This easy spaghetti and meatballs tastes like traditional spaghetti and meatballs but it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight!
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So, I don’t want anyone getting mad or jumping on me because this recipe for easy spaghetti and meatballs doesn’t resemble that of your Italian grandmother or the little mom & pop Italian restaurant with the red checkered tablecloth in your hometown or the upscale-ish Italian joint you like to frequent. I have a few factors working against me: (a) I am not Italian; (b) no one in my family made spaghetti and meatballs when I was growing up, at least not that I recall. In fact, my most vivid spaghetti and meatballs memory were made by Chef Boyardee; and (c) I don’t have a favorite restaurant version either.
I get it, I get it. People are passionate about the foods that they grew up eating and they want to have them just as they remember. Perhaps it is best to say that these spaghetti and meatballs are best for those of you who, like me, have no preconceived notion of what spaghetti and meatballs ought to be. If you’re looking for meatballs that are the size of baseballs so that everyone only needs one, or Sunday tomato gravy simmered for long hours on the stovetop and stirred by a sweet old lady with a cute apron, you are looking in the wrong place, though I do have some cute aprons that I frequently forget to wear, resulting in lots of laundry nightmares usually consisting of oil stains (however, I found a great trick for getting rid of them recently!).
I’ve mentioned here a time or twenty that my original obsession with cooking came from watching episodes of Nigella Bites on the now defunct Style Network. My first attempts at making spaghetti and meatballs were from a Nigella recipe, though I can’t remember if it was from her show or from her book How to Eat, which I read from cover to cover like a novel obsessively. While it was delicious, I recall that the meatballs, which were just dropped raw in the simmering sauce, seemed to be lacking something, and eventually I just stopped making it.
I recently developed a craving for spaghetti and meatballs, so I turned to one of my standbys-my America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook. Between Alton Brown’s Good Eats Collection, Smitten Kitchen (and The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook), I know I can always find at the very least a good starting place for a recipe I’m working on. Often, as with this recipe, I make a change or two and I’m good to go. With this one, the only change that I made was to sub crushed crackers for the bread in the original recipe, because I always feel like soaked bread is too squishy and visible.
So…if you’re looking for spaghetti and meatballs that live up to some romantic childhood memory that you have, this may not be the place to look. I cannot vouch for any sort of authenticity in this recipe, but what I can vouch for is perfectly browned meatballs in a simple but flavorful sauce. The meatballs are small so they cook through quickly and look at how many meatballs you get in your bowl! The sauce is just a few ingredients. This recipe doesn’t require hours over the stove…
…in fact, it’s simple and quick enough that if you have an hour to put into dinner you can put these easy spaghetti and meatballs on the table on a weeknight.
And if you are lucky enough to have leftovers, you can make meatball subs with them-and why wouldn’t you??????
Yield: 4-6 servings
This recipe is adapted from the America's Test Kitchen Complete TV Show Cookbook.
20 minPrep Time:
40 minCook Time:
1 hrTotal Time:
- 2 ounces saltine crackers (about 15)
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 pound ground beef, 85% lean
- 1/4 pound ground pork
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- vegetable or canola oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped basil
- salt & pepper
- 12-16 ounces spaghetti
- grated parmesan
- Crush the crackers and place in a large bowl. Stir in the buttermilk and let the crumb mixture sit for about ten minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except the oil) and use your hands to mix. You want to just combine the ingredients but not overmix.
- Fill a large skillet (I used a 12-inch skillet) about 1/4 inch deep with oil. Heat over medium high heat. Roll the meat into 1 1/2 inch balls (I use a 1 1/2 inch scoop for this). I got 29 meatballs. Place half of the meatballs into the oil and cook, turning, until brown on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat with remaining meatballs.
- While you make the sauce, cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Drain the oil from the pan. Set the pan back over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook just until fragrant-this will happen very quickly. Add the tomatoes and cook until thickened, about ten minutes. Add the basil and salt and pepper to taste. Add all of the meatballs into the sauce and cook, turning occasionally, for about five minutes.
- Drain the pasta. Stir in a small amount of the sauce to coat the noodles then divide among the bowls. Top with meatballs, more sauce, and grated cheese.
Print the recipe for easy spaghetti and meatballs!
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