Spaghetti and Meatballs

This recipe is an adaptation of Mark Bittman of the NYTimes’ Spaghetti and Drop Meatballs. It’s quite a bit different, since the real conundrum with this recipe is the problem of how to cook the meatballs (baked in oven before dropping into sauce? cooked in the sauce? seared in a pan with the sauce made around them?). When thinking of how I would approach this dish I found problems with all the above methods. Firstly, baking in the oven means that all the flavours from the meatballs don’t make it into the sauce. Dropping them into the sauce means that they aren’t seared and browned. Sauce made around them (Bittman’s method), means the sauce has to be rather under braised. Anyways, this is my method, which is really good and (I believe) renders a perfect product.


500g ground beef

3/4 cup parmesan cheese

1/4 cup parsley

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

Nutmeg (freshly grated – 2-3 grates)

2 cans tomatoes (chopped)

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic (crushed)

1/2 teaspoon rosemary

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 bay leaves

1 packet spaghetti


Make sauce by cooking onion in olive oil on medium heat until soft (about 10 mins). Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add rosemary, and bay leaves, then add tomatoes. Allow to simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Near the end of the cooking time add 1/4 of the parmesan cheese. Adjust seasonings, adding salt as needed.

Make meatballs while sauce is cooking. Mix beef, 1/2 cup parmesan, parsley, 1/2 tsp salt, nutmeg, panko and eggs into a bowl. Roll into small balls (ping pong ball size) and set aside until sauce has finished cooking.

When sauce has thickened at the end of the cooking time, remove the bay leaves, and transfer it to a pot. Cook the meatballs in the same pan, by adding 1 tablespoon olive oil and searing meatballs on medium heat. You don’t need to cook them entirely through, as they will cook more fully in the sauce. You may have to cook them in batches if your pan is too small. Make sure you sear them properly so that they brown evenly on all sides.

Now return the sauce to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to assist with deglazing, and loosening all the browned, flavoursome bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Do not dare wash your pan!

Heat the meatballs through within the sauce, allowing to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a large pot of water onto boil and season. Add the packet of spaghetti and cook until al dente. Prior to draining, consider removing 1 cup of cooking liquid if needed to thin the sauce if it is too thick.

Serve sauce over spaghetti and enjoy.

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