Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs, what’s there not to love? Spaghetti and meatballs has to be one of the most fun dishes ever invented, at least from a kid’s perspective. Mounds of spaghetti, fork twirling strands in a spoon, tasty meatballs, even the very serving of the spaghetti, trying to lift just the right amount from the bowl, these are some of my favorite memories from childhood.

Spaghetti and Meatballs


No, it is not an authentic Italian dish, but an American adaptation. Who cares? Certainly not I. This particular spaghetti and meatballs recipe was given to us by Rick Mindermann, of our local Italian grocery store Corti Brothers. Rick is one of these walking encyclopedias of food knowledge, whose enthusiasm for all things food and cooking is infectious.

For the following recipe, we adapted it slightly from Rick’s original, added salt to the sauce, cooked the onions before adding the garlic, but it is essentially the same recipe. We love it. My father even declared the other day that from here on out, this is how we are making meatballs.

Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6.



  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ chopped sweet yellow onion
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 cup very finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped crimini brown mushrooms
  • 2 28-oz cans Italian plum tomatoes (get San Marzano brand if possible)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste concentrate in tube
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan-romano cheese blend
  • Salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
  • ¼ cup red wine


  • 1 lb ground beef (at least 16% fat)
  • ½ lb fresh bulk Italian style pork sausage
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ½ cup finely chopped crimini brown mushrooms
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan-romano cheese blend
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Red wine


  • 1 1/2 lbs dry 100% semolina spaghetti, thin spaghetti, or bucatini


1 Prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil in 4-5 quart pot on medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add carrots and mushrooms, blend together for 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, stir together. Add basil and parsley, stir tomatoes with a potato masher until sauce starts to thicken about 5 minutes over medium high heat. Add tomato paste concentrate, stir to blend. Reduce heat and simmer while preparing meat balls, stirring occasionally.

2 Prepare the meatballs. Mix by hand in a large bowl beef, Italian sausage, basil, parsley, mushrooms, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, herbed salt, and pepper until well mixed. Use small melon baller, or teaspoons to form 1-inch round meat balls. Roll and compress into tight balls.

3 Heat frying pan on high heat. Add olive oil. Sear and brown meat balls on all sides. About 2-3 minutes. Depending on pan size you may need to brown two batches of the meatballs. Do not crowd the pan by stacking the meatballs. Cook in a single layer. Do not over-cook. As meatballs are finishing, add a little bit of red wine to de-glaze pan.

4 Add ¼ cup red wine to the sauce. Then stir in ¼ cup cheese. Add salt to taste. Add meatballs, gently stir. Simmer sauce and meatballs for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5 While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot with 4 quarts of water in it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add 1 Tbsp of salt. When the water returns to a boil add the pasta to the pot. Leave the pot uncovered while you cook the pasta on high heat with a vigorous boil. Put a timer on for 8-10 minutes, or whatever your pasta package directions say is appropriate for al dente (cooked but still a little firm). Drain.

To serve, place thin layer of sauce on plate, add pasta, add sauce and meatballs, sprinkle with grated parmesan-romano cheese.

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Showing 4 of 39 Comments

  • meg

    This looks absolutely delicious! Would it taste ok to use a ground sirloin or even ground turkey? Thank you for all your wonderful ideas!

    Rick’s original recipe actually calls for USDA prime ground beef. Sirloin tends to be lean, so if you can get prime sirloin, that would be better. Regarding ground turkey, you can use that too, it just won’t taste quite the same. Recipes are only guidelines, use what you want. ~Elise

  • Andy

    I agree that spaghetti and meatballs are great. I use a recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook which is incredible. It starts off with white sandwich bread and buttermilk. I am not sure if that is the key or not, but they are delicious.

  • Lisa_S.

    Ok, I’ll admit it, I lived off of spaghetti and salads my 4 years of college. It was the only palatable meal the dining hall served. And I managed my weight pretty well on the spaghetti diet too. [And I was never low on lycopene ;-) ]

    Irony: the banner ads on the page is an ad for Ragu. Why, after reading the recipe, would anyone run out and buy jarred sauce?

    Hey, don’t forget to toss in some kalamatas into the sauce – or green queens too.

    And if you have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, the “RVSA Slicer/Shredder Attachment for Stand Mixers” makes the BEST Parm/Romano brick cheese grater. Buy the brick cheese at Sam’s Club/Costco etc., and grate as needed. It beats those little cheese graters that give you carpal tunnel syndrome by the end of dinner.

    Hi Lisa, I think the most convenient tool for grating hard cheese is a Microplane grater. They make them in a size for zesting and also a larger size for cheese. Incredibly easy. No carpel tunnel. ~Elise

  • Amy C

    Yum. I make a similar spaghetti sauce – except that I add the tomato paste at the beginning and “fry” it in the olive oil after the mushrooms and onions have softened a bit. For some reason, this seems to give the sauce a nice depth.

    Oh, I also add a pinch of sugar…it’s really good!

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