Spaghetti and Meatballs: the best recipe for the easy, classic Italian-American dish

By Cookist
for the meatballs
bread, crust removed and diced
3 slices
2/3 cup
Lean ground beef
1 lb
sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 lb
Grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup
Garlic, minced
4 cloves
salt and pepper to taste
All-purpose flour
3/4 cup
Extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp
for the sauce
yellow onion
Garlic, minced
4 cloves
Crushed tomatoes
2 28-ounce cans
Bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
basil, chopped
2 tbsp
1 lb

With its rich, tomatoey marinara sauce and juicy, hearty meatballs, homemade spaghetti and meatballs is one of the most comforting dishes out there. First created by Italian immigrants who arrived in New York City from Southern Italy during the 19th century, spaghetti and meatballs has become one of the most beloved Italian-American dishes of all time.

It's super easy to make, which means it's perfect for busy weeknights. This particular version of spaghetti and meatballs is one of the best you'll find – no more struggling with meatballs that fall apart or relying on sauce out of a jar. Try this recipe for the best homemade easy spaghetti and meatballs, and don't forget to serve it with garlic bread!

Spaghetti and Meatballs Ingredients

Homemade spaghetti and meatballs are perfect in their simplicity. No fancy ingredients needed. Use your favorite type of spaghetti for this recipe.

To make the meatballs, you'll need lean ground beef and sweet Italian sausages. To bind the meat, you'll need some white bread which you'll soak in water, egg, and parmesan cheese. To flavor the meatballs use salt, pepper, and garlic. Finally, you'll also need plain white flour to dredge the meatballs – this helps them brown up beautifully.

For the sauce, you only need five ingredients. Crushed tomatoes form the base of the sauce, while onions, bay leaves, basil, and garlic give it flavor. Add a little salt and pepper, and you've created the perfect sauce!


How to Make Spaghetti and Meatballs

Making this easy spaghetti and meatballs recipe is a total cinch. We'll take you through each step, starting with the meatballs.

Making the Meatballs

Pour the flour out into a shallow bowl. Put the bread in a bowl with the water and leave it for several minutes to soak. Mash it with a fork, then transfer the bread to a large bowl and add the ground beef, sausage, parmesan, garlic, salt, pepper, and egg. Mix everything up well.

Dampen your hands and shape the beef mixture into 1 ½-inch meatballs. Roll each meatball through the flour. Next, cook the meatballs in a Dutch oven over medium heat until they're browned on each side. Work in batches so you don't overcrowd the pot. Take the meatballs out of the pot with a slotted spoon and set them aside on a plate.

Making the Marinara Sauce

Once the meatballs are browned, it's time to make the simple marinara sauce. Put the onions in the Dutch oven and cook them for 5 minutes, or until they soften up. Stir in the garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant. Mix in the tomatoes and bay leaves. Stir it well, then bring the sauce to a gentle boil.

Pop the meatballs and any juices into the sauce. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the sauce for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Just before the sauce has finished cooking, stir in basil.

Cooking the Spaghetti and Meatballs

Make the pasta according to the directions on the packet. Drain and return to the cooking pot. Pour the meatballs and sauce over the pasta. Stir it well to combine, and serve with additional basil and parmesan, plus a side of garlic bread for mopping up any leftover sauce!


Tips for Making Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

Use lean ground beef. About 7 percent to 15 percent fat will do.

Like spice? Use spicy Italian sausage or add some red chili flakes to the sauce.

White bread is the bread of choice for many people when making meatballs, but you can use sourdough, Italian bread, French bread, or just about any other type of bread to help bind your meatballs together.

You can use breadcrumbs instead of meatballs.

Try mixing in additional herbs like dried oregano, thyme, or rosemary.

If you're in a rush, you can use marinara sauce out of a jar, but it won't be as tasty as a homemade sauce. If you have the time, it's well worth making it yourself!

To make your spaghetti and meatballs healthier, enjoy it with whole wheat pasta and swap out lean ground beef for turkey or chicken.

This classic Italian-American dish goes beautifully with red wine. Enjoy spaghetti and meatballs with Chianti (or other Sangiovese), Barbera, Primitivo, or Aglianico – basically any rich Italian red wine. It also goes with fruity Cabernet-based blends and riper Merlots.

How to Store Spaghetti and Meatballs

Let your spaghetti and meatballs cool down, then transfer them to an airtight container. Store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Can You Freeze Spaghetti and Meatballs?

You can freeze your spaghetti and meatballs for up to 6 months, making it a perfect meal prep option to store in your freezer when you want a hearty, delicious meal but don't feel like cooking.

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For the meatballs

Place the bread in a bowl.

Cover with 2/3 cup of water.

Leave for 5 minutes, then mash. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Set aside.

Combine ground beef, sausage, parmesan, garlic, salt, pepper, egg in a large bowl

Add mashed bread.

Shape the beef mixture into 1 ½-inch meatballs.

Roll each meatball through the flour.

Coat them well.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium. Working in batches, cook the meatballs until browned on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

For the sauce

Place the onions in the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, or until they soften and begin to turn golden brown. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.

Mix in the tomatoes.

Add the bay leaves.

Bring to a gentle boil then return the meatballs to the pan. Cover with a lid and reduce to a simmer.

Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

A few minutes before the sauce has finished cooking, stir in basil.

Cook the spaghetti according to the directions on the packet. Drain and return to the cooking pot.

Pour the meatballs and sauce over the pasta. Toss to combine.

Serve with additional basil and parmesan.


Don't overcook your pasta. Follow the directions on the packet for al dente.

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