Spaghetti and Meatballs

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| Cuisine of The United States | Pasta Recipes
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Category: pasta recipes
Servings: 8
Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy

Most food historians agree that the union of spaghetti with meatballs is an American culinary invention with Italian roots.

According to Alton Brown, early 20th-century Italian immigrants in New York City were the first to make these dishes. However, food critic and author Kyle Phillips says he has found evidence to the contrary.

"...though Spaghetti with meatballs are rare in Italy there are Italian precursors: I have had spaghetti with tiny meatballs in Puglia, Pino Correnti (a Sicilian cuisine expert) notes that meatballs were a common addition to feast day pasta sauces in Sicily, and Ada Boni gives a recipe for pasta with meatballs in [her book] Il Talismano della Felicità"[1]

In the vast majority of cases, however, Old World-Italian cuisine calls for mixing heavy meat sauces with fettuccine and tagliatelle but not spaghetti.[2]




  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 gallons (5.76 liters) of water
  • 1 pound (454 grams) dry spaghetti



  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1 small, finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) beef, stock (available on soup aisle in market in small paper boxes)
  • 28 ounces (794 grams) crushed tomatoes
  • A handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 10 leaves fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced


  1. Fill your largest pot with one and a half gallons of water along with three tablespoons of salt. Place it over high heat on the stove.
  2. Combine ground meat, bread crumbs, grated cheese, minced parsley and lightly beaten eggs (add eggs one at a time while stirring ingredients together). Sprinkle with minced garlic, two tablespoons of olive oil and seasonings. Then mix well until everything is combined.
  3. Form meat mixture into meatballs, using an ice cream scoop or your hands, pressing lightly, just enough so that meat holds together, but not so much that the meat is very compressed or the meatballs will be tough and dry.
  4. In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Add whole garlic cloves. Turn the garlic cloves to color them on all sides, then when lightly roasted, press them into the oil; as they brown, remove them.
  5. As soon as the oil is hot, add the meatballs to the skillet, leaving about one and a half inches between them so that they can be easily turned. Turn them often using a spatula or large spoon so that they don't stick. Make sure there is enough oil in the pan (about one half inch). You don't need extra virgin olive oil for this, any good quality Italian olive oil will do.
  6. When the meatballs are browned well on all sides, remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Then add the next batch to the pan and continue until all are cooked.
  7. Add the pasta to the water now boiling in your pot and cook until al dente. This should take about 12 minutes.
  8. Add pepper flakes, garlic and finely chopped onion in the same oil you used to cook the meatballs. Sauté five to seven minutes, until onion bits are soft. Add beef stock, crushed tomatoes, and herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
  9. Toss hot, drained pasta with a few ladles of the sauce. Turn meatballs in remaining sauce.
  10. Place pasta on dinner plates. Top with meatballs, sauce and extra grated cheese.


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