Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

With the mercury falling faster than the stock market, I decided to bridge the gap between summer salad and winter braise using the last batch of tomatoes ripened under the waning summer sun to make spaghetti and meatballs. As usual when I’m making an old favorite, I went searching through my archives to see how I’d made them the last time. But when the search returned zero results, I realized that I hadn’t posted a spaghetti and meatballs recipe. Could it be that I’d gone over four years without once making one of my all-time favorite dishes?

My lazy Sunday supper suddenly turned into an exercise in measuring, tasting, adjusting and photographing, a process I always go through when developing a recipe for this blog but one I’d hoped to avoid this Sunday. Thankfully all that effort was not spent in vain as this is probably the best version of spaghetti and meatballs I’ve ever made!

Now words like “best” are so subjective I should probably qualify it with what I value in a good meatball. For me, meatballs should be melt-in-your-mouth tender yet chock full of meaty flavor. Gently kissed with the verdant flavor of herbs and coated in a sweet sun-ripened tomato sauce, meatballs should never be greasy or heavy.

Italian meatballs

I knew that adding ricotta and bread crumbs make meatballs more tender, but because both are nearly flavorless, they tend to dilute the flavor of the meat. That’s why I like to add some sautéed onions, garlic and tomatoes as well as a generous helping of parmesan cheese to give these meatballs some ummph.

Fried Meatballs

Browning them in a frying pan, then preparing the sauce in the same pan incorporates the flavorful brown fond that develops in the pan as the meatballs fry. Simmering them with fresh tomatoes and onions not only helps distribute the flavors between the meat and the sauce, it also renders them tender enough to eat without a knife. Lastly I like boiling the noodles a little on the first side and combining them with the sauce so some of the sauce soaks into every strand of spaghetti.

Equipment you'll need:

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs
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A lighter take on the classic, with moist, tender meatballs and a tangy tomato sauce enveloping each strand of spaghetti.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Print Recipe
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 10
Rating: 4.1
Rate this recipe!
A lighter take on the classic, with moist, tender meatballs and a tangy tomato sauce enveloping each strand of spaghetti.
Servings Prep Time
people 20minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
people 20minutes
Cook Time
  • 1/2 medium onion minced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 340 grams beef - ground
  • 170 grams pork - ground
  • 110 grams ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup panko Japanese breadcrumbs
  • 25 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano grated
  • 3 sprigs thyme - fresh stems removed and minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley chopped
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 large onion minced
  • 4 cups tomatoes peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey optional
  • parlsey minced for garnish
  • 450 grams dry spaghetti or your favorite pasta
  1. For the meatballs, fry the onions and garlic in olive oil until tender and starting to brown. Add the tomatoes then continue frying until there is no liquid left in the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, add the beef, pork, ricotta, egg, bread crumbs, parmesan, thyme, parsley, soy sauce, salt and pepper along with the tomato and onion mixture. Put some gloves on and use your hands to knead the mixture together until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  3. Use your hands to roll the meat into 1 1/2" balls. The mixture will be pretty loose, so if you have trouble forming it into balls, put it in the fridge for a bit to stiffen up.
  4. Heat a frying pan up over medium high heat, then add 2 tablespoons of oil. Fry the meatballs in batches, gently rolling them around with tongs to maintain their shape until browned on all sides.
  5. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil then sauté the garlic and onions until translucent. The browned meat juices on the bottom of the pan is where the sauce get's its flavor, so be sure to scrape those up and into the onions. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf and salt then bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add honey if it's too tart or you want it sweeter.
  6. Add the meatballs into the tomato sauce along with any collected juices. Turn the heat down to low and gently simmer until the sauce is thick and the meatballs are tender (about 20-30 minutes)
  7. Boil some spaghetti al dente according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, then toss the pasta together with the sauce. Plate the spaghetti, then top each serving with meatballs, minced parsley and parmesan cheese.

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  • Rosa May

    So scrumptious looking! That is one of my favorite pasta dishes.



  • leaf (the indolent cook)

    Gorgeous photos as always… I was thinking about how tender those meatballs looked, even before I read your post.

  • Laura @MotherWouldKnow

    Hmm – ricotta cheese and soy sauce, two ingredients I haven’t used in mine. I am on a quest for the absolute best meatballs, so I’m game to try these. And if I wasn’t going to before I saw the pics, I certainly would now.  Here’s the recipe I used most recently – it came out wonderfully.  I think I’ll do a batch of each and have a “meatball-off” (like a bake-off, only better!)

  • Jcarden

    WOW!!!  I am DEFINITELY going to make your spaghetti and meatballs recipe this coming weekend!  It sounds insanely delicious!  And your photography is incredible, Marc!!

  • Mjskit

    Your meatballs sounds and look absolutely DELICIOUS and your sauce is so simple and tasty.  Love this recipe!  I just want to pick one of those meatballs right out of the bowl and eat it! :)

  • Janet @Gourmet Traveller 88

    I did not know adding ricotta will make the meatballs more tender, thx for the tip. Got a toddler at home, this is a perfect meal for whole family, will definitely try : )

  • Laura Rees

    that makes me seriously hungry for meatballs!

  • sherri@crunchtimefood

    Marc, found your site on foodgawker.  I think I could make your non recipes often because they seem loaded with flavor that didn’t come from a slab of butter or an urn of sugar.  Green food we want to eat.  Love the food attitude too.  

  • startcooking

    Meatballs look great!  The combination of pork and beef really adds to the flavor.  For super tender meatballs, I usually add bit of veal as well.  Plus fresh bread crumbs not dried, makes a huge difference.
    BTW KJ is supposed to be posting the Fish and Corn Pudding recipe – can’t wait!

  • joomla templates

    This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last week.

  • Calvin Lam

    Love your tips for making great meatballs. It’s easy to see why it ranks as one of your favorite dishes. You should definitely make it more often! I think that sometimes we neglect making our favorite dishes, because we take them for granted; they’ll always be there after our latest failure or triumph in the kitchen. Of course, once you make them it’s like reuniting with an old friend (didn’t mean for this to come out sappy).  

  • Oui, Chef

    Love the idea of adding ricotta to the meatballs….brilliant!

  • Heather Scholten

    Drooling Marc.  I have a serious love affair with meatballs.  When they are made properly they are, succulent and delicate.  Ok, I’m dying.  

  • Yuki

    This looks wonderful, I’m already convinced the flavors are rich. I do keep wondering often through, and this goes for any recipes that combine two or more different kind of meat. Is it the difference in flavor of meat ( in this case ground pork and beef) that makes the dish better tasting? Sometimes cooking different kind of meat in once dish makes me think that it wouldn’t be good for digestion. I should mention though that I am absolutely tempted to try this out.

  • Christina

    Marc, does your blog site have a print option that I’m not finding?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Nope sorry, it’s been a requested feature, but making a print option is a little more complicated than it sounds because I have to go back and change the format of 600 recipes. For now, your best bet is to cut and paste the recipe into Notepad or Word.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I just found a plugin that automatically formats the post for printing. There should now be a print button at the top right of every post. 

      • Jason Ricketts

        Did you disable the plugin? I’m not seeing the button anywhere on the page.

  • essay writing

    great post!

  • makaaiko

    i love spaghetti and meatballs, and will try your recipe. we just went to a tsukune-ya last night and was wondering what you thought of adding yamaimo to (spaghetti) meatballs to make them moist and tender? let us know if you try it out. :)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      That’s a great idea! I often add yamaimo to okonomiyaki and even bread to add more moisture, so I imagine it would work pretty well in meatballs as well.

  • Moviegirl03

    I made this for a recipe swap, it was fantastic.  Thanks!

  • ItalianCook

    Add some tomato sauce to the sauce recipe plus basil and oregano.  It doesn’t taste Italian otherwise.

  • crazycooks

    please approximate pasta in grams used for this dish. new to cooking as i am, i don’t always get the pasta-sauce ratio right. would really like to try this recipe. thanks =)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I just took a look at the back of a package of pasta and it says a “serving size” is 60 grams of dry uncooked pasta, so just multiply it by the number of people you want to feed taking into account the peoples appetites (make more if they eat more than the average person, less if they eat less).

      • crazycooks

        Braved doing the pasta before your reply and it was yummy enough with a batch of the sauce recipe to 400g pasta. A little patience would have made it yummier. I get it now. A redo is in order. =} Meatball recipe was/is delish by the way. Thank you for posting this recipe. =)

  • Ernest

    Marc, these meatballs are ridiculous. And if you hide some anchovy fillets in the tomato sauce you end up with something special.

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  • Ethnic Food

    Meatballs and spaghetti are healthy snacks. I love to savour them with my family. Thanks for the post

  • Faye

    Does the mixture make the meatballs moist!

  • Grace

    This recipe is the best! I did not have any ricotta on hand, so I substituted with tofu (squeezed in a cheesecloth to get all the water out) but it still turned out amazing! The whole family loved it, the kids especially. Thanks Marc! I love all the recipes I have tried on your site.

  • doerp

    Is it possible to use canned tomatoes?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hi doerp, yes absolutely. One 28 ounce can should be enough.

  • Deborah Lee Proaño

    I cooked this for my visiting cousin and her son. They loved it! My husband said this tasted like a $25 plate of meatball spaghetti from a fancy restaurant. :)

  • Effie

    I love you.


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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