We never had spaghetti and meatballs at my house growing up. My Mom had a meat sauce recipe from her Grandmother and that was the staple in our house. Rob grew up with spaghetti and meatballs. I’m pretty sure spaghetti and meatballs is the first meal I ever ate that my mother-in-law prepared. If you know Rob, you can ask him about disappearing meatballs the first time I ate with his family. 🙂
So obviously I had to learn to make meatballs. This recipe started from my mother-in-law’s recipe, but I have tweaked it a bit over the years.
This recipe makes approximately 32 meatballs; enough to serve 6 – 8 people depending on the portion size. I generally make all the meatballs and freeze half of them for another day. Then use half the meatballs, 1 quart Marinara Sauce and 1/2 pound of spaghetti to make enough for 4 – 5 people. The meatballs can be used for a meatball sandwich, halved and put on pizza, or even halved and layered into lasagna. I’m sure there are many other ways they could be used.
3/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1 pound ground round (or ground sirloin)
1/2 pound Italian sausage (sweet or spicy depending on your preference)
2 quarts (8 cups) of Marinara Sauce or store bought marinara sauce
1 pound spaghetti or pasta of your choice
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
- Place the dried bread crumbs and the milk in a large bowl. Mix these together with a rubber spatula and set aside to allow the milk to be absorbed by the bread crumbs.
- Place the onions, carrots, and parsley in a blender or small food processor. Pulse the vegetables and parsley several times, scraping down the sides of the blender or processor between pulses. You are going for a finely chopped mixture. Add the egg and Worcestershire sauce to the vegetable and herb mix. Pulse several more times. You are looking for a smooth paste with flecks of green and orange.
- Add the beef and sausage to the bowl with the bread crumbs and milk. Be sure to break up the sausage as you add it to the bowl since it tends to stick together. Add the mixture onion and carrot mixture, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to the same bowl. Gently mix all of this together using the rubber spatula or your hands. Don’t overwork the mixture. It will make for a tough meatball. Ideally, I like to let this sit for 20 – 30 minutes at this point and then mix again. You want everything to be mixed and melded together, but not compacted.
- I prefer to bake my meatballs instead of fry them. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking tray with a non-stick cooking mat (Silpat), parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
- Now you need to make the meatballs. I use a #40 disher (also known as a medium cookie scoop). It helps to get the meatballs an equal size. If you don’t have a scoop, just use a spoon to portion out the meatballs. I fill the scoop and level it off and place each scoop of meatball on the prepared baking tray. This recipe makes approximately 32 medium meatballs. Once all the meatballs are in measured out on the tray, dampen your hands and roll each meatball into a smooth round shape. You will need to rewet your hands after every 3 or 4 meatballs.
- Bake the meatballs in the preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes. They will be starting to brown on the top and just cooked through. Remove the meatballs to a paper towel lined plate to drain a bit.
- Heat the Marinara Sauce in a large Dutch oven or other non-reactive pot over low heat until it is simmering. Be sure the Dutch oven or pot is large enough to hold the sauce and the meatballs. Once the sauce is simmering, remove two cups of the sauce and set aside. Carefully add the meatballs to the barely simmering remaining sauce. You don’t want these beauties to break apart. Allow the meatballs to simmer in the sauce for 20 – 30 minutes.
- Cook spaghetti according to package directions. When the spaghetti is al dente, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti. Return the pasta to the pasta cooking pot. Put the pot over low heat. Add the reserved 2 cups of sauce to the pasta and mix so that all the pasta is coated in sauce. If you need to, add some of the reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce so that all the pasta is coated.
- You have options at this point.
First option and probably my favorite is to serve this dish from the stove for each individual. Place some sauced pasta in an individual’s pasta bowl or plate. Allow the individual to decide how many meatballs they would like and add the meatballs and some extra sauce the the individual’s serving.
Your second option is to put the sauced pasta in a large serving bowl and then top the pasta with the remaining sauce and meatballs. Then bring this serving bowl to the table and let everyone serve themselves.
The third option is that you can carefully add all the meatballs and sauce to the pot with the pasta and gently mix everything together. This can be cumbersome if you are doing the entire recipe; easier if using half the meatballs, sauce, and pasta. Then you can pour all this mixture into a large serving bowl, serve from this pot at the table, or serve individual bowls from the pot at the stove.
- No matter how you serve this dish, be sure to top this with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.