This homemade spaghetti and meatballs meal is a family favourite. This dish is easy to make and makes a large pot to feed the whole family with plenty of leftovers for lunch.
Spaghetti and meatballs is one of those comfort foods that is great year round. But it is especially good in the fall and winter when the months are cold and you want a good, hearty meal.
This meal is a favourite in our house. You should see the excited look on my husband’s face when he walks in the door to smell dinner cooking and sees my large blue dutch oven simmering away on the stove.
Meatballs seem like one of those foods that could be difficult to make, but I promise they are actually quite simple. The real secret to making these meatballs so tender and delicious is how long they are allowed to simmer away in a tomato sauce bath. I always let these simmer for at least 2 hours. You can definitely let them simmer longer if you wish, but 2 hours is the minimum to ensure meatballs that are flavourful, tender and delicious.
How do I choose the right meat when making meatballs?
Choosing the right meat is a bit of a personal preference, but I like to use a 1/3 blend of lean beef, pork and veal. I can buy this pre-packaged at the meat counter in my grocery store labeled meatloaf mix. The blend makes great meatballs because of the flavour of the 3 meats and the different fat ratios of each. If you find it hard to find all 3, you could do a blend of beef and pork, or even just use all beef.
If you are going to just use beef, be sure to pick one that has some fat. The fat adds flavour and moisture. I know that the tendency can be to choose the leanest cuts available, but for a great meatball you really do need some fat in there.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS
We will start with the meatballs. This recipe makes a large batch of 24 meatballs, which is perfect because they are excellent as leftovers. Often when it comes to things like this I like to make a larger batch than I need because it really isn’t much more work, and you only have to clean up once. And since cleaning the kitchen is my least favourite part of cooking, that’s a win in my books.
You are going to add your meat to a large bowl, add the rest of the meatball ingredients, then mix it up and form it into balls.
I like to use an ice cream scoop to form my meatballs to help get them even in size, but you don’t have to.
Once the meatballs are formed I start on the sauce. The sauce is easy. You will start by sautéing the onions and garlic, add the seasonings, then add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. My preference for this recipe is a heavy cast iron dutch oven. Dutch ovens are great because they hold the heat well even on a low burner setting, which helps prevent the sauce from burning to the bottom of the pot.
While the tomato sauce is heating you can start to brown the meatballs. Don’t skip this step. The browning add flavour and helps the meatballs keep their shape while they simmer away in the sauce for 2 hours.
After the meatballs have browned you will add them to the sauce.
The hard part is over. Now you just need to put the lid on the pot, turn the burner to low and walk away. After 2 hours you can cook some noodles and then dinner is ready.
We like to serve these homemade spaghetti and meatballs with some garlic bread. When I’m feeling like something extra special I’ll make homemade garlic knots. But this dish is just fine on its own too.
THINGS TO KNOW & HELPFUL HINTS
- Can I make the meatballs ahead and freeze them? Yes you can. You can freeze them raw, or cooked. If freezing raw, make the meatballs and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place them in the freezer until they are frozen through, then transfer to an airtight container or bag. You can take out a few meatballs at a time as you need.
- Can I make these without breadcrumbs? The breadcrumbs help lighten the texture of the meatball. But if you need to keep these gluten free, you can substitute with gluten free breadcrumbs, ground oats, or my personal favourite, quinoa flakes. If you are trying to keep this low carb, you can leave them out completely, but your meatballs will have a firmer texture.
- Can I make these meatballs without the tomato sauce? You can! If you just feel like having meatballs without the sauce, then you can either cook them fully in the skillet, or bake them! When baking they should take about 30 minutes at 375 degrees. The meatballs will have a different texture than if they are allowed to simmer, but they are still delicious.
OTHER RECIPES YOU MIGHT LIKE
For the Meatballs
- 2.5 Pounds Ground meat 1/3 blend pork, beef and veal
- 1/3 Cup Italian bread crumbs unseasoned
- 2 Large Eggs
- 3 Cloves Garlic minced
- 1 Tbsp Onion flakes
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp Oregano
- 1/2 tsp Salt
For the Sauce
- 2 Tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Large Onion diced
- 3 Cloves Garlic minced
- 1 Tbsp Dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp Dried basil
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- 1 Can (26 oz) Crushed tomatoes
- 1 Can (13 oz) Tomato sauce
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1 Box (30 oz) Spaghetti noodles
- parmesan cheese
- Place all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
- Form the meat mixutre into 24 balls and place on a plate. Set aside.
- In a 6qt pot or dutch oven, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until soft and aromatic.
- Add the seasonings, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir to combine and turn burner to low.
- Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add 2 tbsp of oil. Working in batches, brown the meatballs on all sides, then transfer to the tomato sauce. The meatballs do not have to be cooked through at this point as they will conitnue to cook in the sauce.
- Once all the meatballs are in the sauce, cover the pot with the lid and walk away. Gently stir every half hour or so and if the sauce is begining to boil, or you notice water pooling on top, then vent the lid by placing it slightly off centre of the pot. This will help steam escape.
- Once the meatballs have been simmering almost 2 hours, bring a large pot of water to a boild and drop the spaghetti noodles in. Cook according to package directions, then drain.
- Serve the pasta with a generous scoop of sauce and meatballs. Garnish with fresh basil, parsely or fresh grated parmesan cheese.