Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Some recipes, like croissants, are expected to be difficult and involved.  Recipes like those take actual scheduling to tackle – as in, when will I have three straight days in the same kitchen without interruption?  Other recipes such as, um, spaghetti and meatballs, seem so simple as to be almost an afterthought.  In fact, even though I knew that I needed to post this recipe today along with the other Barefoot Bloggers, I figured it would only take a half hour or so to make and photograph, so it was only last night that I began it.  

While spaghetti and meatballs is one of those American classics, it was never something my mother made.  If she had, maybe I would know that this dish takes FOREVER… At least the way Ina makes it.  The meatball combining and forming is not time-consuming, but frying said meatballs (in batches, no less) takes a long while…  Those puppies cook slow over medium-low heat.  Then you make the sauce and cook the meatballs in the sauce for a half hour.  The only thing you can do simultaneously – since Ina insists you use the meatball-browning pan for the sauce – is boil the pasta.

All that being said, the meatballs tasted great.  They had a light texture and a subtle but interesting flavor, led by the addition of nutmeg.  RJ immediately said “Great Meatballs!” – not eloquent or revelatory necessarily, but still sincere and based in experiential expertise.  Not sure I’d take the hour+ on another weeknight to make this dish, however.  

 Spaghetti and Meatballs, from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

(Serves 6)

For the meatballs:
1/2 lb. ground vealSpaghetti and Meatballs - Ingredients
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1 c. fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 c. seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:Spaghetti Sauce
1 Tbs. good olive oil
1 c. chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) c. crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

MeatballsPlace the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

Spaghetti Meatballs

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.


  1. First. I cannot BELIEVE you made those croissants! They look fabulous.

    Second. Totally bake the meatballs… there’s no reason to individually fry them… your instincts were right.


  2. Suzie says:

    I thought these were great, but will try them baked next time.

  3. Cheryl Byrne says:

    Katherine–I have a wonderful meatball and sauce recipe that is ready to serve in about an hour. The meatballs use 3 eggs–I think this is what makes them so much better than about any meatball I have ever had. Very simple and really delicious. The way I learned was to cook the meatballs in the sauce; I know some folks are squeamish about that, but I’ve not had any complaints.

  4. Penny says:

    I agree they took a long time and made a mess of my kitchen – Or was that me? I’m a new BB. Love your blog.

  5. Oh sweetie, don’t give up on the meatballs. BAKE, bake, bake!

    Remember Ina has a staff who cleans up after her. SHE is NOT cooking all this stuff. But I suspect she is eating it.

  6. So true, this is definitely one of those weekend recipes when you can take your time and not rush!

  7. KK Millet says:

    I just saw Emeril make meatballs by cooking them in the spaghetti sauce. You don’t get the caramelized flavor you would from browning them, but it sure seems a lot easier!

  8. aprilbey says:

    Great pictures! I’m trying this thanks!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s