Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs is totally underrated. As someone that grew up on spaghetti with jarred tomato sauce I think it’s easy to become disillusioned with this meal as something that’s borne of necessity and not something that can be fancy and upscale.
Let me tell you, though, that this recipe absolutely kills it. And I think that anyone would be delighted to order this at a fancy Italian restaurant- I promise it’s that good. First, let’s talk marinara. This sauce is a little outrageous in it’s time-intensiveness. But I promise you it is absolutely worth it. Ever wondered how restaurants get that gloriously sweet, tangy, and mellow tomato sauce that scratches that perfect Umami itch? Well, wonder no longer- it’s all about a slow and low simmer.
I know- I was confused about that when I first saw this recipe too. But fear not, there is still tons of flavor in the form of 12 garlic cloves. You don’t miss the onion, and in fact this recipe made me wonder why we automatically assume that there needs to be onion in marinara..? Isn’t it all about pure, unadulterated, tomato-y bliss..? Moving onto the meatballs- this is a pretty classic Italian meatball recipe. No extra fancy bells and whistles, just a trio of the 3 perfect meats (beef, pork, and veal), combined with moistened breadcrumbs, egg, cheese, and a little garlic.
They were wonderfully flavored and tender and matched the flavor of the marinara without competing with it.
A rarity, as I normally abhor leftovers, Dave and I ate this meal 3 days in a row and I could still come back for more. But the point of informing you of this gluttony is to let you know that the sauce and meatballs reheat beautifully and the flavors only meld more together with time.
Gah I can’t express enough how much I love this recipe.
Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs
_For the sauce_
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 12 whole garlic cloves peeled
- 4 28 oz cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
_For the meatballs_
- 1 cup hand torn day old italian bread
- 1 cup whole milk approximate
- 8 oz ground beef
- 8 oz ground pork
- 8 oz ground veal
- 3 large eggs
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup grated parmesan plus more for garnishing
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 pounds of Spaghetti
- Heat a large stockpot (I used my cast iron Le Creuset) over medium low heat and add olive oil and garlic.
- Stirring regularly, fry the garlic until it is softened and golden brown (about 8-10 minutes). Turn the heat to low if it seems like the garlic is about to burn.
- Next add the red pepper flakes, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and oregano. Stir for about 30 seconds.
- Next add the chopped whole tomatoes with the juices from the can.
- Increase the heat to medium and simmer, stirring intermittently, until the sauce is thick and concentrated. This will take about 2- 3 hours.
- To finish the sauce- remove the bay leaves and partially blend with an immersion blender to your preferred consistency (I left mine a little chunky).
Meanwhile, make the meatballs
- Place the torn bread in a bowl with the milk and let rest briefly. Then, squeeze the bread out with your hands to remove the excess milk.
- Add the bread to a large mixing bowl along with all other meatball ingredients.
- Use your hands to mix and combine the meatball ingredients together.
- Next, roll the meat into golf-ball-ish sized balls, and line them onto a rimmed baking sheet.
- Chill until you are ready to begin frying them.
- Next, bring a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick frying pan to medium high heat.
- Add the meatballs in batches and fry on all sides until browned.
- Finally, add to the sauce during the last 15 minutes of cook time and simmer until entirely cooked through.
- Meanwhile cook your spaghetti noodles per package instructions.
- Divide the pasta between plates and add sauce and meatballs. Finish with additional grated parmesan and fresh basil, as desired.