The Best Damn Spaghetti & Meatballs… Period!
The ultimate meatballs, made from both beef and pork and flavored with onion, garlic, chilies, oregano, and fennel seed, are simmered in the perfect San Marzano tomato sauce before being tossed with spaghetti for the ultimate in Italian comfort food—Piatto ricco, mi ci ficco!
Servings Prep Time
8 – 10 30minutes
Cook Time
About 1 hour 30 mins
Servings Prep Time
8 – 10 30minutes
Cook Time
About 1 hour 30 mins
For the Meatballs:
For the Sauce:
To Serve:
  1. Fill a large pot of water, cover and place over high heat for the pasta.
  2. Start by adding the olive oil, garlic, minced or grated onion, oregano, chili flakes and ground fennel seed from the meatball ingredients in a small pan. Turn the heat on low, sprinkle in a little salt and cook on very low until the onions softened and kind of melt into the oil – about 8 – 10 minutes. Let this cool once it’s done.
  3. Pour the pan mix into a large bowl, add in the egg and whisk to combine. Beat in the parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano and remaining salt.
  4. Once all that is combined, plunk in the ground meats and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs. Use either your hands or a fork, just make sure you don’t over mix the meat. For this reason I prefer to start with a fork, breaking up everything and fluffing it as you would steamed white rice until its about 75% mixed. Finish it off with your hands to make sure it’s evenly mixed. This ensures evenly mixed meatballs that aren’t overly compacted.
  5. I usually use a 3/4oz (1-1/2 tablespoon) ice cream scoop to portion these out before rolling them by hand. If memory serves, I think I usually get about 60 meatballs with this size. However, if you like large sized meatballs feel free to make them bigger—just plan on a little longer cooking time. I prefer smaller ones because I think their texture is much better and they cook more evenly.
  6. Fry the meatballs, in batches, in a Dutch oven, which you’ll make the sauce and return all the meatballs to for final simmering in, with a thin layer of regular olive oil. They really just need to be deeply seared on all sides. They will probably start to flatten a little on a few sides as you fry them so once they’re all mostly seared start stirring them around to get them rolling. Once you’ve done this remove them all to a plate and set aside.
  7. Pour out the oil from the meatball pan and discard.
  8. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan with the minced onion. Turn the heat on low and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the onions softened completely and resemble a sort of jam without being caramelized.
  9. Add the garlic, dried oregano, chili flakes, sugar and tomato paste and turn up the heat, stirring to break up the paste and melt it into the oil. Cook for just a minute or two, stirring frequently to melt the tomato paste but making sure the onions and garlic don’t burn.
  10. Add the wine and let it bubble up, stirring it into the pastey onion mixture and scraping up any bits of the meatballs that had browned and adhered to the pan. Dump the tomatoes in a large bowl and squish them with your hands, removing any under ripe or hard bits from the tomatoes as you do so. Pour in the San Marzanos, juice and all, to the pot.
  11. Stir to combine and add the meatballs back to the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook on low for 15-20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. You could simmer for up to 30 minutes or so but I wouldn’t go beyond that, otherwise you run the risk of the tomatoes loosing their flavor, and that’s the point of using San Marzanos.
  12. While the sauce and meatballs simmer, add a ridiculous amount of salt to the boiling water. Drop in the pasta and cook to the package instructions for al dente. Before draining off the pasta water, reserve about 1 cup’s worth of the starchy pasta water. You wont need anywhere near all of it but better to have too much than not enough. Drain the pasta, drizzle sparingly with olive oil and toss to coat.
  13. Add a little of the pasta water to the sauce if its thickened too much. Start with a tablespoon or two and go up from there, otherwise you’ll have to wait for the sauce to reduce down again if it’s too thinned out. You want the sauce to be, well, saucey – enough to cover the pasta but viscous enough to coat and stick to it and not run straight off it and pool on the bottom of the plate.
  14. This is best family-style, with all the pasta on a huge, wide and deep serving platter or bowl, tossed with just enough of the sauce to coat the pasta well, and topped with the remaining sauce and meatballs.
  15. Either chop some fresh parsley or tear some basil leaves and throw over top and bring to the table, immediately, with a giant chuck of Parmesan for everyone to cheese up to their heart’s content.
Recipe Notes
  • If you’re not using any wine, which is totally fine, just add a little water to the pan to help liquidate the tomato paste so it incorporates into the sauce evenly. I think that I actually prefer the sauce without the wine because it keeps it simple, letting the flavor of San Marzanos shine through.
  • You can make everything in advance, save the pasta, and just reheat over medium-low to low heat until it’s warmed through. Then carry on with the pasta.

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