What’s cooking today: Spaghetti & Meatballs

What’s cooking today: Spaghetti & Meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs with homemade tomato sauce. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

While cooking this I wrote in a note: ‘Italian meatballs not really but anyway’, because the dish, far from being Italian, is as American as apple pie, Uncle Sam and eating Mac ’n Cheese as a side dish.

Having said that, spaghetti and meatballs is best with a simple Italian tomato sauce, and in this recipe I include a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese in the meatballs mix, as well as grating a little over on the plate before serving.

It’s a meal every family should have in its repertoire; it’s proper comfort food, and delicious too.

(Serves 2 to 4)


500 g lean beef mince

1 large onion, finely chopped or grated (reserve half for the sauce)

2 thick slices of day-old white bread

3 Tbsp milk

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (reserve half for the sauce)

2 Tbsp parsley, chopped very finely

1 Tbsp grated Parmesan (and more for serving)

1 XL egg, beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

3 Tbsp olive oil

Leaves of 3 or 4 oregano sprigs, picked

4 or 5 basil leaves, torn up

50 ml tomato paste

½ tsp sugar

1 small glass dry white wine

1 x 400 ml can chopped tomatoes

½ (250g) of a 500 g packet of spaghetti (use more if feeding 4 people)


Soak the bread and half of the grated onion in milk for 30 minutes. Including the onion in this step removes the onion’s sharpness and obviates the need to fry it before making your meatball mix.

Squeeze the milk out, and add the remaining bread and onion to a bowl.

Chop the parsley and add this and 2 finely chopped garlic cloves to the mix (the remaining garlic is for the tomato sauce). Crumble the mince in. Add the grated Parmesan, season with salt and pepper, add the egg, and work the mix together with clean hands until evenly combined.

Form the mixture into balls. Put them on a tray and in the fridge for half an hour or longer to firm up.

While the meatball mixture is in the fridge, make the tomato sauce. Sauté the remaining chopped onion and the remaining garlic in olive oil until softened. Add the picked leaves of the oregano sprigs and the torn basil leaves, the tomato paste and half a teaspoon of sugar, and simmer for 2 minutes while stirring. Add the wine and cook away for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the can of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pan fry the meatballs in olive oil, turning once, until done. 

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in rapidly boiling lightly salted water until al dente, then drain.

Toss the pasta in the tomato sauce and plate up, topped by meatballs and grated Parmesan. DM168/TGIFood

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