Comfort food at it's finest. A family-favourite dinner, this spaghetti and meatballs dish is one that is not only delicious but a complete joy to eat. It's rich, it's moreish, it's satisfying and... it's meatballs! Be amazed at how flavourful and delicious the meatballs are in this recipe. Who's ready for an Italian dinner!?
Love spaghetti? Check out my classic spaghetti bolognese recipe where I share my secret weapon for out of this world tender beef bolognese.
The meatballs in this recipe are packed with flavour and are at the perfect consistency. They're also really easy to make! In this recipe, I add a dash of worcestershire sauce which makes these meatballs extra delicious.
- Worcestershire sauce is a flavour bomb. It adds depth to a dish and magic happens when you combine two different types of acidity - with tomatoes. Traditionally, Worcestershire sauce is made of vinegar, molasses, tamarind, anchovies, salt, sugar and bunch of other flavouring ingredients. Now, vegetarian/vegan Worcestershire sauces are widely available at major supermarkets. Substitute: balsamic vinegar.
- Passata is added to in addition to crushed tomatoes as it helps add volume/thickness to the marinara.
- Dark brown sugar is used a lot in my recipes (instead of white sugar) due to its rich, molasses flavour. A little sugar helps balance and bring all the ingredients together.
- Breadcrumbs I like using panko breadcrumbs instead of normal breadcrumbs as they're lighter and (if frying) can achieve amazing crunch as I've raved about (and went into more detail as to why panko is preferred) in this amazing Panko Chicken Schnitzel recipe.
- Eggs used as a binder for the meatballs
- Fatty beef mince (ground beef) is used in this recipe. But! Get creative! Mix things up: pork and veal is a popular combo or half beef mince and half sausage mince will be awesome too.
Making the meatballs
Here are a few tips to keep meatballs moist and tender. Go for fatty beef mince (ground beef) when making meatballs for juiciness.
This recipe calls for half a grated onion for 2 reasons. It'll add delicious flavour and juicy onions adds moisture into the meatballs.
One other way of adding moisture (therefore, tenderness to the meatballs) is by adding a little milk or water into the mixture. Milk or water is not in this recipe (as I found the meatballs were pretty good without) however add a splash if desired.
The breadcrumbs will soak up all the liquids, making the meatballs nice and tender.
The key thing to note when making meatballs is to mix the mince mixture until just combined. Be careful not to over mix! This will toughen the meat and you end up with meatballs on the dense side.
So to avoid over mixing, best use your hands to loosely combine (FEEELL the food you're making!). Form the balls quickly and not handle it too much.
Do I have to pan-sear the meatballs?
Searing meatballs on the pan adds flavour to the meat. Colour = flavour. Especially beef. If you want to avoid a little oil splatter, pop them into the oven on the top shelf to achieve the same result.
Oven method: evenly spread the meatballs apart on a lined baking tray and bake on grill setting (on high) for about 5 - 10 minutes. This will give the meatballs a nice colour otherwise achievable through pan-searing.
Tip for pan-searing meatballs: Use a non-stick pan. Simply place the perfectly formed meatballs onto a dry pan. The meatballs will release fat naturally so there's no need to add any oil onto the pan.
The meatballs do not have to be completely cooked through in either method. They'll be simmering away in the marinara for 25-30 minutes.
Making the homemade marinara
Homemade does not mean complexity nor hard. Making marinara is really simple. Pretty much soften the onions, add garlic and once super fragrant, add all other ingredients. There's not much else to it! Too easy.
It's important to soften the onions on low heat for about 5 - 7 minutes. The acidity in the tomatoes will pretty much put a halt to softening onions. So if the tomatoes are added before the onions are nice and soft, you'll end up with little crunchy onions! Hmmm.. no thanks!
Once the meatballs have been added into this super simple marinara, simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes on low heat, no lid. This will allow the marinara to develop the beloved rich flavour and achieve a thick, delicious consistency that's perfect with spaghetti!
Side dish suggestions
Spaghetti and Meatballs are quite rich and heavy (and omg so satisfying!) so serve with something light such as pan-seared asparagus or green beans. Otherwise, a side of refreshing salad like a Red Cabbage Salad will be great too!
I personally like to have the spaghetti and meatballs as is but cheese is always a good idea. Go ahead and grate as much parmesan cheese to serve! Oh and some fresh basil leaves because it is fragrant and looks pro 😉
More family favourite dishes
- Vegetarian bolognese ft. roasted pumpkins - hearty & delicious meat-free meal
- Oven-baked chicken and rice - simple & easy. Super juicy chicken but the real hero here is the rice!
- Soy sauce chicken serve with rice and simple greens
- Greek-style chicken and potato bake - flavourful and mouthwatering can't get enough
Thank you for checking out my recipes! Let me know what you think and/or if you have any questions, thoughts, drop me a note in the comments section below. 🙂
Spaghetti and meatballs
- 500 g /1 lbs fatty beef mince (note 1)
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs substitute: normal breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- ½ onion grated
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp dried rosemary
- ½ tsp dried thyme or dried oregano
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1½ cups passata
- 1 cup stock beef or chicken
- 1 onion finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp sea salt adjust depending on saltiness of stock used
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 400 g /14oz dried spaghetti
- fresh basil leaves optional
- freshly grated parmesan cheese optional
Making the meatballs
- In a medium-large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients and mix with one hand until just combined. (note 2)
- With both hands, shape the meatballs to about the size of a golf ball or slightly larger. Makes about 14-15.
- Place meatballs into a large non-stick pan or lightly oiled skillet. Sear on medium-high heat. (note 3 for oven method)
- Once brown (about 5-6 minutes), turn the meatballs with a pair of tongs and brown the other side then remove from the pan.
Making meatball marinara
- In a heavy-based pot, add olive oil and onions. Cook on medium-low heat until onions have turned soft. This will take about 6-7 minutes.
- Add garlic and stir through until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Add remaining marinara ingredients into the pot and turn the heat up to high and bring to boil.
- Gently add meatballs into the pot and simmer for 25-30 minutes on low heat and no lid. Stirring every 10 minutes. (note 4)
- With 10 minutes before meatball marinara is ready, cook spaghetti according to packet instructions.
- Place spaghetti onto a serving plate and top with 3 to 4 meatballs with marinara sauce per serve.
- optional: sprinkle freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves.