10 Dishes to Make This Winter: #3 Spaghetti and Meatballs

This is the 3rd of a series, 10 Dishes to Make This Winter.

Meatballs are a very personal food and one person’s favorite is another person’s disaster.  I would never claim that my style is the best, only that it is my favorite.  There are variables like the ingredients, and the size but the most distinctive feature of mine is the technique. 

I brown meatballs in a skillet to put a nice caramelized crust on the outside and then drop them into the spaghetti sauce to finish cooking them.  It flavors the sauce to be sure, but it also give the meatballs their characteristic crusty exterior and soft center.

Many cook theirs in the oven or entirely in the sauce and it is highly subjective; but, if you’ve never tried this technique, give it a shot!  It also happens to be a great recipe in my opinion.  The sauce has a rich meat flavor, and the onions and tomatoes are left chunky which complements the meatballs.  Further, the tomato paste helps thicken the sauce to the perfect consistency.


  • 1 1/2 oz veg. oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 16oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 16oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz tomato paste
  • 16oz beef broth
  • 1Tbs + 1tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • dried oregano, dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • spaghetti

    Leave the onions fairly large for this recipe, about the size of the canned diced tomatoes. Chunky really works for this dish!


Cook onions and garlic in some olive oil or butter (not the vegetable oil listed above) until softened, but not browned.

Add tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, beef broth, sugar, salt and pepper (1 tsp salt/1/2 tsp pepper), 1 1/2 tsp oregano, and the bay leaf.

Simmer uncovered for 30 min (while you make the meatballs.

Let the sauce simmer while you make the meatballs. Make sure you use a large pot because you will be adding the meatballs to this sauce.


Mix breadcrumbs, beaten eggs and water.  Blend in ground beef , half of the grated parmesan cheese (reserving the remainder for garnish), parsley, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 1 1/2 tsp oregano. 

Mix this mixture well.  I find nothing works as well as two hands.

All of the ingredients, the breadcrumbs, the eggs, the parsley, the cheese all play a role in the flavor and texture of the meatball. Be sure to mix well!

With a 2oz ice cream scoop, make the meatballs, rounding them with your hands and place on a sheet of foil near the stovetop.

The size of the meatball is a matter of personal preference, but take care to make them all the same size.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet on high, to just about the smoke point and brown the meatballs.  Move them around in the pan to get an even browning and as they achieve this, drop them into the simmering spaghetti sauce. 

For this technique, it is critical to get a good caramelized crust on the outside of the meatballs before dropping them into the sauce to simmer.

Once the last one is in the sauce, simmer partially covered for another 30 minutes and cook the spaghetti.

Once browned, drop them into the sauce to simmer another 30 minutes. The result will be a rich delicious meat sauce, and meatballs with a crusty exterior but soft center.

Serve a healthy ladle of the sauce with a couple meatballs and garnish with grated parmesan cheese.



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