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2000s Recipes + Menus

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Serves12 to 16
  • Active time:2 hr
  • Start to finish:3 hr
January 2009
A heaping platter of spaghetti and meatballs evokes a feeling of comfort—perfect for a family get-together. The stars of this dish are the meatballs, of course, and they don’t disappoint—lots of garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano give them a robust flavor that stands up to the hearty tomato sauce.

View more of our favorite recipes from this issue.

For tomato sauce

  • 6 (28-oz) cans whole tomatoes in juice (preferably San Marzano)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

For meatballs

  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 cups torn day-old Italian bread
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 lb)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped oregano or 1 tsp dried, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 lb ground veal
  • 1 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef (not lean)
  • 1 cup olive or vegetable oil

For pasta

  • 2 lb dried spaghetti
  • Accompaniment:

    grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Equipment:

    a 12- to 16-qt nonreactive heavy pot or 2 smaller nonreactive pots; a 6- to 8-qt pasta pot with a pasta/steamer insert for cooking spaghetti in 2 batches

Make sauce:

  • Drain tomatoes, reserving juice in a large bowl. Crush tomatoes with your hands and add to juice.
  • Cook onions in oil in pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, 4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Simmer sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with salt.

Make meatballs while sauce simmers:

  • Cook onions in extra-virgin olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  • Soak bread in milk in another bowl until soft, about 5 minutes. Firmly squeeze bread to remove excess milk, discarding milk.
  • Stir together cooled onion mixture, bread, eggs, parmesan, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, 5 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 1/2 tsp pepper until combined. Add meats to bread mixture, gently mixing with your hands until just combined (do not overmix).
  • Form meat mixture into about 70 (1 1/2-inch) balls with dampened hands, arranging meatballs on 2 large baking sheets or in shallow baking pans.
  • Heat olive or vegetable oil (1 cup) in a 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown meatballs in 4 or 5 batches (without crowding), turning frequently, about 5 minutes per batch. Return to baking sheets.
  • Add meatballs to sauce and gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. (If pot is not large enough, divide meatballs and sauce between 2 pots.)

Prepare pasta:

  • Cook spaghetti in 2 batches in pasta insert in boiling salted water (3 Tbsp salt for 6 qt water) until just al dente, draining and tossing each batch with some of sauce in a large serving dish.
  • Serve with meatballs, remaining sauce, and grated cheese.
Cooks’ notes:
  • Meatballs can be made and simmered in sauce 5 days ahead and chilled (covered once cool).
  • Meatballs with sauce can be frozen in an airtight container or heavy-duty sealable bags up to 3 months.
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