Spaghetti with Meatballs


There is something extremely comforting and satisfying about a nice big bowl of pasta at a Sunday lunch or dinner. I realize it is an Italian “must” to have pasta on Sunday, usually along with a big gathering of friends and family… It’s a tradition I would gladly adopt, and the same sentiment is true for Mrs. MM and The Kid, as well. I have eaten literally hundreds, and possibly thousands, of servings of spaghetti with tomato sauce, meat sauce, ragu, meatballs and variations thereof in my 40+ years on this planet. My earliest introduction to this wonderful dish was probably before I even reached the age of 1, as sweet spaghetti was already a mainstay of Pinoy childrens birthday parties even in the 1960’s. I’ll admit I occasionally get a hankering for that childhood concoction of “sweetish” meatsauce spaghetti (but NO HOTDOGS, please) but most of the time I am partial to a very clean, basic and delicious spaghetti with a plain tomato and basil sauce served with perfectly al dente pasta. If I must have the meat sauce, having it in the form of meatballs is a very nice alternative…

Our cook does a really nice and easy version of spaghetti with meatballs. spag2She makes small meatballs out of a mixture of beef and pork (would work well with ground veal as well) with lots of spices such as oregano and dried basil. She gently sautés these in some olive oil until browned and sets these aside. She then sautés some onions, a little garlic, adds chopped Italian canned tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmers until the right consistency…not more than 15 minutes or so. She adds back the meatballs and gently stirs the sauce and adds shredded basil just as she is turning off the flame. If you want some kick to your meatballs, add some red pepper flakes!

Served on top of spaghetti or linguine cooked al dente, this is comfort food at its best. And a little bit of work can feed a whole lot of folks. Make a simple salad of romaine and a spag3vinaigrette and serve the spaghetti with some nice bread and there are few meals as satisfying… I sometimes make this with fresh tomatoes when I get my hands on really ripe juicy and flavorful tomatoes. But oddly, I think this is one dish where I generally prefer the intensity, consistency and predictability of canned Italian plum tomatoes. I always have at least 5-6 cans of canned plum tomatoes in the pantry at any given time. If you notice from the photos, the sauce is still somewhat bright, not the darkish dull look of overcooked or overstewed tomatoes… Oh, and just this afternoon I spied a silly poster for Delifrance’s latest offering “Bolognese con Meatballs.” What the heck is that? It’s presumably a meatsauce spaghetti with meatballs to boot. But worse, it sounds like “a man from Bologna with massive gonads,” but stated in three different languages. Hmmm, I wonder which brilliant mind came up with that one…

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23 Responses

  1. But where is the grated parmesan cheese on top? *grins*
    I took me a while to get use to the “real” spaghetti taste as I was so used to the sweet Pinoy style. Imagine the horror my husband had when he tasted my pinoy spaghetti. Told me never to cook “that” spaghetti around his Sicilian grandma. LOL.

  2. i also love the taste of tomato sauce that is bottled where you can actually get several big pieces of crushed tomatoes and not just pureed tomato sauce which tastes like it was watered down.. i also cook the sweet style spaghetti sauce courtesy of UFC sweet tomato sauce since my kids say it tastes a lot like jollibee.. hehehe.. at least they can tolerate my spaghetti whenever i use fresh tomatoes for the sauce.. your spghetti with meatballs made my mouth water..

  3. I love pasta and I second for an Italian menu on weekends! I learned basic Italian pasta dishes when I was 10 from an Italian family friend who used to own a restaurant in Italy. What I like to do is ragu made with real plump tomatoes, celery, carrots, onions, herbs and meat(ground beef, italian sausage and pepperoni)sometimes I mix mashed chicken liver. I usually cook this in one big pot, good for 2 kilos of pasta. I divide this in 3-4 bags and freeze it. I use it for spaghetti, lasagne or baked macaroni. Serve it with prosciutto & herb breadstick or parmesan toast! Yum! Though my days are hectic, this one dish I can’t fail to do because business colleagues would DEMAND for it before formally signing any deal. No to fancy hotel dinings for these guys just a lunch or dinner at home works so well eversince they’ve tried it! I do Pasta Bar too, make different sauces (spiced oils, herbed mornay,plain white sauce etc) and let them design their meals.

  4. I used to work in a naval base in the late 80’s I always order spaghetti from the Seaman Center right in Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Until now I always dream of having the same spaghetti but so far I haven’t had that same kind of spaghetti anywhere else. Their spaghetti is tasty and real Italian with alot of parmesan cheese.

  5. My baby sitter who is of Italian descent cooks her sauce with meatballs just a little smaller than tennis balls, whole links of sweet italian sausage, chunks of pork and beef and pigs feet. It is simmered all day for their sunday dinner each week. My kids laughs at my version of frozen costco meatballs and a bottle of Prego sauce ( they’re sweeter than Ragu brand)

  6. LOL. . . “bolognese con meatballs”?????? did they even hire someone to invent the dish name?? well it could be a good excuse that their really not specialising in italian cuisine because their “deliFRANCE”. . .

    love pasta. . . its a great family meal. . .and really really filling

  7. There are some great articles about making ragu from the real Italian recipes, and there seems to be some debate about using oregano in the sauce at all (the great aunt of an Italian-American writer at NYTimes told her “what are you using oregano for? there’s no oregano in ragu!!!”) plus using as many different meats for the browning at the beginning. Mario Batali had a show where he used about 4 to 6 different kinds of meat to braise and defat before he added all the vegetables and tomatoes. A true Sunday stew.

  8. mila, yup, ragu making is well, a serious topic for many. Can;t say our house version of spaghetti with meatballs comes from any authentic Italian recipes…but it is made with canned tomatoes rather than tomato sauce… Connie, yup, lots of grated parmigiano reggiano served on the side at the table for sprinkling. We keep wedges of Parmigiano in the freezer to make sure we have a steady supply…

  9. This dish is also comfort food at our house…and now C clamors for it as well. I much prefer spaghetti with meatballs over spaghetti Bolognese any day. The only “Bolognese” I like to eat is the infamous “party-style” spaghetti! Yes, I have never outgrown it and the craving is still just as strong as it was when I was a chubby kid!

    I also used canned tomatoes. I read in a Italian cookbook once that if you cannot find perfect tomatoes to make your sauce from scratch then you are better off with canned ones. This is a pantry staple for me too! :)

  10. i consider myself a generally Ok cook (of course my family and friends are fans, but that’s what they are for right? hehehe) but spaghetti with meatballs is something i fail over and over and over again. I have no idea why i can’t cook it well considering it’s my most favorite thing on earth. i really am hopeless hehehe…

  11. I always use canned tomatoes whenever I make any kind of sauce. The tomatoes are harvested at their peak of freshness and are immediately processed for canning.

    My family loves the giant meatballs I make. I add some Parmagiano-Regianno and a bread + buttermilk paste (to keep them moist) to the mixture. Oh, and lots and lots of garlic! Roughly about the size of a grapefruit, I brown them in a skillet and finish them in the oven.

  12. connie you have a sicilian grandma in law? does she call you constanzia ala godfather? :)
    I’m pinoy and I’m used to the sweet children’s party blend but I also love putanesca (whore’s pasta) and other “italian effect ek ek” spaghetti types.
    In the school cafeteria I usually have spaghetti noodles topped with kaldereta or menudo, even tried bicol express. hahaha..

  13. Ohhhh…this is one of my favourites =) i usually have a container of spaghetti sauce in the freezer and make this dish when i don’t have time to spare. i love the meat balls but i make mine with lots of garlic and parmigiana cheese. yummy!

  14. Most of ragu recipes now are tweaked. Real ragu actually varies depending on which province of Italy. But accdg. to “tito Italiano”(my pet name for the friend) it is generally a combination of pork and beef, pancetta, tomatoes,carrot, onion,celery, garlic,white wine, strong broth, pepper,salt and cream.To some they add nutmeg, parsley and basil, then some chicken liver or mushroom. And real Italian way of cooking it prevents it from early spoilage. Isn’t it suprising that Pinoy style spags poisoning is common here? Not one of our cooks ever bother to simmer tomato based pasta sauce for at least an hour, so I assume most dont do that too.

  15. Dear Market Man,

    Last Friday I run into an article in the New York Times about an Italian American who went to Italy to trace not his roots but the origin of his family’s spaghetti sauce. The article and recipe was on the top five of the most e-mailed articles in the NYT of that day. It is the Zappa Family spaghetti sauce and meat balls. I cooked it for Saturday night dinner with salad on the side and red wine. Wow, it is by farr the best spaghetti sauce I’ve had and will beat your cooks sauce by a mile. We had it again Sunday night and it still was a wow. To appreciate you have to read the story and try out the acconpanying recipe. I included “the master treatment” in my sauce and I think it makes a difference.


  16. LOL… come to think of it, the name is pretty weird. Thank goodness we didn’t hire anyone to come up with that name. It was just us. Hahaha… I think we ran out of ideas! So if you guys can come up with a better name, I’d be in your debt. :)

    I’ll even treat you to this infamous pasta dish… which is pretty good btw! :D

  17. Diana, above, I gather is from Delifrance Philippines. I truly appreciate your comment and that you too can see the humor in all of this. And asking for a new name is a terrific challenge for readers…let’s hope they respond. My off the cuff suggestion would be a “Macho Spaghetti” or perhaps, “Meaty Spaghetti”… And sorry, I only read the sign passing by your shoemart branch, I haven’t tasted the item…

  18. Try the bolognese con meatballs. I did and I loved it despite the name. :) It’s not like the regular Pancake House or Jollibee meaty spaghetti. The sauce is simmered in spices and the meatballs burst with flavor. Yummy! I’m getting hungry thinking of it.

  19. Spaghetti with meat/tomato sauce is my all time favorite comfort food. I like to add tiny bits of Polska sausage in the ground sirloin meat sauce. For spices, I add dried basil, parley and sometimes oregano. I add a little bit of sugar to counter the acidity of the tomatoes, I also put sundried tomatoes at the very end of the cooking process. I top it off with at least 2 kinds of cheese, the usual favorite are parmesan and monterey jack. Then I bake it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Served with garlic bread and a good red wine, YUM-O!

    Spaghetti is good left overs too :)

  20. Diced green bell pepper saute’d with the other ingredients is a must. Add chopped thyme and to top it off, thinly sliced mushrooms. Can’t beat it!

  21. My bolognese recipe evolved from that scene in Godfather 2 where hitman Clemenza showed how to cook Italian spaghetti meat sauce. Started by frying some tomato paste in virgin olive oil, tossing in some garlic, italian sausage and meatballs. Whenever we’d watch that scene (for more than 50 times now, mind you, since it’s my husband’s all time favorite movie), my kids would hanker me to cook spaghetti like in the movie. Later on I learned that director Coppola intended to feature his favorite food recipes in the movie and even devoted a feature on it in the movie’s behind-the-scenes portion.

  22. Dear Marketman:

    What do I do with leftover picadillo soup, I used ground pork instead of ground beef? Thanks.


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