going to the trouble of turning the oven on and making meatballs by hand! Although, if I wear a rubber glove I can do them one handed while fending my toddler daughter away from the bowl of raw meat with the other hand and it didn’t take that long because I’m not fussy on making tiny ones – ping pong ball sized is fine. I used half beef and half pork mince, and replaced the crumbs with 2 stale slices of bread soaked in the milk. I also added some fennel seeds I had handy. Yummo thanks a million.

  66. A

    Made these last night and served with chopped broccoli tossed with grapeseed oil, salt and garlic powder and roasted for 25 minutes until lightly crispy while the meatballs were roasting. Toddler rejected the broccoli but deigned to eat the lightly sauced spaghetti (usually only plain noodles are acceptable) and refused the meatballs. Made with whole grain spaghetti, all ground beef (what’s in the freezer), doubled the garlic (we like our italian super garlicky, weird, I know). Realized I forgot to add the milk to the meatballs when I heard the clink of glass on the counter and saw toddler drinking the milk out of the measuring cup as I was rolling the meatballs (they were a little firm but still quite tasty – will try not to be so distracted next time). So, all in all, a delicious but still typical Sunday evening. And delicious lunch leftovers today.

  67. Peter

    Made these just as described. No tofu or almond “milk.” Absolutely the best! For St Patty’s Day, subbed out the boxed pasta for homemade spinach tagliatelle. Divine. Thank you!

  68. Patricia

    My family enjoyed this and it will be repeated with a few tweaks. Like a few others have commented, the meatball mixture was too wet and did not hold together well. My meatballs ended up being flat on the bottom and stuck to the pan. Perhaps letting the mixture set up a bit so that the panko can absorb more moisture or using only one egg next time might solve this issue. Otherwise, the flavor was delicious and the sauce was easy. Thanks for updating an old favorite.

  69. Sue Miles

    Hi Deb,
    Greetings from Canada! I have followed you for years, and my family has enjoyed many wonderful meals thanks to your talent. I’m writing to address a previous question regarding binding meatballs. We have an amazing product now in Canada called Eggcitables created by a young woman to address one of her many allergies.You can actually use this product as you would a real egg. Her website is Hope this is of some help to your readers.

  70. Lynn Marie

    Small anecdotal data point re sauce incorporated vs sauce on top: my particular nonna always just added a small amount like a quarter to half cup to the “white” cooked spaghetti, piled it on a platter, poured just enough sauce on top to make it look pretty, surrounded the spaghetti with meatballs, and always put a gravy boat with warm sauce on the table for everyone to help themselves to exactly how much they liked. Best of both worlds. I don’t care for the taste of pasta finished with sauce in the pan, trendy though it is; I enjoy the taste of the actual pasta, the separate taste of the sauce, and the two combined.

  71. Jean

    Delicious!! With a couple substitutes: I used pre seasoned Italian breadcrumbs and didn’t adjust my other seasonings, and it was fine (not over seasoned). I also used a jar sauce (fancy-ish brand from Whole Foods).

    I made the prior version of these and thought it was so much work. This recipe is sooooo easy/fast and perfect!!

  72. Trish

    I upped the garlic by a couple cloves total and started the sauce with 1/2 an onion (Indian tastebuds lol) and it was perfect for us! It’s super fast and easy to make, truly a wonderful weekday recipe, thanks!

  73. This truly is, for me, a perfect meatball recipe! Perfectly flavorful, moist, amazing texture. Next time I will definitely double the sauce, but other than that it was a home run! And also just as fast and easy as promised- I did the recipe plus bread and salad in around an hour and a half, which is fast for me :) Thanks!

  74. Stacy Bower

    This dish is delicious. Made the meatballs with beef and veal because that’s what I had on hand. Thank you for another lovely recipe.

  75. haydensister

    Made this on Sunday, but also made our own pasta, which was a fun adventure. This was delicious!! I used ground chicken since we don’t eat red meat, and the meatballs were still super moist and tasty, and it came together so quickly. Thanks for another amazing and delicious recipe!

  76. Jennifer

    I already have a favorite sauce & meatball recipe, but come on this is DEB’s recipe, I HAD to try it. No surprise my family wasn’t let down in any way. It’s different from my norm without all the roasted veggies & pesto, but it’s simplicity made it great and a perfect weeknight recipe. The meatballs (which I increased proportionally with 1.25# beef and 0.5# mild Italian sausage) flavored the sauce all the way through. And now with meatballs & sauce that can happen quickly, my family jumps for joy they can have them more often!

  77. Rachel

    Had the foresight to double the recipe the first time I made it. So very glad that I did. Best spaghetti and meatballs ever!

  78. Lori

    I was wondering if you could make any part of this ahead. I want to make it on a weeknight for guests but not be stressed! Thank you!

    1. Tessa

      I made the meatball mixture the day before and it worked great. I think it’s actually easier to handle when chilled for a while. The remainder of the recipe was really quick, and I forgot to mention in my own review I did it in one pot (no skillet)–7 quart Le Creuset dutch oven–boiled the pasta, made the sauce, and combined it all in that pot.

  79. Connie

    Was wondering about the 2 eggs. I remember that years ago, Alton Brown proclaimed that for meatloaf and meatballs, use 1 egg per pound of meat. I’ve always stuck to that rule with no issues. I’m thinking that an additional egg might make the mixture too loose/soft to form solid balls.

    1. deb

      Egg provides binding. I find these hold together better with two; however, you can use one if you like. I promise, the recipe works! I have no interest in leading others to disaster. ;)

  80. Emily

    Hi Deb – posting from London here, where we all use electric kettles (no doubt to feed that tea addiction!) Even cooking a big pot of spaghetti for more than 2 people, I rarely if ever need more than 2 kettles of boiling water. It takes maybe 2 min to boil a kettle. Definitely recommend boiling water this way and then just transferring it to a pot :-)

    I still don’t understand why they’re not more prevalent in the USA…

  81. jodi b

    just wanted to add my two cents:

    these meatballs were delicious! I made them exactly as written. not only were they tasty, the cleanup was so simple because they were baked.

    thank you! this has replaced my favorite meatball recipe. :0)

  82. These meatballs are amazing! So easy and delicious. I don’t often cook meat at home but these are worth it. I made the mix the night before–since it was ice cold before making mine took about 5+ minutes longer than prescribed. Used half and half as my milk and they were SUPER rich, so there wasn’t any fighting over them, because two or three go a long way in one serving. As far as the recipe as a whole, I found it a little sparse on the sauce–added about half a 40 oz. jar of Rao’s marinara that I had in the fridge and needed to use up, and still found it to be just enough sauce. Can’t wait to test out the leftovers on my two-year-old tomorrow–his tastes are, um, eclectic, but I *think* he’s going to gobble the meatballs.

  83. chris

    Perfect , welllll errr no, but darn tasty! So much better then most bottled sauces and most people’s sauce, (non Italian, I hold Paisons to a higher level of judgement).

    You are Jewish , so consider your mom’s Matso ball soup, hers has been honed to your taste buds for sooo many years. No one can make them like her, or maybe you prefer your Great Granma’s way.

    In restaurants meatballs are baked, in homes they are fried, except for a few of us. !00% of the dripppings and maybe a deglace with red wine is done as well. After the sauce is fully cooked with meatballs, chunks of pork, pork sausage (with seeds) and hot pork sausage, (with seeds), chunks of beef or veal, then we scooma (skim) all the fat. I paper towel the top, (trick for stock I used , best for aspic). Then bring to a boil, skim again.

    Our sauce is always a “meat sauce” as in religious dogma. If you dropped in a sliver of any dead mammal, it is now unfit for a meatless meal. You burn in eternal boil pools of oil and lava if you eat it on a “Fish Day” during lent.

    salt…..I have put salt in sauce 3 times in 40 years. Only in non meat sauces, and then very little. Good tomatoes have 2-3 ingrediants, tomato, heavy puree and Salt, NACL.

    Also I do not know anyone outside a resataurant who put pasta al dente in a pot with water and sauce and cooks it more.

    But, while I am a real Americanna as G-Grandma called me, I cook Italian, as do my inlaws and wife.

    Pizza sauce is seldom cooked, it is ground tomatoes with spices, but left over cooked sauce like this one makes great pizza, (please make it a “2 canner”), on Italian breaded fried bonelass chix cutlets or pork , fried or baked topped with this is an experience.

    Also nice as a flavor in Zuppa di Lenticchie or Pasta Lenticchie , or added to a beef/chicken soup. (small amounts in neat soup)

    I cannot stress enough how good a “grandma pizza ” this will make bread dough, (of course homemade), sauce sprinkle of Pecorino (no to cow cheese) basil leaf, sprinkle of oregano, oven time.

    I heard you on WNYC and was looking for the recipes I heard you speak on, today!

    Gooten Passek, (Happy Passover?)


  84. Elizabeth

    Made this tonight and it was absolutely fantastic! Doubled the meatball/sauce for a crowd and everyone loved it. Thank you!!!

  85. Louise

    Made this tonight. My new favorite spaghetti-meatballs recipe! How is something with so few ingredients, so good? Also, I am always going to use crushed tomatoes for sauce from now on! They are just the perfect texture. Thank you!

  86. mombrite

    I always seem to overcook my meatballs and end up with pretty dry meatballs. But I am so paranoid about them being raw in the middle. Is there anyway to check besides cutting them open?

    1. christie

      If all the meat is fresh and the eggs are as well and you make them and then wham bam fry them, even if they are touch medium rare, (think a hamburger), they will be fine. Dropping them into simmering sauce, return to boil, drop back to simmer and then 10 minutes later remove and cover. Well behave kids get a pan fried meatball, no sauce, when available.

  87. Darcie

    I’M NEVER FRYING MEATBALLS AGAIN! This was such a success that I’m planning to make it again tonight, barely two weeks after the first time! (Such rapid repeating is a rarity in our house.) Leftover meatballs made great sandwiches the next day, too! Even now, I’m not sure what I’m looking forward to most – tonight’s dinner or the sandwiches tomorrow–true praise, indeed.

  88. Amy

    For the vegetarians (not vegan, someone else can do that one!): you can make this exactly as written using Pinch of Yum’s cauliflower walnut “taco mince.” I used a bit of extra milk because it is drier than real mince. Why make a two step recipe? The “taco” mince is super easy and you can make a massive batch (mine this week, a whole head of cauliflower and a 750g bag of almonds). Not walnuts because the supermarket walnuts are from California and the almonds are from Australia (where I am). So it’s versatile too! And you can do whatever you want with the spices. Smoked paprika makes the “mince” a bit meatier.

    1. Jen Moore

      Thank you, Amy, for this idea! And Deb, for the base recipe. I made them using cauliflower instead of meat last night and they were the first vegetarian meatballs I’ve made my kids have liked. (I’ve tried tempeh and mushroom meatball recipes in the past and they just didn’t like them.) This one was a wow. For others considering this, I skipped the seasoning on the Pinch of Yum recipe and just did walnut and cauliflower crumbles.

  89. Tania

    Yes yes yes! I made this, and it was delicious and easy. My only complaint is that I had hoped to bring some for lunch the following day, but it was too good and there were no leftovers!

  90. Mrs D

    MAGNIFICENT! Thank you so much for another winner, this is getting a permanent spot in the repertoire Deb.

    I doubled the recipe for company, and used 500gm beef, 500gm pork/veal blend. I did swap almond meal for the breadcrumbs and milk. I swapped in garlic powder to the meatballs, and started the sauce with a red onion, then fresh garlic…plus a ton of basil chiffonade. I also used passata instead of canned tomatoes.

    This is so much more than the sum of its parts. Wonderful!

  91. Macy Glynn

    I now make this once a week. One of the few dishes that all 3 of my boys and my husband all love! This is so incredibly delicious, quick and easy to make. I’ve used half beef/pork and all pork and personally prefer to have some pork, but both are good. Sometimes I will forego the pasta and put half a ball of burrata on the meatballs, then pour more of the tomato sauce over it, and make it a meal. The meatball/sauce combination is simply incredible and so flavourful!

  92. Fizzchick

    For the vegetarians: I made these tonight with a bag of Morningstar crumbles. I found that they fell apart in the not-nearly-enough sauce, but they were still tasty. Also, grease the foil or pan plenty – I thought I had used plenty, but they still stuck badly.

  93. Used this as a jumping-off point for lamb meatballs last night and I’m so happy with the result. Just jumping in to confirm that yes, this really is a flexible recipe; I used all lamb and added half a finely-diced sauteed onion with excellent results.

  94. Wendy

    Lovely recipe thanks. I’ve made it a few times and it’s always a hit!
    Just wondered how far in advance I can make the meatballs before they go in the oven. Could I make them the night before ready to shove in the oven when I get home from work?

  95. Alice E

    Your Everyday Meatballs have been in regular rotation since I saw the recipe and a bit hit at Sunday Dinner. I tried this recipe last night (using your suggested 1/2 ground sausage + 1/2 ground beef) and was blown away. My husband was raving and I had 3 helpings! I cannot wait to have leftovers for dinner tonight.
    This recipe was very easy to make and went quickly, too. I much prefer mixing the meats (instead of using just ground beef) because it boosts the flavor. I might try and get a teensy bit more sauce on the spaghetti next time but I still loved it.
    Out of all the recipe blogs and cookbooks, I use your recipes the most by far and have never been disappointed. Thank you, thank you!!

  96. June

    Thank you again, Deb, for a perfect dish. Made this tonight and got rave reviews all-around. Doubled the recipe so I could freeze half, and used a mix of half-and-half and milk only because I had it. These were the best meatballs I’ve ever made!! And the sauce! So simple and delicious!! Your recipes and blog are by far the one one I follow and cook from, the most.

  97. Teresa

    I made the meatballs last night. They were perfect. I only had beef and they were delicious, tender and cooked perfectly in 12 minutes. I always try new meatballs recipes, these are my favorite so far!

  98. Emma

    Next time I’ll try replacing the milk with red wine. I think that would taste delicious, as it has in other meatball recipes! I also think some basil and oregano would improve the flavor.

  99. Emily M

    Made these tonight. They were a huge hit. I mean, you’re already starting with an advantage when you make spaghetti and meatballs. But these are next level. One of his favourite meals in awhile says the husband.

  100. Brittany

    Fantastic record as usual! I just made these today and it was delicious. I will definitely be making again and freeze a batch too!

  101. Brenda

    I made this with turkey. I had to add another 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs because my turkey mixture was very mushy. They turned out amazing even though they had no salt since my babies were going to eat them also. We ate them dry right out of the oven and were super moist. This will be my go to recipe from now on. Thank you!

  102. Michelle

    I made this after being reminded by a Cup of Jo post. The best meatballs I have ever made! ( although in fairness that’s a small field..) I used half and half beef and pork mince. I didn’t have any panko style breadcrumbs but wholemeal bread whizzed in the processor seemed to work fine. I made double the quantity of sauce and this was enough for 3 hungry people – we really like sauce!

  103. Sue Klish

    I am a huge fan. I’m 78 years old and self-quarantined in a retirement community. I’m prepared and have a lot of food that I can prepare and your new updated version of spaghetti and meatballs is first on my list. Love all your recipes.

  104. Liz

    SO delicious. There’s a shortage of ground beef/pork/veal in Park Slope, so I used 2/3 lb ground beef and 1/3 lb uncased sweet Italian sausage – used 1/4 tsp. less salt to make up for the already-seasoned meat but kept everything else exactly the same! Everyone loved it!

  105. Cathy

    I made this yesterday and really liked it. Tripled the recipe using 2 lbs ground beef, 1 lb of pork and 1 package of prosciutto chopped in the food processor. Yielded 30 large meatballs. I usually use the America Test Kitchen, Meatballs for a Crowd recipe but yours is more streamlined and quicker to put together. However I like their addition of 1 1/2 tsp of gelatin dissolved in 3 Tbsp of cold water as it seems to make the meatballs smoother and more tender, so I’ll add that to this SK recipe next time. Today I made 2 of your sour cream chocolate chip cakes to share with family hunkering down during this Covid virus. Crazy times but at least good food during them! Thanks for all your inspiration.

  106. Hannah

    I just love this. It’s simple and comforting and has been there for me when those weeknight-homemade-spaghetti-and-meatballs cravings hit. I typically have all of the ingredients and it’s such a low-stress meal. Thanks, Deb.

  107. Katie

    I made this last night (with all ground beef), and felt compelled to come here and say: it was so good and so so easy!

    I had made a meatball recipe from this site in the past (not sure which one) that involved frying the meatballs, and remember that it was both quite a long and difficult process, but also a delicious result. I told my husband I’d make it for him as a quarantine treat, and was fully prepared to spend two hours making it. We were both surprised and delighted when all was finished within 45 minutes! And much of that wasn’t even active time (e.g. *not* getting scalded by hot oil splatters). And the ingredient list was relatively simple too!

    Thanks for being awesome!

  108. Jacquie Katz

    I made this last night with red wine instead of milk and dried parsley as mine isn’t up and pretty yet-late frosts after early warm. But comfort food excellence and we will have meatball hoagies tomorrow night! Great recipe!

  109. This recipe is wonderful, our new favorite, no hours of sauce making but lots of flavor and the meatballs are lightly delightful. I used crushed tomatoes, a 28 oz. can that has basil in it. The flavor was just right. Thank you for your efforts which provided a new classic for us.

  110. TennD

    I made this last night at the request of my 9 yr old and everyone loved it. Changes I made mostly out of necessity(and so I don’t forget, not that these need any improvement!)
    -made a double meatball recipe with 1 lb ground chuck and 1lb mild italian sausage and froze half for another night. Very tasty.
    -cooked 1.5 lbs of pasta since my kids eat a ton and wanted leftovers, and added another 28oz can of diced tomatoes to to the can of crushed tomatoes and I liked having some chunks and also having leftover sauce.

  111. Kimberly

    Love this recipe! Made a double batch tonight with ground turkey, almond flour (instead of bread crumbs as a few previous commenters suggested and didn’t have bread or crumbs in house), ricotta subbed for milk, mix of parley and basil, grated fresh garlic, onion powder, red pepper flakes, freshly grated parm, and all the eggs as Deb called for. Let it set up in fridge for about 1/2 hour before dropping onto parchment lined baking sheets. Definitely a wet mix, had to drop, not roll into balls. These baked up nice in 20 minutes. I cooked Jovial Tagliatelle pasta and because I ran out of time/energy heated up a jar of Ooma Tesoro’s marinara that I doctored up with garlic, basil, an parm. Nested several meatballs into the sauce and then served all of it atop a bed of spinach. the spinach wilted from the hot pasta and sauce and our meal with a glass of red wine was divine. We’re going to freeze 1/2 of these meatballs and will see how they do when defrosted. Thanks to all commenters for inspiration and Deb’s excellent recipe.

  112. Allison

    I’m a long time reader and big fan of yours, but have never commented. I just wanted to say that my kids (age 3.5 and 2) LOVE this recipe. They ask for it all the time, and when we had it for dinner tonight, my oldest said it was so good she wanted to have it again for breakfast 😊
    We love it too, plus it’s so flexible – I’ve used milk or water, cheese or not, skipped herbs when I didn’t have any and they always come out great. Thanks for this easy, delicious, kid-pleasing meal!

  113. Mari

    I have made this perfect version and the everyday version this month. I almost didn’t make these, b/c no frying? IDK…

    But, I *LOVE* the no frying. Everybody loved them.

    My son liked these better than the everyday version (but in their defense, I was cooking in my mom’s sparsely stocked kitchen at her new place and I settled on crushing these old, oddly shaped gluten free parmesan flavored croutons for bread crumbs b/c it seemed like the best option, at the time (don’t use these odd croutons ppl) and jarred sauce.

    Back to the tomato sauce. Also a winner! I was a little suspicious of the speed and the canned tomato, but then I remembered how much I liked the Dahlia Bakery’s tomato soup recipe*, which also used canned tomato, so I went with it. *i just looked at your tomato soup recipe and now i’m going to have to try it!

  114. Kathy

    This recipe is very close to the way I make my spaghetti and meatballs. I season the breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning if I use ground sirloin and always use at least three pounds of meat (and triple the sauce too). Making enough to freeze the ‘extra’ is always a good idea!

  115. Tania

    I’m wondering if I can use jarred sauce with a little water mixed in before adding the meatballs? I know that’s probably anathema but everytime my partner goes to Costco he buys the 2 pack of Rao’s sauce whether we’re out or not (I appreciate that this is a nice problem to have) and I would like to use some up. If so, how much water? Thank you! I love your site. Recently I’ve made your turmeric turkey sheet pan and the squash and tofu and they were both a hit! Also sometimes I just click the “surprise me” button if I’m in a rut or just want to go to a calm and cozy corner of the internet :)

  116. Mark

    I fixed this for my family. Yum. My wife asked where I got the recipe. I said the “Smitten Kitten”. Kids and all looked at me suspiciously and said, “Smitten Kitten…hmmm….what’s that?” I said its a cooking website. My wife, with a smirk, then wanted to know how I stumbled upon that website. I said, defensively, that I read about it in NYTimes.

    That night I woke up and it hit me that I said it wrong — its the Smitten KITCHEN. We all had a good laugh, but sorry, from now on in my family you are the Smitten Kitten and they love when I tell them I’m cooking a Smitten Kitten recipe.

  117. Becca S

    OMG – this is the best meatballs i’ve ever made. I even used whole wheat spaghetti due to a sad health kick and it is STILL the best spaghetti and meatballs i’ve ever had.

  118. Karyn

    This was the recipe that made me a loyal follower well over 10 years ago. It transformed previously dull and flat-tasting spaghetti for me. This is still my go-to pasta sauce and meatball recipe. Thank you! Oh, and idk if you have another sauce recipe I’m used to using, or you just removed the wine from this one… but I find that to definitely elevate the flavor. Thanks for being such a great mentor in the kitchen!

  119. Seth Elgart

    I’ve made this twice now in the past few weeks and really like these meatballs. I’ve read through all the comments though and nobody’s said anything about it being a ton of pasta. Is it just me maybe? It’s supposed to be 4 servings but a whole pound of spaghetti serves 8, and that’s not even counting that you’re also having three meatballs with it. Admittedly I cheated slightly the first time I made it as I just cooked one serving of pasta because I knew I’d be vacuum sealing the rest as it was only me that time. But this second time I followed the directions exactly and it just seemed like I ended up with a ton of extra pasta. A quarter pound of pasta per person *and* three meatballs? Seems like a lot!

    Also, both times I made this I had to cook the meatballs an extra 5 minutes as they weren’t at all cooked in the center after 12 minutes. That was in two different ovens too, so it doesn’t seem like it’d be my particular oven settings.

    So I guess next time I make this I’ll cut the pasta in half and cook the meatballs for 18 minutes, but otherwise I totally love this recipe. Will definitely be in my regular rotation.

  120. Rachel Joy

    I have made these and previously Deb’s Everyday Meatballs recipe many times now. Always so very delicious, thank you Deb, for teaching me that making meatballs can be simple, is something I am capable of, and doesn’t have to take a million hours!! Also the tip on using a cookie scoop is key – time saver right there and so much less raw meat on my hands (ick)! I do prefer to use my 1.5 inch scoop for slightly smaller meatballs, but 12 minutes at 425 still is the right timing, and I even flip them over and go a few minutes extra to get the browning on another side. My husband is lactose intolerant so i 86 the cheese and use almond milk, i also usually add an extra clove of garlic each to both the meatballs and the sauce and I add an extra box of tomatoes for more sauce (we love Pomi chopped tomatoes!). My husband prefers this recipe because of the oven time for the meatballs before they go in the sauce, gives that nice browning on the outside and helps them stay together in the sauce. I love both and actually feel that the sauce turns out a bit more delicious in the Everyday Meatballs recipe since the meatballs cook right in it, but the meatballs do turn out softer. I made these last night, on a Monday to use ground beef I had in the fridge. Took longer than a Monday night dinner needs to take, but my kids chowed down and I had multiple servings and everyone was happy. Thank you Deb!

    1. Rachel Joy

      Oh! And forgot to mention I have also made these with gluten free rice bread crumbs and still delicious. So you can easily do these lactose free and gluten free and you’re not missing anything on flavor or texture. So nice to be able to make these wonders for my Celiac sisters and the lactose intolerant husband!

  121. Caroline Wallace

    Made these last night, I doubled the batch of meatballs (but I still only used 2 eggs and evaporated milk because it’s what I had). I accidentally set my oven wrong so it only heated to 350 but it was really fine, they just took a little longer to come to temp (maybe a little less browning on top). They tasted amazing, and even with the longer roast time, came together so quickly. The tomato sauce was perfect (I added a scant 1 tsp of sugar and evaporated milk because I had some left in the can). I will absolutely be making these again!

  122. Michelle

    I made this last night, and it was a hit with my super-picky family. My 8-year-old even asked me, “Can you start making this every week?” I didn’t modify the recipe at all, which is unusual for me and my urge to tweak things. Thank you!

  123. Mary Ann

    I finally made this and it is SO good, especially for the quick prep time. I used turkey for the meatballs and we loved them, and can see that this would be a great hot app for a party, without masks, next year. I used smaller scoop so the meatballs were cocktail size for us.
    I got the garlic prepped for the sauce, and realized that I don’t have any tomatoes on hand! Who runs out of tomatoes? So I used a locally made $13/jar sauce that was SOOO good and it proved itself worthy of the dish. Very satisfying meal. Thanks, Deb.

  124. Chelcy Stutzman

    If I wanted to make a double batch of the meatballs at what point should I set aside and freeze? The meatball mix before they are balled and cooked or after? Thank you!! Such a huge fan of your genius recipes!

  125. Aurora

    Oh my this was lovely. I only had a bottled sauce ( no tomatoes) but the meatballs were perfect and apparently I’ve been cooking spaghetti wrong my whole life ( even this package said cook the spaghetti with the sauce and pot water).
    Very easy and very delicious.

  126. Emily

    Thank you, thank you for this recipe. I have made it just twice but my fear of meatballs is now dispelled forever. Delicious. Don’t change a thing.

  127. Maya

    Just commenting to say I made these with beyond beef and they worked pretty well! I am not an exact recipe follower and also made them gluten free, so they were a little runny on the tray for me but still turned out well. I imagine following the recipe closely would yield even better results, so don’t be afraid to try it with vegan meat!

    1. Kate

      Thanks so much, I came here to see if anyone had tried it with Beyond or Impossible! Now I have confidence in trying. Spaghetti and meatballs is a great recipe for those tiny, expensive little packages : )

  128. AW

    I made this tonight. The meatballs themselves are very good. I used the grated onion suggestion rather than onion powder. The sauce was a little bland but I added a bit more salt, butter and garlic powder and it was much better. I’d make it again.

  129. I tried this out with just the meatballs. I gotta say I can eat just the meatballs and it would still be great! I ate them with some bread and it was delicious. Gonna try the spaghetti next

  130. Suma

    I did not realize weeknight meatballs were a possibility! Made these with turkey, decreased the milk as you suggested. They turned out great!

  131. Carla D

    I love this recipe and have made it many times. Just wanted to include my modifications to accommodate dairy-free eater in the household: I know you said you can skip Parmesan and replace milk with water, but I have usually subbed the milk with oat milk, and replaced the Parmesan with almond flour. No one ever notices or seems to care and everyone likes the finished product. I love all your recipes & blog, Deb. And the street cart chicken & rice from your Smitten Kitchen Everyday cookbook is hands-down a family favourite. 😋

  132. Elle

    Ran out of foil, so used buttered parchment. 1% milk, upped the garlic to 4 big cloves, roasted 11 minutes (ground pork from the Greenmarket). Used thin spaghetti, a big can and a half of crushed tomatoes and bumped the olive oil to 3 Tbsp, added 1 tsp of fennel seeds. Don’t skip the pepper flakes! Bumped up the salt to 1.5 tsp (and more to taste). Perfect.

  133. Claire

    This just never disappoints. Everyone clears the plate and I’m a hero for about 10 minutes of work and 45 total time in the kitchen. The family feels like they got a “Sunday supper” quality meal and I get to put my feet up. Truly a delightful recipe!!!!

  134. Karen Fischer

    Absolutely what I was looking for. Perfection! I could live with a smaller pasta to meatball ratio. Was sad to lose sauce on extra spaghetti! But that’s our house. Another fabulous recipe! Thank you! Brava!

  135. Andrea P.

    I would like to make these dairy-free/kosher, but I worry that water will be too thin. Would nut, soy, or oat milk work, or would they give an off flavor? Is there anything else that could replace the milk? Thank you!

    1. deb

      To print a recipe: There is a print icon that leads to a print template at the bottom of each recipe, where it says “DO MORE:” You can also click CTRL or ⌘ + P [on desktop] from any recipe post and it will take you to a streamlined print template.

      Other ways to print:
      File > Print on a Mac
      From the share button (the one that looks like an up-arrow coming out of a box) at the bottom of the Safari browser on an iPhone

  136. Chris

    The lightest, most tender Italian meatball ever. Growing up eating meatballs 3 times a week (yes, I’m Italian), I am accustomed to a more flavorful meatball so next time, I’ll use a bit more garlic, parsley and romano instead of parmegiano reggiano. The 2nd egg makes all the difference.

  137. Linda S

    This is now my go-to meatballs and spaghetti recipe. I double the meatballs and freeze in thirds. ASI I make with half beef and half pork and the meatballs are light and succulent. Great recipe.

  138. KP

    This recipe was delicious and makes a quick weeknight dinner (but good enough for company!) I used turkey with ricotta for the water/milk as suggested by Deb in the comments and the meatballs were flavorful and tender but held together well. As we enjoy extra sauce, next time around I’ll be doubling the tomatoes.

  139. nancy g visconti

    You are the BEST !!!!!!
    I made this with turkey & also ricotta [as suggested]. I’ve never roasted meatballs before & was anxious to try. I don’t think I’ll ever fry them again! This was DELICIOUS! I can always count on you for good results. I also own your 3 books….
    A VERY BIG fan, Nancy

  140. Caroline M Gifford

    Okay, it has probably already been commented, but here goes…
    I’m using my convection toaster oven, so decided to use a mini cupcake pan. And it worked well! Thanks for the notes and narrative, always.

  141. Laura

    Made this from the new cookbook and it was amazing. Such simple ingredients with a ton of flavour. Took about 20 minutes to cook the meatballs through completely.

  142. Katy

    I have made this with your meatballs and, when feeling lazy, have also just baked shop-bought meatballs until browned and plonked them in the sauce, which I would definitely recommend doubling. I like the texture of tinned chopped tomatoes but always add a generous squidge of tomato puree to thicken them up and avoid wateriness. A lovely quick meal.

  143. Sam

    This was great! I will be using this basic formula to make my meatballs from now on. I particularly love the trick of using onion powder instead of raw onion. Even when I grate fresh onion finely into the mix and cook them thoroughly, too often I find meatballs can have a sharp, funky raw-onion taste that overpowers them, and can get watery. These held together well, even using only one egg, and didn’t lack any onion flavor. And they were super tender!

    I diverged from the recipe in two ways: I used only the one egg in the meatballs (hey, they cost a fortune lately & I’m running low…), and I just simmered the raw meatballs in the sauce, rather than roast them. (When I’m putting them in pasta, I prefer tender meatballs without the browning. Plus I like how the fat just melts into the sauce and makes it richer.)

    And per the note, I also added the extra can of tomatoes, mostly because I needed it to cover the meatballs — then I scooped out the extra sauce before mixing the spaghetti into the pot of meatballs. The pasta didn’t need all of it. I’ll use it for something else. Shakshuka, maybe…

  144. Sam

    WOW! This was spectacular! It’s deceiving simple, tastey and so quick to come together. Normally spaghetti and meatballs seems like a pretty daunting weeknight meal but not this version! My husband is Italian and his mother is famous for her veal meatballs – these were better! And baked vs fried which we both loved! Strongly recommend trying this one!

  145. Em

    I make these meatballs once a week, no joke. I always use 1lb of ground chuck and 1lb of Italian sausage and double the rest of the ingredients. I don’t bother peeling and mincing garlic and use garlic powder instead. At this point I’ve memorized the recipe. It’s one of the few things that my kids can agree on, and it’s become a signature dish. Sometimes I make the sauce, but usually I throw in a jar of Rao’s and call it a day. This recipe has changed my life for the better. Thank you, thank you.

  146. Robyn

    Tried this recipe from your cookbook and looked it up to see if it was here so I could comment. Spaghetti usually gets a lukewarm reception at my house, and no one has ever really loved any of the meatball recipes I’ve tried. This got an enthusiastic thumbs-up all around, even from the kid who got braces today and isn’t enjoying eating. I doubled the meatballs (we like leftovers) and used a mix of turkey and beef. Served with steamed broccoli and French bread. Many thanks for a go-to spaghetti recipe worth holding onto!

  147. Kelli

    Like so many commenters, this will be my go-to spag/meatball recipe from now on. SO much better than jarred sauce, so fresh and with such simple ingredients.

    I was making a meal for a young couple that just had their first child. I doubled the recipe, as a meal to share and one for our dinner. I used a combo of beef, italian sausage and ground turkey. I made my own panko because I didn’t have any (White bread put thru the food processor and toasted). I followed the recipe, just doubling all the ingredients. Those meatballs are PERFECTION!

    Thanks for another tried and true recipe that will now be in our family’s regular rotation.

  148. Kay

    Please could we get this recipe converted to Metric? I’m planning on making them soon, can Google it obviously but I know you’re making your way through the site adding metric measurements so just thought I’d ask!