Spaghetti and meatballs


I have been on an obsessive quest to make the perfect pasta sauce for years, and I am happy to report that I finally perfected it tonight.

Uproarious applause.

I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer buy any pre-made pasta sauces anymore because, frankly, who needs to? Although slightly daunting, creating your own pasta sauce–and not relying on those Prego jars that are chock full of salt and sugar that never quite fit to your refined palate–surprisingly becomes an art form. It costs the same or even less than pre-made sauces, and takes just an extra 30 minutes to make. And by extra, I’m talking about the added time tacked on from opening a stubborn jar lid.

Personally, I enjoy a pasta sauce full of sauteed garlic and onions, ribbons of fresh basil, and crushed tomatoes, brought together with a sauce base that’s on the sweeter side with lighter acidic notes. However, I’m sure other people like saltier sauces, hate onions, have a love affair with fresh oregano and parsley, and like whole tomatoes. So be it. Experiment, adjust, forage. Sometimes, my cooking is based on what I have  left in the fridge and what falls into my weekly budget, so, as the saying goes, no two snowflakes (or pasta sauces) are alike.

I may also be prone to use more basil nowadays because I just bought my first basil plant this year, and it’s the only plant sitting on my balcony. I usually announce to my boyfriend that I’m “harvesting” when I head outside to grab a few leaves.

Also, to be noted, the meatballs in this recipe only use beef because honestly, I can’t be bothered to buy ground veal (I’m not quite that bourgeois yet), and I wanted a simpler recipe. Do not fear though, the result of mere beef balls will be just fine, once you throw in some breadcrumbs and freshly grated parmesan cheese. “Voilà!” as the French say–why I’m speaking French when I’m making an Italian dish, I don’t know. But, bon appetit!

Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe.

Yields 5-6 servings


For the meatballs:

1 lb of ground beef

2/3 cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup of freshly grated pecorino romano (or parmesan), with extra for garnishing later

1 tsp of kosher salt

1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp of dried parsley flakes

1 large egg, beaten

1/2 cup of warm water

Vegetable oil and olive oil

For the sauce:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)

1-1/2 tsp of minced garlic

1/2 cup of good red wine (such as Chianti)

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

7 to 8 basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

2 tsp of dried parsley flakes

1-1/2 tsp of kosher salt

1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp of sugar

1/2 tsp of dried pepper flakes (optional if you want some spicy kick to your sauce)

For the pasta:

1 lb of angel hair pasta (preferably Barilla brand)


For the meatballs:

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, pecorino romano, salt, pepper, parsley flakes, egg, and water.  Mix and combine.

2. Using your hands, form the mixture into 2-inch balls. You will have about 12 meatballs.

3. 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.

For the sauce:

1. Heat the oil in the same pan.

2. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

4. 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.

5. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, parsley flakes, salt, sugar, pepper, and dried pepper flakes (optional).

6. Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

For the spaghetti:

1. Right when you return the meatballs to the sauce, boil 4-6 quarts of water over medium heat in a large pot, add in the angel hair pasta and cook for 4-5 minutes until al dente.

2. Drain and rinse with cold water.

3. Serve the pasta with meatballs and spaghetti sauce, and sprinkle a little extra grate pecorino romano/parmesan over it to taste.