This classic Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe is made entirely from scratch for an authentic Italian meal. Tender, flavorful meatballs in a rich tomato sauce served over perfectly cooked pasta.
For a great busy day option with less effort, try my Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce or One Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs.
I’m all about quick and easy meals, but there are those times when it feels so good to spend some time in the kitchen on a truly made from scratch meal. There’s nothing more satisfying than a bowl of Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs. It’s so worth the effort!
You just can’t beat a big pot of bubbling red sauce with plump, tender Italian meatballs.
But, a meal like this is not just a lazy Sunday kind of thing. With some advance prep on the weekend, you can have this satisfying meal on a busy weeknight. In fact, I think the flavor gets even better the second time around.
Table of contents
Spaghetti Sauce Ingredients
- Oil – Extra virgin olive oil.
- Onion and garlic – Diced sweet yellow onion and minced garlic.
- Tomatoes – A large can of whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes. I can’t stress enough the importance of using real Italian tomatoes when making tomato-based sauces. They are sweeter and less acidic than other canned tomatoes. I recommend using whole tomatoes versus crushed tomatoes for the best result.
- Tomato paste – A small can.
- Wine – Enough medium to full-bodied red wine to fill the empty tomato paste can. I like to use Italian varietals like Sangiovese, Barbera, or Chianti. But cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir work perfectly too.
- Water – Enough to fill the empty can of San Marzano tomatoes.
- Fresh herbs – Parsley and basil.
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Sugar – Add a little sugar to cut the acidity, if needed.
- Bay leaves
- Large eggs
- Meat – 85% to 90% lean ground beef and ground mild or hot Italian sausage.
- Parmesan cheese – For the meatballs mixture plus a little additional for serving.
- Breadcrumbs – Italian seasoned panko style breadcrumbs.
- Parsley – fresh chopped parsley or dried parsley.
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Garlic – Minced garlic.
How to Make Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs
This is a quick overview of how to make this recipe. You’ll find detailed instructions in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- In a large Dutch oven, sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil until softened.
- Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty tomato paste can with wine and pour it into the pot.
- Add the tomatoes then fill the empty tomato can with water and add the water to the pot. Use a wooden spoon to press the whole tomatoes against the side of the pot to crush them.
- Next, add the parsley, basil, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Stir well and increase the heat as needed to bring the sauce to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. If the sauce seems too acidic, add the sugar.
If the whole tomatoes don’t break down immediately, don’t worry. They will become softer as they cook. Check on the sauce occasionally throughout the cooking time and use a wooden spoon to press the softened tomatoes against the side of the pot to break them down.
- Lightly whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining meatball ingredients.
- Use your hands to mix the meatball mixture until well combined.
- Line a baking sheet with foil and coat it with nonstick cooking spray. Use a cookie scoop to form the meat mixture into 1 ½-inch meatballs.
- Bake the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through (the internal temperature should read 160 degrees F). Allow the meatballs to drain on a double layer of paper towels.
- After the sauce has simmered for about an hour, remove the bay leaves and add the meatballs to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes. During the final simmer, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions.
- Prepare the sauce and meatballs, as directed. Allow the mixture to cool then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- When ready to serve, warm the sauce and meatballs in a pot on the stove while you cook your spaghetti. Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner in under 30 minutes!
- The sauce and meatballs freeze very well too! Just transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe plastic storage bag and freeze for up to 2 to 3 months. Thaw it safely in the refrigerator before warming.
FAQ and Valerie’s Tips
No. Red wine helps “smooth out” and add depth to the flavor tomato based sauces but doesn’t leave an overwhelming alcohol flavor.
I recommend substituting the same amount of low sodium beef broth for the wine. You won’t get quite the same depth of flavor but it will still be delicious.
If you drop the raw meatballs into the sauce to simmer and cook, you’ll end up with excess grease in the sauce. Even lean ground beef is going to let off some grease so I prefer baking the meatballs in advance. If you do this, just be sure to simmer them until they are cooked through and reach an interior temperature of 165 degrees F. when measured with an instant read thermometer.
I prefer baking meatballs because you can load up an entire sheet pan full and cook them all at once. It’s hands off and there is less mess. However, the meatballs can be fried in a little olive oil in a skillet, if preferred. Just cook them in batches and transfer them to a double layer of paper towels to drain before adding them to the sauce.
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Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs
Basic Red Sauce
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,
- ½ cup diced sweet yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 6 ounces medium to full-bodied red wine, enough to fill the tomato paste can
- 28 ounce can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
- 28 ounces water, enough to fill San Marzano tomatoes can
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup torn fresh basil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar, if needed to cut acid
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 2 eggs
- 1 pound 85% to 90% lean ground beef
- 1 pound ground mild or hot Italian sausage
- ½ cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving
- ½ cup Italian seasoned panko style breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley, or 1 tablespoon dry parsley
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
Basic Red Sauce
- Add the oil to a heavy pot or Dutch oven and place over MEDIUM heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring, until the onion has softened and is translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste. Fill the tomato paste can with wine (6 ounces) and pour it into the pot. Add the tomatoes then fill the empty tomato can with water (28 ounces) and add the water to the pot.
- Use a wooden spoon to press the whole tomatoes against the side of the pot to crush them. If they resist, don’t worry, they will become softer as they cook. Add the parsley, basil, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Stir well and increase the heat as needed to bring the sauce to a boil. Lower the heat to LOW and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally and pressing the tomatoes against the side of the pot, for 1 hour. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. If the sauce seems too acidic, add the sugar.
- While sauce is simmering, prepare the meatballs.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray generously with nonstick cooking spray.
- Add the egg to a large mixing bowl and whisk it lightly. Add the remaining ingredients and get your hands in there and mix well.
- Use a cookie scoop to form the meat mixture into 1 ½-inch meatballs. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through (internal temperature should read 160 degrees F). Transfer the cooked meatballs to a double layer of paper towels to drain any excess grease.
- After the sauce has simmered for about an hour, remove the bay leaves and add the meatballs to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, over LOW heat for an additional 30 minutes.
Cook the Spaghetti and Serve
- Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions for al dente. Drain well and add the cooked spaghetti to the sauce and meatballs and toss to combine.
- Serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
This was originally published on October 13, 2011. It has been updated with new text and images.
Questions and Reviews
Hi! Does using the foil make a difference?
When I was 14, the first real job I ever had was washing dishes at an Italian restaurant. Everything was homemade. They always had a big pot of meatballs simmering on a back stove. I would walk by with a fork and a styrofoam cup, and spear one of those meatballs right outta the pot. These babies were as big as baseballs, and I would plop that meatball down in the cup, sprinkle Parmesan over it, and walk around eating that thing like an ice-cream cone. Ah, good times.
Most of the time, I just nuke up a batch of frozen meatballs from Costco, but this recipe takes me back, I’m gonna have to make my own.
I really love this recipe for meatballs. Hope you enjoy it! I’m a little nervous about going up against that memory 🙂
Val, this place was old-school Italian. As a dishwasher, I got to make the aforementioned meatballs, sausage, pasta, (the big thick spaghetti noodles), ravioli, butterfly and bread prawns, scallops, and frog legs, and just about everything else that had to be made ahead of time. It was really a great education and taught me a lot about cooking and the real world of work. I’ll never forget it.
You lost me at frog legs…haha. All kidding aside, it sounds wonderful and I’m sure it was a wonderful experience for you 🙂
These meatballs sound great fixed this way, I am definately going to try, I use the crock-pot quite a lot and this will work well.
I have not tried this yet, but sounds SO good and easy.
I think this is one of my all time favorite meals. Nothing is much better than warm pasta on a cold night!
I’m with you Lauren! You can never go wrong with pasta and red wine!!!