Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is Sundays at my Nana’s house. It’s family. It’s memories. As you can tell, it evokes a lot in me! She would grind her own meat to make the meatballs and painstakingly cook all day before we would come. My version this week was a pared down, simpler version of her magic that was put together quickly and left to cook for a few hours instead of working all day! I made the meatballs first.

The key to juicy meatballs was to use a panada instead of breadcrumbs. A panada is just a fancy word for soaking bread in milk and it makes all the difference in the world. I also had a sneaky trick for adding more flavor. I browned the meatballs in bacon fat that I had reserved after cooking bacon over the weekend!
The key to juicy meatballs was to use a panada instead of breadcrumbs. A panada is just a fancy word for soaking bread in milk and it makes all the difference in the world. I also had a sneaky trick for adding even more flavor. I browned the meatballs in bacon fat that I had reserved after cooking bacon over the weekend!
Browning the meatballs in the pot also set down a great flavor base for the sauce of the spaghetti and meatballs. Once I had the sauce simmering, the meatballs went back in and just let it go for 3 hours. The smell in the house was to die for!
Browning the meatballs in the pot also set down a great flavor base for the sauce of the spaghetti and meatballs. Once I had the sauce simmering, the meatballs went back in and just let it go for 3 hours. The smell in the house was to die for!
The key to the spaghetti was to salt the water well before putting it in to cook. That way it could just absorb all of that flavor. I also used one of my favorite pasta tricks in the book. I scooped 1/4 cup of that starchy, salty water and added it to the sauce! It thinned it out a little and added another dimension of flavor.
The key to the spaghetti was to salt the water well before putting it in to cook. That way it could just absorb all of that flavor. I also used one of my favorite pasta tricks in the book. I scooped 1/4 cup of that starchy, salty water and added it to the sauce! It thinned it out a little and added another dimension of flavor.
This sight was glorious to me. A big, beautiful pot of spaghetti and meatballs that was all tossed together and ready to serve! It meant I got to eat!
This sight was glorious to me. A big, beautiful pot of spaghetti and meatballs that was all tossed together and ready to serve! It meant I got to eat!

The meatballs were so tender from cooking in the sauce for hours, and they also flavored the sauce so much. It was a beautiful symbiotic relationship! One bite and I was back in my Nana’s house. It made me miss her a whole lot. I hope you all enjoy this family classic! xoxo

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs
5 from 2 votes
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
3 hrs
Total Time
3 hrs 30 mins
 

It does not get much better or more classic than a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. This is a family recipe staple that is so incredible!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Spaghetti, Spaghetti and Meatballs
Servings: 6
Calories: 597 kcal
Author: Jeanie and Lulu's Kitchen
Ingredients
FOR THE MEATBALLS
  • 2 slices whole grain bread cubed small
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat reserved from cooked bacon made earlier
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
FOR THE SAUCE
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 whole onion peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil packed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes 28 oz size
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • freshly grated pecorino romano cheese as needed for sprinkling on top
Instructions
  1. First, make the meatballs. Combine the cubed bread and milk in a small bowl and set it aside. Let the bread absorb the milk for 5 minutes to make a panada. Meanwhile add the beef, pecorino romano, egg, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to a large mixing bowl. Squeeze the excess milk out of the bread when it is done sitting and add it to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix everything together thoroughly with clean hands.
  2. Take a small handful of the mixture and roll it into a meatball about the size of your palm. Repeat until the mixture is all used up and you have about 16 meatballs. Get out a large dutch oven and heat both the bacon fat and olive oil in it over medium high heat. Brown the meatballs in two batches so that the pan isn't over crowded. They need to cook for about 2 minutes on each side to just get brown. They do not need to cook through at this point. When they are done, remove them to a plate.
  3. While the meatballs cook, start on the sauce. Set up a food processor and combine the grape tomatoes, garlic, onion and basil in its bowl. Puree it until smooth. Set it aside. When the meatballs are all browned, remove them to a plate, drain off most of the grease and get the pot back onto the heat. Pour the aromatic puree into the pot and let it cook for a couple of minutes to bring out its flavor. Stir in the tomato paste and let it cook for another minute. Pour in the wine and let it cook off for another minute. Then finally pour in the crushed tomatoes and oregano and give the sauce a good stir. Return the meatballs back in. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Let the sauce cook for 3 hours, stirring it occasionally.
  4. When the sauce is almost done, get a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Salt it generously. Cook the spaghetti just until it is tender for about 8 minutes. While it cooks, reserve 1/4 cup of the starchy, salty cooking water and stir it into the sauce. When the spaghetti is done, scoop it right out of the water into the pot of sauce. Toss it all together well and then take the pot off of the heat. Scoop the pasta and meatballs into pretty bowls and top them with more pecorino romano on top. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Nutrition Facts
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
Calories 597 Calories from Fat 179
% Daily Value*
Fat 19.9g31%
Saturated Fat 7.3g46%
Cholesterol 63mg21%
Sodium 389mg17%
Potassium 510mg15%
Carbohydrates 74.8g25%
Fiber 6.1g25%
Sugar 9.4g10%
Protein 22.1g44%
Calcium 180mg18%
Iron 5.2mg29%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs

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16 thoughts on “Spaghetti and Meatballs”

  1. Made this for the first time today. My “hobby” is cooking. I love trying new recipes. This one was exceptional!!!! Not a disappointer. Don’t be impatient and rush it. It is well worth the time and effort! So often, I try what I think will be a great recipe and I’m let down. Not here. Beautiful story to go along with a beautiful and flavorful dinner. Thanks for sharing your story with me. That makes it even better. Again, truly authentic flavor and a keeper for sure!
    Rebecca

      1. You are so welcome!!! It’s just me and my husband, so we have leftovers. I’m a believer in vacuum sealing and freezing. We love being able to pull great dishes out of the freezer on week nights. Thanks again!!! Absolutely beautiful!! Rebecca

  2. What are your thoughts on using San Marzano tomatoes instead of crushed? Is crushed better? I have been on a quest for the perfect sauce for 20+ years…

    1. Oh, San Marzano tomatoes would be amazing in this recipe as well. Just be careful to get the cans (or the fresh ones if they’re in season) that are imported from the actual San Marzano region in Italy versus California or somewhere else because there is a big difference. I happened to make this when I couldn’t find San Marzano tomatoes at all and the crushed to me worked just fine.

  3. My Italian grandmother was an expert spaghetti and meatballs maker, and some of her tricks are in this recipe! I guess adding some of the starchy water to the tomato sauce isn’t a top-secret family tradition. ?

  4. This is one of my kids favorite meals! Those meatballs look like they would be amazing. I always just ground hamburger in my sauce.

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