Growing up, I practically lived on spaghetti. It was the one “junk” food my Mom allowed us to eat (junk because it wasn’t whole wheat spaghetti). Therefore it’s what I ate most of (because I hated health food)! Spaghetti with Ragù sauce – I loved it. But the best was when I made meatballs to go with it, which was a special treat because we didn’t do a lot of meat in our house. I remember one time I was cooking my famous spaghetti & meatballs dinner for the family when I was about twelve and they all left me at home to cook while they went to the health food store. I didn’t really love the health food store, but I still cried into my meatballs because I didn’t want to be left out. Meanie old Davis family! haha
Anyway, this recipe is a lot different from the one I made growing up, but my recipe was little more than ground beef mixed with tons and tons of garlic powder, salt and pepper, rolled up and cooked in a skillet before being added to a pot of pasta with Ragù sauce on it. I will always love meatballs made that way because that’s how I ate them growing up and have a fondness for it, but honestly these are better, the best I’ve had, actually, and I love the cooking method. You don’t have to cook them separately, you just plunk them into the sauce and let it simmer away! So simple. It also makes the meatballs more tender and moist to cook them this way, and the flavor of the sauce and the meatballs both benefit from cooking slowly together.
The sauce is a very simple recipe and so, so good. The amount of black pepper gives it a bit of a spicy kick so I’d cut it by half if you don’t like heat. This is now my go-to spaghetti sauce (I’ve made it twice in the last week) and I hope you’ll give it a try!
Really Great Spaghetti & Meatballs
Printable recipe with picture
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 lb lean ground beef
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 (1 lb) package spaghetti
Remove ground beef from the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature while the sauce cooks.
Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan to coat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes. Lower the heat if they begin to burn. The more color that develops on the onion and garlic, the more flavor they’ll add to the finished sauce.
Once the onions and garlic are tender and caramel in color, add the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Add the remaining sauce ingredients (oregano through pepper), stir, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pot, and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the bottom does not burn.
Make the meatballs: Lightly beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Break apart the beef as best you can into the bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Use your hands to mix together until well incorporated, trying not to overmix, which could render your meatballs more tough. Shape the meat mixture into 12 balls (I always get 13), each about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Drop them into the sauce, stir gently so that they’re all covered in sauce. It might look like there’s only enough sauce for the meatballs and there won’t be enough for pasta, especially if you’re like me and love your sauce, but trust me, there’s enough. Let them cook, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
Once the meatballs are done, cook your spaghetti to al dente according to the package directions, drain, pile some onto plates, and top with sauce and meatballs.
Veronica’s Notes: your tomatoes matter. I bought very cheap tomato puree (and tomato paste, for that matter) from Aldi that was excellent but found that Walmart’s brand, which is higher in price, was horrible by comparison. Buy good tomatoes or you won’t have good sauce. Also, the original recipe used mint in the meatballs instead of parsley and I just wanted to mention that in case you’d like to try it.
Recipe source: Can You Stay for Dinner