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Authentic Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

This Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe is savory and delicious. It has been handed down for generations from my Italian great-grandma, so it’s 100% authentic!

Fork in bowl with Italian spaghetti and meatballs on white table.

Spaghetti and meatballs is a go-to dinner for so many families.

Most make it with a jar of spaghetti sauce and pre-made meatballs.

While this method is definitely easier, the traditional flavor for spaghetti and meatballs just isn’t there.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a quick and easy dinner, but sometimes it’s nice to make the real thing.

This Italian spaghetti and meatballs recipe came from my Italian great-grandmother. It’s 100% authentic and tastes like it came straight from a traditional Italian restaurant.

It does take some time for the sauce to simmer, so this is perfect for a Sunday dinner when you have time to let the sauce cook all day.

Step-by-Step Instructions

BROWN 2 cloves of minced garlic in a small amount of olive oil in a large saucepan.

Browned garlic on bottom of large pot with wooden spoon.

ADD 2 (6 ounce) cans of tomato paste and 2 (8 ounce) cans of tomato sauce to the pan.

THEN add 1 can of water for each can of paste and sauce used (for a total of 4 cans or 28 ounces).

Large pot with wooden spoon and spaghetti sauce ingredients on white table.

SPRINKLE in a pinch each of dried mint, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper and stir well.

Spaghetti sauce with spices on top in a pot on white table.

SIMMER uncovered on low heat for 4-5 hours.

WHILE the sauce is simmering mix 1 pound of hamburger, 1 teaspoon of salt, a dash of pepper, 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, 1 egg, and a pinch each of dried parsley, basil, and mint.

Bowls of meatball ingredients on a white table.

FORM the mixture into 16 gold-ball sized balls.

FRY the balls in a bit of oil in a large frying pan rotating after each side is done cooking to keep the ball shape.

Homemade meatballs for spaghetti in a frying pan on white table.

PLACE the meatballs in the sauce to finish slow cooking.

Large pot of Italian spaghetti sauce and meatballs on white table.

COOK spaghetti according to package directions and serve meatballs and sauce over cooked spaghetti.

Recipe Tips and Substitutions

Spaghetti and meatballs in a white bowl on white table.

The first time I made this recipe, I really messed up the sauce. It did not taste good. The sauce needs to simmer uncovered for the full 4-5 hours. I just put it on the back burner on my stove and turn it down to between 2 and 3 on my gas burner and let it go.

The sauce will make a bit of a mess, so be sure to clear the space around the stove unless you want things splattered with sauce!

The best tool for mixing the meatball mixture is your bare hands!

The trick to keeping the meatballs round is to rotate them after 30 seconds on each side. They don’t need to fully cook. You’re just giving them a nice browned crust, so rotate them as soon as one side is browned.

Use a wooden spatula to rotate each meatball to the side touching the one you just browned. So instead of flipping it over like you would a steak or piece of chicken, you should just push it to the next closest side.

The meatballs won’t be a perfect ball, so if you’d like them to keep their shape, you can bake them in the oven.

Once you put the meatballs in the sauce, don’t touch them again or you may end up with meat sauce instead of meatballs.

If you’re out of some of the ingredients you can try these basil substitutes, parsley substitutes, and tomato paste substitutes.

More Like This

Authentic spaghetti and meatballs on a dinner plate.

Looking for more delicious pasta recipes? You’ll love these!

FAQs

Spaghetti meatball sauce over pasta.
What is the best pasta to have with meatballs?

Italian meatballs are traditionally served with longer pasta like spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair, or linguine.

These longer kinds of pasta allow you to twirl some on your fork and then grab a pit of meatball at the same time. The smaller kinds of pasta are more difficult to maneuver once you’ve got them on your fork, so if you want to serve those, make smaller meatballs!

Can you put raw meatballs in spaghetti sauce?

You can, but you may end up with meat sauce instead of meatballs.

The benefit of frying the meatballs is to give them a nice browned texture that holds up well in the simmering sauce.

Should I bake or fry meatballs?

That’s up to you!

Frying the meatballs is quicker and allows the meat to slow cook in the sauce.

If you bake the meatballs, you’ll save some calories by omitting the oil and the meatballs may retain their shape a little better. You should start baking the meatballs about 30 minutes before the sauce is done. Here is a great tutorial on how to bake meatballs.

Can you overcook meatballs in sauce?

If you leave your meatballs in sauce for several hours on end, it’s possible that they may start falling apart.

The right amount of time is between 3.5 – 4 hours (or the time it takes for you to get the meatballs mixed, formed, and fried while the sauce is simmering).

What do you eat with spaghetti and meatballs?

I love to keep this meal as traditional as possible, so we eat spaghetti and meatballs with a green salad, green vegetable, and some sort of bread.

Here are a few ideas:
– Green beans
– Roasted broccoli and cauliflower
Scrambled eggs and zucchini
– Caesar salad
– Spinach salad with strawberries and balsamic dressing
– Garlic bread
– Crusty bread, like a baguette
– Artisan bread
– Breadsticks

I hope your family loves this Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe! If you make it, be sure to take a picture and tag me on Instagram with @ashcroftfamilytable and use the hashtag #ashcroftfamilytable!

 

And if you’d like to get a 4-week meal plan featuring my recipes, just enter your email in the form above and you’ll get it straight to your inbox!

Italian spaghetti and meatballs in a white dish.

Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs

The Ashcroft Family Table
This is the authentic Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe you've been looking for! It features a savory red sauce and tender meatballs served over a bed of warm spaghetti.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 20 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 400 kcal

Ingredients
  

Spaghetti Sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 6 ounce cans of tomato paste
  • 2 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • 28 ounces water, 3 1/2 cups
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 16 ounces spaghetti

Instructions
 

  • Brown garlic in olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat.
  • Add tomato paste and tomato sauce to the saucepan.
  • Then add 1 can of water for each can of paste and sauce used, for a total of 28 ounces.
  • Sprinkle in mint, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper, and stir well.
  • Simmer the sauce uncovered on low heat for 4-5 hours.
  • While the sauce is simmering, mix hamburger, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, egg, and dried parsley, basil, and mint together in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Form the mixture into 16 gold-ball sized balls.
  • Fry the balls in a bit of oil in a large frying pan rotating after each side is done cooking to keep the ball shape.
  • Place the meatballs in the sauce to finish slow cooking for 3-4 hours.
  • 15 minutes before serving, cook spaghetti according to package directions
  • Serve meatballs and sauce over cooked spaghetti.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 400kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 13gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 614mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2g
Keyword authentic spaghetti and meatballs, homemade meatballs for spaghetti, italian spaghetti and meatballs, italian spaghetti and meatballs recipe, spaghetti and meatballs, spaghetti meatball sauce, spaghetti sauce
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A Pinterest image with text and a collage of the process to make Italian spaghetti and meatballs.
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