Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

While it’s starting to feel a bit more like spring here in DC, it’s still pretty cool in the evenings, meaning warm comforting dishes are still in demand.  Nothing beats a classic spaghetti and meatball dinner, which can please just about anyone in your family.  My dad used to make this dish for me when I was little and it’s the first thing I remember cooking right alongside him.  I have flirted with a lot of other recipes, most of them much more complicated, but none were as good as my dad’s.  One big change from what he used to do is broiling the meatballs versus cooking them in a skillet.  It uses a lot less oil but also is a lot cleaner because you don’t have hot oil spitting at you.  I find that the meatballs stay together a lot better this way as well once added to the sauce.  I may have taken some liberties with the fennel seeds and parm rind but the student should always try to surpass the master right??  This dish really is best if you have the time to let the meatballs and sauce cook a while together, hours if you have them.  The good news is that it’s just as good if not better reheated so you can make them and then freeze and pull out whenever you want some comfort food.  Paired with a caesar salad (my dressing is awesome and so easy) and some garlic bread it’s a great end to the day.

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my dad’s cooking
Special Equipment:  none

For the tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • two 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • more basil and mozzarella boccochini for serving (optional)
  • 1 pound spaghetti

In a large skillet or wide dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt and cook for about 7 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute or so then add the wine to deglaze and get any bits off of the bottom of the pan.  If you have a parmesan rind throw it in there along with the basil and sugar.

DSC02864

Add in the cans of tomatoes, being careful not to splatter any on yourself.  Stir to combine and then increase the heat to medium high until bubbles form.  Turn the heat back down to low and let simmer while you make the meatballs.

DSC02865

While the sauce simmers combine the beef with the rest of the meatball ingredients.    This is easiest to do with your hands but don’t over work the meat, combine just enough so all the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.  DSC02904Turn on your broiler.  Using your hands form meatballs around the size of golf balls and place them on a baking sheet (if you have cooking spray it never hurts to coat the pan so the meatballs easily come off).  DSC02906Place the baking sheet in the broiler and cook for about 15 minutes until the meatballs are nice and brown.  Add them to the sauce, I like to use tongs for this, being careful not to break the meatballs.  Nestle them in and use a spoon to make sure the meatballs are covered in the sauce.  At this point you could serve the whole thing but I like to let it all simmer together for at least another 30 minutes if not an hour.  The more time you give this the more the sauce will flavor the meatballs and vice versa.  When you are near ready to serve, boil the pasta, drain well and serve the meatballs and sauce on top along with the chopped basil and mozzarella if you have it (remember to fish out the parmesan rind if you used it).  The meatballs and sauce will last in the fridge several days or frozen for 6 months.

DSC02912

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: at least 1 hour
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

For the tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • two 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • more basil and mozzarella boccochini for serving (optional)
  • 1 pound spaghetti

In a large skillet or wide dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt and cook for about 7 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute or so then add the wine to deglaze and get any bits off of the bottom of the pan.  Add in the cans of tomatoes, being careful not to splatter any on yourself.  If you have a parmesan rind throw it in there along with the basil and sugar.  Stir to combine and then increase the heat to medium high until bubbles form.  Turn the heat back down to low and let simmer while you make the meatballs.

While the sauce simmers combine the beef with the rest of the meatball ingredients.    This is easiest to do with your hands but don’t over work the meat, combine just enough so all the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.  Turn on your broiler.  Using your hands form meatballs around the size of golf balls and place them on a baking sheet (if you have cooking spray it never hurts to coat the pan so the meatballs easily come off).  Place the baking sheet in the broiler and cook for about 15 minutes until the meatballs are nice and brown.

Add them to the sauce, I like to use tongs for this, being careful not to break the meatballs.  Nestle them in and use a spoon to make sure the meatballs are covered in the sauce.  At this point you could serve the whole thing but I like to let it all simmer together for at least another 30 minutes if not an hour.  The more time you give this the more the sauce will flavor the meatballs and vice versa.  When you are near ready to serve, boil the pasta, drain well and serve the meatballs and sauce on top along with the chopped basil and mozzarella if you have it (remember to fish out the parmesan rind if you used it).  The meatballs and sauce will last in the fridge several days or frozen for 6 months.

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