nests of spaghetti topped with meatballs and parmesan cheese
Dinner Recipes

Spaghetti and Roasted Meatballs in a Homemade Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti and Meatballs is a classic Italian-American dish. Twirls of pasta covered in a rich Homemade Tomato Sauce topped with Oven-Roasted Italian Meatballs. There isn’t a meal more deeply satisfying.

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Key Ingredients

For the Sauce
  • san-marzano tomatoes
  • herbs, fresh and dried
  • tomato paste
  • onion
  • garlic
For the Meatballs
  • ground beef, 80/20
  • breadcrumbs
  • parmesan
  • onion
  • garlic
  • eggs

Necessary Equipment

How to Make Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Spaghetti and Meatballs on a plate with a fork

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Mise en Place & Cooking Instructions

Author’s Note: exact measurements and detailed instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

We’re going to start by heading over to the cutting board and doing a little bit of prep work, otherwise known as mise en place (meez ahn plahs). Sound good? Let’s begin.

Finely mince the yellow onion and garlic for the tomato sauce. 

Personally, I like a sauce that is more on the smoother side of things which is why I finely mince the onion and garlic. If you like a chunky version, feel free to just chop the onion.

And while you’re already at your chopping block, prepare the other ingredients for the meatballs (look at you, always thinking). Chop up another onion, a few more cloves of garlic, and mince some flat-leaf parsley. Set all that aside for later.

How to Make Tomato Sauce From Scratch for Spaghetti and Meatballs

Making tomato sauce from scratch isn’t difficult, but it does take some time. 

The Spaghetti Sauce actually needs to simmer for a bit, so start by making the sauce first. While the sauce is bubbling away on the stove, begin making the meatballs. 

Step 1: Begin by sweating the onion in a combination of olive oil and butter in a high-sided skillet or large braiser

Cook the onions for a few minutes, until they have softened and are translucent. Add the minced garlic, and cook until it’s fragrant (about 30-45 seconds).

Do not brown or caramelize the onions and garlic, especially the garlic or it will become bitter. The goal is to gently cook the onions and garlic to slowly develop their flavors. 

Season the mixture with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.

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chopped onion and minced garlic cooking in a combination of butter and olive oil

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Step 2: Stir in the tomato paste and cook it for a few minutes until it lightens in color by 1 or 2 shades, about 1-2 minutes. The tomato paste will add some nice thickness to the sauce and give it an extra punch of concentrated tomato flavor.

The paste has probably been sitting in a can or tube for some time, so you want to cook it out to wake it up a bit. 

Step 3: Add the canned San-Marzano Tomatoes, along with their juice, crushing them in your hand as you add them. 

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demonstration of crushing whole canned tomatoes by hand

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Step 4: Add some sprigs of basil, a bay leaf, a parmesan cheese rind, and a tablespoon of granulated sugar.

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tomato sauce with basil leaves and seasoning on top, not yet mixed in

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The parmesan cheese rind is a secret ingredient of mine (although … it’s not so secret now since I’m sharing it on the internet).

The rind adds a lovely salty, savory umami-like flavor to the homemade sauce. Never throw the rinds from your parmesan cheese away. You can also use the rind in a soup, broth, risotto, or use it to infuse some olive oil!

Step 5: Allow the sauce to simmer for 30-45 minutes.

While the sauce simmers and thickens, make the meatballs, roast them in the oven, and then cook the spaghetti noodles.

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tomato sauce after simmering for 45 minutes

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How to Make Oven-Roasted Italian Meatballs

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Step 2: In a large mixing bowl combine: the ground beef, onion, garlic, parsley, eggs, breadcrumbs, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, Worcestershire sauce, dried Italian Seasoning, salt, and pepper. 

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the ingredients for Oven Roasted Italian Meatballs: ground beef, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley, minced garlic, chopped onion.

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Be sure not to over-mix the meat mixture to prevent tough meatballs — but make sure all the ingredients are completely combined. Mix everything together lightly, but thoroughly. 

Step 3: Shape into 24, 2-inch meatballs. Place them on a baking sheet and place them in the oven.

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picture of uncooked Italian Meatballs

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Pro-Tip: season the baking sheet itself with salt and pepper for an extra dose of flavor. Sometimes, I’ll even sprinkle the sheet with a little bit of parmesan cheese. 

Step 4: Roast the meatballs in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160°F.

How to Cook Spaghetti

Okay, I’ve got a lot of opinions about how to cook pasta. I even wrote a whole dang article on how to cook pasta perfectly. But in summary, here’s how to cook the best plate of spaghetti:

  1. Choose the Right Size Pot — 6 quarts or larger
  2. Always Bring the Water to a Full, Rolling Boil
  3. Liberally Salt the Cooking Water
  4. Stir the Pasta as Soon It Hits the Water to Prevent it from Sticking Together
  5. Cook the Pasta to al dente, so that the Spaghetti has a Little Bit of a Bite to It

Finishing Details

When the pasta is finished cooking — after it’s cooked to al dente or to your desired doneness — it’s time to bring everything together.

Do not drain your pasta into a colander over the sink, because you will need some of that leftover starchy cooking water to help bind the sauce and pasta together.

I find that most people forget to reserve some of the water before straining into a colander, so I recommend using a hand-held strainer/skimmer or a pair of kitchen tongs to transfer the spaghetti into the homemade tomato sauce.

You could also use a large steamer basket that fits inside your pot.

Toss ALL of the spaghetti with ALL of the sauce! Nothing drives me crazier than seeing a naked plate of spaghetti with a little ladle of sauce on top. You want all of it to taste good, people!

A great pasta dish is characterized by how the pasta and sauce interact with each other. They should become one single meal, not two separate components sitting on a plate. End rant, maybe.

Step 1: Turn the heat off the tomato sauce. Transfer the cooked spaghetti into the tomato sauce, and stir to combine.

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Spaghetti Noodles being added to homemade tomato sauce

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Step 2: Add 1-2 cups of the leftover starchy cooking water to the spaghetti and stir it all together.

The starchy water helps bind everything together. It’s like magic.

Step 3: Add 1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese … or add as much cheese as you please. Maybe a few leaves of basil, if you have any extra.

Step 4: If your Italian Meatballs fit into the pot along with all of the spaghetti, go ahead and add those as well. If not, it’s perfectly fine to leave them separate and plate them right on top of the spaghetti.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs on a plate with a fork

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I like to plate up the spaghetti with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, some basil, and a good drizzle of olive oil for added richness.

Some garlic bread or a side salad would be a great addition to this meal.

It’s time to eat now, so I’ll see y’all later.

Q & A Section

How should I store Spaghetti and Meatballs? 

You can store the leftovers in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. You can store the cooked Oven-Roasted Italian Meatballs in the freezer for 6 months — and the same can be said about the Homemade Tomato Sauce. 

Can I make the Italian Meatballs in advance? 

You can form the meatballs in advance and store them, uncooked, in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Place the formed meatballs on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper, and place the sheet tray in the freezer. Once the meatballs are completely frozen, transfer them to freezer safe bags or a container. 

When you’re ready to cook the meatballs, prepare them according to the directions in the recipe card — but add a few minutes to the original cook time. Be sure to cook the meatballs until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F. 

Can I use jarred-sauce for this recipe instead of making my own Tomato Sauce? 

Of course! If you are pressed for time, store bought tomato sauce is fine (as Ina Garten says). Simply substitute your favorite brand of jarred sauce. These are some of my favorite options: 

  1. Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce
  2. Classico Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce
  3. Prego Three Cheese Italian Sauce

What type of meat should I use for Oven Roasted Italian Meatballs? 

You have a few options here. Some people like to use just one type of meat, or a combination of several different ground meats. For meatballs, you could use: ground beef, ground pork, ground sausage, ground turkey, ground chicken — or a combination of any of the above. 

How do I keep my meatballs from falling apart? 

There are few key ingredients you could use to make sure your meatballs don’t fall apart, all of which I use in my recipe for Oven-Roasted Italian Meatballs. 

  1. egg
  2. cheese
  3. breadcrumbs

There’s also one other option (which I have never done before): use a panade in place of breadcrumbs. 

Soak some stale white bread in milk or water for 10-15 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Next, squeeze or ring out any excess moisture from the bread and add it to the meatball mixture. Follow the recipe as written. 

Here’s a detailed guide on how to make a panade for meatballs or other dishes using ground meats.

All of these ingredients — the egg, breadcrumbs (or panade), cheese — will also keep the meatballs incredibly moist and tender. 

Can I substitute another type of pasta in place of the Spaghetti?

You certainly can use any other long-shaped pasta. The most similar to spaghetti would be Bucatini. It’s shaped almost exactly like spaghetti, but is a little rounder and has a small hole in the center which makes the noodle hollow — which is great for trapping sauce! 

However, you could also use Angel Hair, Fettuccine, Linguine, Pappardelle, or Tagliatelle. 

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Homemade Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti and Meatballs is a classic Italian-American dish. Twirls of pasta covered in a rich Homemade Tomato Sauce topped with Oven-Roasted Italian Meatballs. There isn’t a meal more deeply satisfying.
Taylor
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

For the Homemade Tomato Sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 1 large Yellow Onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 2, 28 ounce cans San Marzano Tomatoes, Whole
  • 1 Large Bay Leaf
  • 1 Parmesan Cheese Rind
  • 5 Medium-Large Basil Leaves
  • 3 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
  • ¼ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

Oven Roasted Italian Meatballs

  • 2 Pounds Ground Beef, 80/20
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion
  • 3 Large Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
  • 2 Extra Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Teaspoons Dried Italain Seasoning
  • 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Spaghetti

  • 16 Ounces Spaghetti Noodles

Instructions
 

Homemade Tomato Sauce

  • Finely mince the yellow onion and garlic.
  • Begin by sweating the onion in a combination of olive oil and butter in a high-sided skillet. Cook the onions for a few minutes, until they have softened and are translucent. Add the minced garlic, and cook until it’s fragrant (about 30-45 seconds).
  • Season the onions and garlic with 1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and the crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and cook it for a few minutes until it has lightened in color by 1 or 2 shades (about 1-2 minutes).
  • Add the canned San-Marzano Tomatoes, along with their juice, crushing them in your hand as you add them. 
  • Add some sprigs of basil, a bay leaf, a parmesan cheese rind, a tablespoon of granulated sugar, and the remaining salt (1½ teaspoons).
  • Allow the sauce to simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  • While the sauce simmers and thickens, make the meatballs, roast them in the oven, and then cook the spaghetti noodles.

Oven Roasted Italian Meatballs

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F
  • n a large mixing bowl combine: the ground beef, chopped onion, garlic, and parsley, eggs, breadcrumbs, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, Worcestershire sauce, dried Italian Seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  • Shape into 24, 2-inch meatballs. Place them on a baking sheet [insert affiliate link here] and place them in the oven.
  • Roast the meatballs in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160°F

Spaghetti

  • Cook the Spaghetti until it's al dente, 8-12 minutes.
  • Turn the heat off the tomato sauce. Transfer the cooked spaghetti into the tomato sauce, and stir to combine.
  • Add 1-2 cups of the leftover starchy cooking water to the spaghetti and stir it all together
  • Add 1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese to the Spaghetti. Maybe a few leaves of basil, if you have any extra.
  • If your Italian Meatballs fit into the pot along with all of the spaghetti, go ahead and add those as well. If not, it’s perfectly fine to leave them separate and plate them right on top of the spaghetti.
  • Serve the spaghetti with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, some basil, and a good drizzle of olive oil for added richness.

Did You Make My Spaghetti and Oven-Roasted Meatballs with Homemade Tomato Sauce Recipe? 

Let me know how much you loved it by leaving a rating or comment down below. Share a picture of this recipe on Facebook or Instagram with #servingupspice! 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, I’m Taylor! I’m a self-taught amateur chef with a love for teaching people the fundamental basics of preparing good food. I’m a full-time Recipe Blogger and Food Photographer. 

I live in Florida with Andy, my exceptionally perfect dog. I spend the majority of my time cooking, writing, and trying to keep my garden of plants alive. I love naps, books, and iced coffee. → More about Taylor


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