Real Meatballs and Spaghetti

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Total: 2 hr
  • Prep: 40 min
  • Cook: 1 hr 20 min


For the meatballs:

1/2 pound ground veal

1/2 pound ground pork

1 pound ground beef

1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)

1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 extra-large egg, beaten

Vegetable oil

Olive oil

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon good olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

Freshly grated Parmesan


  1. Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.
  2. Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.
  3. For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  4. Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.
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580 Reviews


One of my go-to recipes! My alterations: I usually just use all beef (2 pounds). I make twice as many meatballs as Ina calls for - around 32, not 16! (Makes a lot of leftovers after feeding our family -- great for meatball subs!) In the meatball frying step, I really don't think you need as much oil as called for to start with, as the meatballs extrude quite a lot of fat, which you have to pour out of the pan before frying the onions. However, I feel that it's key to the flavor of the sauce to saute the onions in the same pan as the meatballs fried in, and then to deglaze the pan with the wine (I use Cabernet since that's what I always have) -- the result is that the sauce has a nice deep flavor. The meatballs are so tender and moist  (the key is the warm water, as Ina says in the video), but for this reason, you have to be extra careful when turning them. If you make sure they are really well-browned on the bottom first, that helps a lot. This step takes me a lot longer than is called for, but it's best not to rush it! This isn't a quick recipe, but it's worth it!!

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