Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

This recipe for Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs is slow cooked to ensure the complexity and depth of flavor. This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd or to save for other meals.

Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

I have eaten this meal countless times in my life. There are pictures of me in my high chair eating this Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs, with half the dinner on my face. This is one of my all time favorite meals. And not only because it tastes so good, but it reminds me of my childhood. I drank a glass of milk with my spaghetti and meatballs until my teens just because I always had.

I call this pasta recipe Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs because my great-grandparents were from Genoa, Italy and this recipe was inspired by them. My great-grandmother taught my grandmother how to make Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs who then taught my mother, who then taught me.  It’s hard to say if this recipe is identical to the one my great-grandmother made in Genoa but it’s wonderfully delicious all the same.

Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

Traditionally, my great-grandmother referred to this meal as gravy and meatballs, she never used the term sauce or tomato sauce. I’ve researched this a bit and apparently it is an eternal debate as to whether or not the correct term is gravy or sauce. Italian immigrants seemed to use both terms and there’s been a lot of discussion as to who is right. It seems we’ll never know!

Now that you’ve had a little history of the recipe, let me tell you what makes this spaghetti and meatballs stand out from the rest.

First off, it’s slow cooked. From the browning of the meat, to the cooking of the onions to the simmering of the sauce, every step is slow cooked. This cooking method ensures the complexity and depth of flavor. It also makes the sauce kid friendly as the slow cooking method makes ingredients, such as onions, almost disappear. I remember my mom spent quite some time finely chopping the onions and slow cooking them to ensure that they disappeared in the sauce. But every now and then I’d spot one and push it to the side of my plate. Kids can be so silly!

Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

Here’s the other neat thing about this version of Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs – the meatballs are cooked the traditional way, in the sauce. I promise you; once you cook meatballs in your sauce you will never again do it any other way. When a meatball cooks this way it becomes one with the sauce. The end result is a moist meatball with all the depth of flavor of the spaghetti sauce.

I serve spaghetti and meatballs topped with a little parmesan cheese and sometimes alongside a salad and some garlic bread, but it’s also great just on its own. Be prepared, this recipe makes a lot of sauce. That’s one part of the recipe that was passed down throughout the generations, because if you’re going to spend hours making a meal you might as well have lots of leftovers. And with this spaghetti and meatballs you have many options for leftovers – meatball sandwiches, lasagna, stuffed shells, or you can just freeze it for another day. But I think my favorite way will always be the classic, there is something about twirling spaghetti noodles around my fork that’ll always make me happy.

Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven | Rachael Ray Spoons |

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Italian spaghetti and meatballs

If you love Italian food, check out some of these recipes:

Chicken Parmesan

Red Pepper and Garlic Penne Pasta

Easy Marinara Sauce

Roasted Broccolini Risotto

Cauliflower Pesto Pizza

Print Recipe
Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs
This recipe for Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs is slow cooked to ensure the complexity and depth of flavor. This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd or to save for other meals.
Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs
Course Dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Sauce
Meatballs
Course Dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Sauce
Meatballs
Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs
Instructions
Sauce
  1. Grind the oregano, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and fennel with a mortar and pestle.
  2. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over low-medium heat and add one pound hamburger meat and the grinded spices and salt and pepper.
  3. Slowly brown the meat, occasionally stirring, for about 15 minutes. During this time make the meatballs. Recipe follows.
  4. Add the onion and garlic and cook another 15 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent.
  5. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, meatballs and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn to low heat. Cook for 2-2 ½ hours, stirring halfway through. Serve on top of spaghetti noodles and topped with fresh parmesan cheese.
Meatballs- makes 15-20 small meatballs
  1. In a large bowl whisk the egg, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, basil, salt and pepper.
  2. Add 1 pound hamburger meat, parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Use hands to combine and roll into 15-20 small balls. Be careful not to over work the meat, it’ll result in a tough meatball.
Recipe Notes

I always use 7 percent hamburger meat, preferably grass-fed. A higher percentage of fat will make the sauce greasy and any lower and your meatballs will be tough and your sauce not as flavorful.

You can substitute fresh parmesan cheese for the dried just use ¼ cup more breadcrumbs.

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