Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

Because sometimes you just need Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner!

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Because sometimes you just need Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner!Spaghetti and meatballs.  Does it get any more classic than that?  And sometimes you just need a comforting pasta dish for dinner…especially when said comforting pasta dish shows up on a chilly Spring night.  (Ok, it’s still straight up Winter here in upstate New York, but Spring is on the horizon.  At least that’s what my calendar says.  After all, we’re rolling the clocks ahead this weekend…that means warm(er) weather is coming!)

Classic spaghetti and meatballs is one of those dishes that shows up on nearly every list of favorite comfort foods.  And rightfully so.  It’s delicious!  We’ve been making our own meatballs for years, and I’ve tried my hand at making homemade sauce on several occasions.  But I finally got around to combining these together into this recipe for a homemade classic.  I took my mother-in-law’s meatball recipe (with a few minor tweaks) and my sauce recipe that I jotted down years ago, and *boom* Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs!

Because sometimes you just need Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner!One of my favorite sayings about Italian food is to use the best ingredients you can afford.  For the most part, Italian recipes are relatively easy to make and require just a few ingredients.  Thus, the quality of the ingredients plays a huge role in the finished dish.  That is definitely the case for this Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe.  Take the sauce for instance.  It’s basically a can of crushed tomatoes simmered with onions and seasonings.  And the result is amazing! #AwesomeSauce

But I didn’t use store brand crushed tomatoes here.  I splurged for the can of San Marzano tomatoes.  You’ve probably heard of San Marzano tomatoes.  They’re a classic Italian plum tomato grown in the volcanic soil near Mt. Vesuvius in southern Italy.  Fortunately, San Marzano tomatoes are relatively easy to find now, and most stores carry several different types.  You’ll notice than cans of real San Marzano tomatoes are printed with the “DOP” label (short for “Protected Designation of Origin”) showing that the tomatoes were grown in the San Marzano region of Italy.

Because sometimes you just need Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner!For the last couple of years, I’ve tried growing San Marzano tomatoes using starter plants from our local nursery.  They don’t seem to grow well here in upstate New York, and I suspect that’s because our soil isn’t too volcanic.  That and the climate of upstate New York is nothing like the climate of southern Italy.  Laura also astutely points out every year that my version of San Marzano tomatoes (even if they grew well) still wouldn’t be actual San Marzano tomatoes because the soil and climate is an important part of the flavor.  She’s right.  But I’m stubborn, and I keep trying to grow them up here.  Maybe I just need to import some volcanic soil from Italy for this summer’s attempt.  (Laura, if you’re reading this, I’m only kidding about the volcanic soil.  Maybe.)

Because sometimes you just need Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner!A quick note about canned tomatoes.  My store only had canned peeled San Marzano tomatoes.  But I need canned crushed tomatoes.  A quick bit of googing, and I discovered that you can just pour the can of peeled tomatoes into a large resealable bag.  Seal it up and then crush the tomatoes by hand from the outside.  It’s a quick and easy trick to turn peeled tomatoes into crushed tomatoes without creating a huge mess in your kitchen.

Because sometimes you just need Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner!But back to this Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe!  I typically make a double batch of the meatballs and then just freeze half of them after baking.  My mother-in-law taught me this trick, and it makes for a very easy weeknight meal.  Just throw the frozen meatballs in a saucepan with sauce and let ’em simmer away until hot.  Then add in some cooked spaghetti (or whatever kind of pasta you happen to have in the pantry), and you’ve got yourself one heck of a delicious meal on a busy weeknight.

If you’re craving some delicious comfort food, then look no further!  This Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe is a delicious version of this family favorite.

Because sometimes you just need Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner!

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

Because sometimes you just need Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner!
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 641kcal


For the Meatballs

For the Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion diced
  • 2 tsp garlic minced
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • Tbsp fresh parsley minced
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • {optional garnish} additional fresh parsley minced
  • {optional garnish} Parmesan cheese grated


For the Meatballs

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  • Using a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk; let soak for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a medium frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the diced onions and cook for 6-7 minutes, or until onions begin to soften.
  • Transfer onions and soaked bread crumbs into a large mixing bowl. Add all of the remaining meatball ingredients (beef, pork, egg, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper and Parmesan cheese). Mix until just combined. (Tip: Take care not to overmix or the meatball may be tough.)
  • Shape mixture into 1½” balls and place meatballs 1” apart on prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until meatballs are no longer pink in the center.
  • While the meatballs are baking, cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain and toss with a bit of milk to keep pasta from sticking together; set spaghetti aside.

For the Sauce

  • Using a medium saucepan, add olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic, crushed tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • To serve, divide the spaghetti onto plates and top with meatballs and sauce.
  • {Optional} Garnish with additional fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese before serving.


As the meatball recipe calls for a mix of ground beef and ground pork (and both are often sold in 16-oz. packages), I often just double the meatball recipe and then freeze the extra meatballs once they’re baked. Then just toss the frozen meatballs into a saucepan of sauce and let ‘em simmer until hot. That makes for a very quick and very easy dinner on a busy weeknight!

Because sometimes you just need Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner!

Of course, spaghetti and meatballs taste much better when served with a batch of homemade Italian bread!  If you’ve never made bread at home, it’s not as hard as you think.  Give this Italian bread a shot!

Been thinking about learning to bake bread at home? Then give this classic Homemade Italian Bread a shot!

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  1. You had me at San Marzano tomatoes! They are the absolute best! They have the perfect flavor and texture that you just can’t get from any other canned tomato product. I first heard about them from Rachael Ray way back in the day (remember her?) and now I’m a self-proclaimed canned tomato snob. It has to be San Marzano every time.

    Although I’ve only ever had them canned, I admire the fact that you tried to grow your own! I imagine it would be difficult in upstate NY, but why not keep trying? Importing volcanic soil could be the game changer. 😉

    Recipes like this one make me wish I didn’t have a gluten allergy (I had chronic health problems for a few years and it turns out that most of them were linked to an undetected gluten intolerance– how crazy is that?) I would definitely be willing to try this one with gluten-free ingredients though! I’ll try subbing the breadcrumbs for GF ones and use GF pasta (I recently found one that I’m obsessed with!) I’ll let you know how it turns out. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe with us!

    1. Oh my gosh, Rachael Ray. She actually made her start locally here in upstate New York. This was way before we moved up here, but locals still talk about seeing her show in the area before she got picked up nationally. I think she’s still on tv, but to be honest, I haven’t looked in years. But she’s spot-on with San Marzano tomatoes! I don’t know what it is about that soil over there in Italy, but San Marzanos are the best. 🙂

      Ugh, I’m sorry to hear about the gluten sensitivity. I bet you could still make this with some pretty simple substitutes. GF breadcrumbs and GF pasta are way better these days than 10 years ago. (Laura thought she might have a gluten sensitivity back in the day and we tried some GF pasta. It went into the trash…so terrible back then!) Hope you had a great weekend, Alyssa. Thank you for the great comment!

  2. I’ve only tired to make meatballs once and they came out… ok. Of course nothing like yours. It’s a classic that’s hard to replicate. Now sauces I’m good at, I’ve been working on my sauce recipe for over 10 years and I’m still perfecting it. I’ve never heard of San Marzano tomatoes now I have to look for them. I like the beef and pork combination in your meat balls, they looks delicious.

    1. Hey, I have an excuse when it comes to meatballs. Laura is half-Italian. So I better know how to make a darned good meatball…or else I might find myself living in a cardboard box in the backyard! 🙂 Definitely go look for canned San Marzano tomatoes. They’ll be more expensive, but they won’t break the bank or anything. And most grocery stores carry at least one or two brands of San Marzanos. Grab a can and let me know how that sauce turns out! Thanks, Mary!

  3. So San Marzano tomatoes are like the champagne of vegetables? I never knew that—so interesting! It’s kind of looking like spring here after a lot of gray, but I think comfort food is good no matter what the weather is so now I’m craving spaghetti like nothing else! Happy Friday!

    1. Yes! That’s a great way to describe San Marzanos. The champagne of tomatoes. Now you know! Next time you’re at the store, grab a can of San Marzanos and make a tomato sauce (this is an easy one that’s really, really good). There’s definitely a noticeable difference! Oh, and go ahead and serve that sauce with a glass of champagne….because champagne. 🙂

      Laura is out in Phoenix this week for a conference, and she’s rubbing in the temps via text messages. It’s supposed to snow here tomorrow. Again. Umph. Want to go sled down the driveway with Robbie??

  4. There’s nothing better than some good classic recipes. But ironically, I’ve been enjoying some not (not yet) classic pasta ideas lately that I haven’t made spaghetti&meatballs for ages. I do remember the exact date (I’ve got weird memory. I always have issues with names, phones, some significant dates, but I tend to remember some unnecessary stuff haha) – that was Halloween, Friday, October 31, 2014 😉 So thanks for reminding, David, I need this pasta in my life.

    1. Haha! You have an incredible memory for, uh, unique things, Ben! I mean how do you remember that Halloween in 2014 was on a Friday? I can’t even remember what the date today is! My phone is telling me it’s March 12, so I guess it’s March 12. 🙂 But you’re right…it’s hard to beat a classic recipe! This Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe is one of our go-tos when we want a good pasta meal! Thanks, my friend!

  5. The classics are such that for a reason! You are so right with using the freshest and best ingredients make such a huge difference with these dishes!

    Also, I would totally be interested in the results of using imported Italian soil grown in New York. Let’s just say you frame it as an experiment for the betterment of tomatoes grown in the US for all and totally not for your own private stash of amazing tomatoes!

    1. Haha! So I’m with ya on the volcanic soil experiment, Matt. Problem is I’m thinking Laura might not be on board. Although, we have planned a vacation to Italy in a couple of months. What if I take a bag and just collect some dirt to bring back? Will that work? Me thinks we need to find out! hah! 🙂

  6. Ah David, you know the way to my heart! I love ANY kind of italian food, it was my favourite growing up. We recently made turkey meatballs and they were delicious! A side of super buttery garlicky bread would go perfect with this!

    1. Oh you are totally right about a side of garlic bread! I’m a sucker for buttery garlicky bread, and it’s one of those things that I just can’t make…because I’m certain that I would eat it all! 🙂 Thanks for stoppin’ by, Lucie!

  7. I learned from watching Lidia Bastianich to shove my hand wrist-deep into a bowl of tomatoes and crush them. It’s so much fun. Anyway, I agree with you; spaghetti and meatballs is the best.

    1. You know, that would totally work, too, Jeff. Using the sandwich bag kept things a little cleaner, but going whole hand into a bowl sounds like a lot more fun! Next time, next time.

    1. Haha! We’re clearly on the same page here then, Marina. Put this Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe on your menu sometime soon. It’s seriously one of our favorites whenever we’re craving classic pasta flavors! Thanks so much, my friend! 🙂

  8. San Marzano tomatoes are my fave! Our Costco carries them and they are so much better than any other canned tomato. Who would have thought, right? You definitely can’t go wrong with classic spaghetti and meatballs. Topped off with some parm and a glass of vino and I’m one happy lady! Cheers to a wonderful week, David 🙂

    1. Ah! I’ve never thought about looking for San Marzanos at Sam’s Club. I’ll have to do that! (We don’t have a Costco here in our area…and that totally amazes me as well as makes me sad every time I think about it.) And yes to serving this one up with a glass of vino! Perhaps a nice chianti? 🙂 Thanks, Dawn! Hope you have a great week ahead, too, my friend!

  9. David, I’m a total San Marzano snob, I have to admit. They really are better, they have such a “bright” flavor that I just love! Thanks for the recipe – one of our favorite dinners!

    1. Yes! So glad to hear you’re on the San Marzano train, Laura. Now if only I could figure out how to grow them here at home! We love watching the garden grow every summer, but the San Marzanos just don’t like our soil I guess. Thanks so much for the comment! 🙂

    1. Yes! I’m all about having easy (but tasty!) weeknight meals. Sunday afternoons are usually full of cooking in our house. 🙂 Thanks so much, Kathy!

    1. Yes! Look for canned San Marzano tomatoes in your store, Dawn. Most stores have at least one brand of them these days. They’ll be a bit more expensive than regular tomatoes, but trust me when I say it’s worth it…especially when making sauces like this one where the tomato flavor is the star! 🙂

  10. DUDE!! If I had known you were after that Italian volcanic soil, I would have brought you some back from our trip last year and have droned it back to you! 🙂 I love canned San Marzano (Cento) tomatoes too – once when I attended a cooking demo by the chef who runs the restaurant Lindsey (American Heritage Cooking) is the pastry chef at, he swore by those canned ones, too!
    Btw – your meatballs sound fantastic – and your pictures are amazing – love how they captured how well you cooked your spaghetti too!
    Happy Weekend to you, Laura and Robbie!

    1. Hahaha! Wouldn’t that have been fun explaining to the customs agent why you were bringing Italian dirt back into the States. “Well, officer, I’m planning on attaching a bag of this to my drone and then…oh, forget it.” 🙂 We love a good pasta night around here, and in fact we just made a quick pasta bake for dinner last night. Spaghetti and meatballs hold a special place on our collective favorite recipes, and I’ve always got a batch of meatballs frozen for quick and easy pasta nights. Thanks so much, Shashi!!

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