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Best Spaghetti + Ricotta Meatballs

spaghetti-and-meatballs

Savory, creamy, and packed with umami flavors…this spaghetti gives your run-of-the-mill Monday night meatballs a run for its money.

“Every time people ask me what’s my favorite food in the world I say my grandma’s spaghetti…”

Stephanie Bartage | Sister-in-law

Classic dishes are the best because almost everyone can connect to them – but when you can give them that extra zhuzh, you have an instant crowd-pleaser that you’ll want to keep making over and over and over again. This spaghetti is one of those dishes.

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Best Spaghetti & Ricotta Meatballs

  • Yield: 0 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner, lunch, Main Course
  • Cuisine: American, Italian

Description

Makes a smooth and flavorful tomato sauce with intense umami flavors in the meatballs from the bacon and parmesan. Sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in your fridge. The flavors will build over time!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 16 oz dry spaghetti (cooked per package instructions)

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 x 28 oz cans of pureed tomatoes ((buy organic if accessible))
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 sprigs basil leaves (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef ((20-30% fat for best results))
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup bacon, chopped + cooked ((optional, but adds umami flavor))
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (plus more for garnish)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan (plus more for garnish)
  • 3/4 tsp dried fennel seeds, crushed/pulsed
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt (plus more to coat)

Instructions

  1. Cook Spaghetti. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (Make sure your water is as salty as the sea. Seriously!) Cook until al dente (8-12 mins). Reserve about a cup of pasta water and strain the spaghetti.
  2. Tomato Sauce. Heat a dutch oven or large heavy pot on medium. When heated, drizzle in olive oil, then add 1 tbsp garlic and 1/2 cup onions. Stir and saute until garlic edges are golden brown, ~ 4-5 minutes. Add chopped basil and stir until fragrant. Pour in tomato sauce. (If you like chunky sauces, replace the pureed tomatoes with whole peeled and crush as you go). Season generously with salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.
    Increase heat to medium-high and bring sauce to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for about 1 hour until sauce thickens and flavors intensify. Meanwhile, let’s make the meatballs.
  3. Meatball Assembly. In a large mixing bowl, add all the meatball ingredients. Stir to combine until it the mixture well incorporated and sticks together when pressed. Prepare a baking sheet or large plate for the meatballs.
  4. Using a 2 oz scoop or 1/4 c measuring cup, scoop out meatball portions one at a time on the baking sheet. Roll the meatballs with your hands and place on the baking sheet. Season the surface area of each meatball generously with kosher salt and fresh black pepper.
  5. Cook Meatballs. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear meatballs on all sides until nicely browned. Searing the meatballs builds great flavor and keeps your meatballs in tact when it goes to simmer in the sauce. Once browned on all sides (it's ok if still raw on the inside), add meatballs to the pot with warm tomato sauce. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Gently simmer meatballs in the sauce until cooked through and tender, approximately 40 minutes.
  6. Serve. To serve, add spaghetti, tomato sauce and a little pasta water to a mixing bowl. Use tongs to fully coat all the noodles in sauce. Serve the saucy noodles on plates and top with meatballs and more sauce on top. Garnish with chopped parsley, parmesan, and enjoy immediately!

Notes

Doubling the Recipe: If you double the recipe to feed more people, I highly advise simmering the tomato sauce for an additional 30-45 minutes to maintain the depth of flavor. I also advise making the sauce a day ahead to save you time when entertaining and to allow the sauce to build more flavor as it rests overnight in your fridge!

Keywords: meatballs, pasta, red sauce, spaghetti

Recipe inspired by Stephanie’s grandmother

Much like how food can bring people together, I love that it can also elicit feelings of togetherness even when we are apart. This spaghetti recipe is not your average Monday night let’s-get-it-over-with kind of meal. It’s inspired by my sister-in-law Stephanie’s grandmother who made the best spaghetti she’s ever had. With quarantine having kept us apart from our loved ones for quite some time, something as simple as making spaghetti can bring us closer to our loved ones, even for a moment.

So, how exactly do you make grandma’s spaghetti without grandma’s recipe? You don’t…. haha!

If I’ve learned anything about people and their grandmother’s recipes, you do your best to recreate the smells, feels, tastes and sounds that bring out those memories. And that’s what we did. 🙂

Our journey took us on a pursuit for the smoothest tomato sauce in the land with meatballs so big and packed with ingredients that they barely held together. The result? The best damn spaghetti & meatballs I’ve ever had.

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