Classic Italian Meatballs with Spaghetti

  • Active Time 40m
  • Total Time 2h 10m

Serves 4

Many people assume that Columbus was Spanish, given the conquests that followed soon after his momentous voyage to the New World, and although he was dispatched by the king of Spain, Chris was in fact Italian--Genoa's best-known son. More than 500 years after his discoveries, his name is still commemorated in the United States every October, and what better way to mark the day than a classic and much loved dish from Columbus's homeland. WINE RECOMMENDATION: Almost any Italian red wine is favored here; try a Bardolino, Gattinara, Chianti Classico or Barbaresco. A Spanish Rioja is also well suited.


  • For Meatballs:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound lean high-quality ground beef
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons red wine
  • 1/4 cup minced sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • For Tomato Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) chopped plum tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary

  • 12 ounces to 1 pound dried thin spaghetti


TO PREPARE MEATBALLS: Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and sauté the onion over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool. Add the beef, egg, fresh bread crumbs, wine, tomatoes, cheese, oregano and red pepper flakes to the bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently combine the mixture and let rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Form the beef mixture into 16 balls and roll them in the dried bread crumbs. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the meatballs (in batches if necessary) and sauté for about 4 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the meatballs, return to a simmer, cover the pan, and braise the meatballs for 12 to 15 minutes, until no longer pink on the inside.

TO PREPARE SAUCE: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add the onion, carrot and celery, and sauté over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes longer. Raise the heat to medium, add the chopped tomatoes, wine and mushrooms, and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer the sauce for 1 hour, uncovered, to thicken and to allow the flavors to develop (if the sauce begins to get too thick, add up to 1 cup of vegetable stock or water). Stir in the parsley, oregano, and rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. (If the sauce has a slightly bitter taste, add a pinch of sugar.) Add the meatballs and stir gently to mix thoroughly and warm through.

TO SERVE: Cook the spaghetti until just tender (al dente), according to package directions. Drain and transfer to warm serving plates. Ladle the meatballs and sauce over the spaghetti.

HELPFUL TIPS: The spaghetti can be cooked in advance, cooled down (by running under cold water), and refrigerated until needed. To reheat, simply drop in boiling water until warm. The meatballs call for both fresh and dried bread crumbs-the former for internal use and the latter to make a nice golden coating-but in a pinch, use dried for both. Almost any fresh herbs can be added to the meatballs and the tomato sauce. Add them near the end of the cooking process so their flavor is not lost. If using dried herbs, add them when you sauté the garlic, so their flavors develop during cooking.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Harper Collins. All rights reserved.

RecID 5261

nutrition information per serving

1020 calories; 41g total fat; 99mg cholesterol; 960mg sodium; 108g carbohydrates; 7g fiber; 48g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

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