My Recipe Box

Spaghetti and Meatballs


Serves 6 to 8

Plenty of oregano and a touch of fennel makes these tender meatballs super flavorful. This recipe uses a higher proportion of pork than beef or veal in the meatballs because it gives the best texture, but meatloaf mix—equal parts beef, veal, and pork—is an easy-to-find substitute.

For the sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped (1-1/2 cups)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dry oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 26- to 28-oz. containers diced tomatoes, preferably Pomì brand
  • Kosher salt
For the meatballs
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 8 oz. ground pork
  • 6 oz. 80% lean ground beef
  • 6 oz. ground veal
  • 1 cup coarse fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 tsp. dry oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground fennel seed
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
For the pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 lb. dried spaghetti
Make the sauce

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-duty 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft, 6 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until darkened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce has reduced by about a third, 40 to 60 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and season to taste with salt. Keep warm, covered. (The sauce can also be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for 1 month.)

Make the meatballs

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Coat the bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch baking dish with the olive oil. Set aside.

Combine the ground meats, breadcrumbs, ricotta, eggs, parsley, oregano, fennel seed, red pepper flakes, and 2 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands.

Divide the meat into 16 golf-ball-size portions using a 2-oz., 2-inch-diameter ice cream scoop or your hands; roll with wet hands to make them round. Arrange the balls snugly in the baking dish.

Bake the meatballs until they register about 90°F on an instant-read thermometer and are firm to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. (If you’ve made the tomato sauce ahead, heat it while the meatballs are cooking.)

Remove the meatballs from the oven and drain excess fat, if there is any, from the pan. Ladle half of the sauce over them, return them to the oven, and continue to bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into one reads 165°F, about 15 minutes. (The meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 2 weeks.)

Cook the pasta

Bring a large covered pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil.

Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes less than package timing for al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water and drain.

Return the pasta to the pot and mix with the remaining sauce. Add 1 cup pasta water to thin the sauce and cook over medium heat until the pasta is al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Add more pasta water if necessary, and season to taste with salt.

Transfer the spaghetti to a large heated serving bowl. Top with the meatballs and their sauce and serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 660, Fat (kcal): 28, Fat Calories (g): 250, Saturated Fat (g): 7, Protein (g): 29, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 16, Carbohydrates (mg): 72, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 3, Sodium (g): 810, Cholesterol (g): 95, Fiber (g): 7,

Photo: Scott Phillips

excellent - delicious! instead of adding the spaghetti to the sauce, I kept it separate and used another tablespoon of paste to help thicken the remaining sauce. I also added a cup of shredded parmesan to the meatball mix.

Delicious! This always gets rave reviews from friends and family, and the touch of fennel is really great! Wouldn't change a thing...

I only used the meatball recipe portion and my BF and I loved them - a nice change from my standard family meatball recipe. I always bake my meatballs anyway, but these were moist and tender. I think the added pork made the difference. We were eating them right out of the oven, sans sauce. Delish!

re: the sauce... that's several hours of my life I'll never get back! As others commented, mine also never came together without additional work and time on my part. Had to use a stick blender to combine sauce and also had to keep adding ingredients to make it edible like red wine, more garlic, basil, red pepper flakes. UGH! The meatballs were easy but I got several remarks that they were salty. I'll never make this again!

The meatballs are the best part of this. They were quite good, with a very tender texture. The sauce was less successful, and I see that others have commented on that as well. I think it has to do with the quality of the tomatoes. I used Full Circle organic diced tomatoes, and the chunks were fairly large and firm; the liquid was fairly watery, not thick and tomatoe-y. The chunks did not cook down after an hour... after 2 hours, they were still pretty whole looking so I crushed them with a potato masher. The flavor was quite lacking as well. I ended up adding red pepper flakes, sugar, additional herbs, black pepper and garlic to punch up the flavor a bit and simmering for another hour, and it was still fairly subtle bordering on bland. Next time I'm going to locate better tomatoes, and I advise other cooks to do the same. Perhaps the Pomi, as recommended by the author, are necessary to make this work; if I recall correctly those are smaller, softer chunks in a tomatoe-y broth, unlike the large, firm chunks in thin liquid I used.

I made this reciepe for the holidays. It was a massive success. My husband can be quite the critic when it comes to sauce but he raved about it for weeks. However I added quite a few additional ingredients to the sauce to deepen the flavor. I cooked the sauce for about 6 hours, added curry, red wine, fresh basil and bullion cubes to enrich the sauce flavor. Had I not added these ingredients the sauce would have been too sharp and lacking flavor.

I made this reciepe for the holidays. It was a massive success. My husband can be quite the critic when it comes to sauce but he raved about it for weeks. However I added quite a few additional ingredients to the sauce to deepen the flavor. I cooked the sauce for about 6 hours, added curry, red wine, fresh basil and bullion cubes to enrich the sauce flavor. Had I not added these ingredients the sauce would have been too sharp and lacking flavor.

So delicious and straightforward. I like a little extra sauce, though, so I would make this to go with just 1 lb of pasta.

These were a huge hit in my household. I thought the meatballs had great flavor with the blend of the different meats and the addition of fennel gave it a sausage taste. I used my own pasta sauce recipe, but for me the meatballs are the star of this dish.

I was really looking forward to the results from making this recipe as dinner for friends last night. I found the meatballs to be tender but they didn't have the flavor punch I expected. I had doubled the meatball recipe and was careful to keep the ingredient proportions correct. I will try this again but next time I'll cook a small patty of the meatballs to make sure the taste is what I want before cooking the whole batch. Based on the many strong reviews I may not have gotten it right this time around.

I am sorry......I found these meatballs a bit bland. Followed recipe EXACTLY. Wonderful texture. Sauce was fresh tasting but also needed something...maybe a bit more of fennel or oregano. So sorry folks. This is not a keeper for me. I think if I made recipe again I would add some sweet Italian sausage for a hint more flavor. PS: "rooky" is the name of my kitty. I've been cooking for 40 years!!

These meatballs are amazing, and surprisingly easy to make. I made a double recipe and froze a couple containers of them for easy meals. I haven't tried them from the freezer yet, but the freshly-made ones were incredible. Very moist, flavorful, perfect really. The mixture of meats and ricotta make them perfectly moist and tender, but not crumbly, and they hold their shape. The author clearly knows his meatballs.

"Best meatballs I've ever had!!!" pronounced my husband, and I agree. Simple, good ingredients, great options for doing things ahead of time. These are moist, tender, flavorful - nothing like the dried out meatballs of my youth. This recipe will be on my regular rotation of meals - great for a family dinner, and I wouldn't hesitate to serve to guests! A winner!!!

I have eaten a lot of varieties of meatballs in my life and never considered any to be anything beyond the ordinary until I tasted these. These meatballs are outstanding. They are very favorable, with just the right blend of spices and moistness. They are just as good reheated the next day with or without the sauce. This recipe will definitely be added to my family's recipe collection.

I loved these meatballs, I've been making my own meatball recipe for 15 years +! When I read this recipe I was intrigued, gave it a whirl and was more then impressed. Needless to say a new recipe has entered my forever box, as they say out with old in with the new. Sometime simplicity is the key to success! Oh the sauce was delicious too! Make this recipe, It's excellent!

Awesome recipe! I am putting it on family rotation! Meatballs are super quick to make

Excellent recipe! Easy to make and the whole family enjoyed it. So much better than the stove top version.

my magazine arrived yesterday and made this tonight for dinner. success! little changes as didn't have all of the ingredients on hand, but no matter - still turned out very well. kids said 'i wouldn't object if you make this again' and parents-in-law wondered what spices gave the meatballs such a special taste! not difficult or too time consuming. Thank you from Finland :)

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