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How to Make Spaghetti & Meatballs

The chef of New York City’s Meatball Shop shares his favorite recipe.

Fine Cooking Issue 125
Photos by Scott Phillips
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I grew up hearing stories about my mother’s Italian neighbors who hosted Sunday night spaghetti and meatball feasts for the whole neighborhood. When my best friend and I decided to open a restaurant specializing in meatballs, those stories were part of the inspiration: We wanted to create a place where people could make those same kinds of warm, happy memories. The first step, of course, was making delicious, satisfying meatballs.

Get the recipe:Spaghetti & Meatballs

At the five branches of The Meatball Shop we have 55 meatballs on rotation—spicy pork, buffalo chicken, shepherd’s pie, and vegetarian, to name a few—but my favorite ones are more classic. They’re a blend of beef (for flavor), veal (for tenderness), and pork (for succulence), and they’re roasted, not fried. They come out juicy and tender, with savory oregano and fennel flavors. Tossed with a simple, rich tomato sauce and served over perfectly al dente spaghetti, they taste just like I imagine those neighborhood Sunday suppers did.

Need to Know

Make a thick, chunky sauce, which will cling to the pasta and add some welcome texture to this simple dish. I like the fresh flavor of Pomì brand diced tomatoes, but feel free to use your favorite brand—just avoid preseasoned tomatoes and petitediced tomatoes, which will make a thinner sauce.

Add ricotta for juicy meatballs. Its fat content adds a little bit of extra moisture and a mildly creamy flavor without making the meatballs dense or heavy. Combine the meatball mix with your hands, and don’t overmix. Overworking the mixture can lead to dense meatballs. Using your hands literally gives you a feel for mixing, which helps keep the meatballs light.

Use an ice cream scoop to form the meatballs. A 2-oz. ice cream scoop that’s 2 inches in diameter quickly makes uniform balls that are just the right size.

Salt the pasta water until it tastes briny. You’ll need about 1 Tbs. of kosher salt for every 2 quarts of water. As the pasta cooks, it will absorb the salt and become more flavorful.

Thin the sauce with pasta water. Starch from the pasta will prevent the sauce from becoming too watery, and the salt adds flavor.

Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Stopping short of the recommended time and then simmering the pasta in the sauce lets it absorb the sauce’s flavor without becoming overcooked.


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