Spaghetti and Meatballs


When it comes to making meatballs, most people wing it with a little bit of this and a little bit of that…sometimes they come out perfect and sometimes they don’t. I happen to like a sure thing, so I came up with an easy recipe that yields flavorful, tender yet hearty meatballs every time. You might be surprised to see what’s in them.

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For starters, the best meatballs contain not just ground beef, but ground veal and pork as well. Most grocers sell this “meatloaf mix” pre-packaged. It will give your meatballs fabulous flavor.

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The other secret ingredient (and here’s where you might be surprised) is water – a little bit added to the mixture makes for very tender meatballs.

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Next comes the seasoning…you can’t go wrong with lots of fresh herbs, garlic and Parmesan cheese.

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And finally, most recipes call for pan frying the meatballs before adding them to the sauce, but I found that baking them is a whole lot easier, not to mention neater (no oil splattering all over the kitchen, thank you very much) and so much healthier. You’ll feel virtuous when you see how much fat you leave behind on the baking sheet.

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If you have a homemade sauce that you like, by all means, use it. I cheat a little here and use a good quality store bought sauce, which cuts down on the cooking time and makes this an easy weeknight dinner.

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So here you have it…delicious, dependable Spaghetti and Meatballs. Enjoy!

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Print Recipe
Servings: 4 (Makes 24 small meatballs)
Total Time: 40 Minutes


  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (plus more for serving)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground "meatloaf mix" (approximately equal parts ground beef, pork and veal)
  • 3/4 cup dried Italian style bread crumbs (such as Progresso)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (plus more for serving)
  • Large jar (32 oz) good quality Marinara sauce (such as Rao's)
  • 1 pound spaghetti


  1. Set rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, basil, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic and water. Add meat, breadcrumbs and Parmesan and mix until just combined (your hands are the best tool). Do not overwork it.
  3. Using your hands, take about 2 tablespoons of meat mixture (about the size of a golf ball) at a time and gently roll into balls. Place meatballs on ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and use a metal spatula to turn meatballs (they will stick a bit but should release easily when you scrape under them with metal spatula). Put back in oven and cook another 10 minutes, until meatballs are nicely browned.
  4. In the meantime, bring the marinara sauce to a simmer in a large sauté pan. Taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary (I usually add a healthy pinch of sugar and freshly ground black pepper). When the meatballs are browned, transfer them to the pan with tomato sauce, leaving the fat behind. Cover loosely with foil and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, until the flavors marry and the meatballs are cooked through. Keep warm until ready to toss with pasta.
  5. While meatballs are simmering, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook al dente. Drain, then toss with sauce and meatballs; garnish with fresh basil and serve. Pass with grated Parmesan.
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  • Chuck

    2 points. Bake or fry similer result. I fry. Frying allows me to save the carmelized residue in the pan , after frying, to add more flavor to th gray. To remove the grease add a can of tom paste and water to the pan & let simmer. The oil & grease will separate,pour it off & the paste in the gravy.. 2nd, While the Crushed tomatoes are simmering, take a med size fresh carrot, cush it in a blender, add it to the tomatoes and finish the gray. Sweeeet.

  • Angela

    Wonderful! We grow and can our own tomatoes. My homemade is so much better than store-bought.

    • Angela

      PS: We also grow our own herbs! FRESH!!!

    • Ruby Russell

      What is your recipe for your spaghetti sauce if you don’t mind sharing..

    • Lori Muscara

      Just to add my 2 cents, I agree with the mixed meat 100%, I have been doing that for years and my meatballs are a huge hit no matter where I bring them. I also agree that the meatballs need something to make them moist. However, instead of water try adding tomato sauce. I usually buy a small can of hunts pureed sauce and use about 1/2 a can. That is my secret ingredient that not many people know about and it really enhances the flavor. Also, unless you’re a big oregano fan I would leave that out because oregano can have a strong taste. Definitely bake them as well.

  • Bill Beckett

    enjoyed the recipe and then all the commentary. Will be having sp and mb for awhile trying out the additional suggestions…lol

  • Willy Idzerda

    I have also been making meatballs for years but lately they have been falling apart on me. I will try to bake them and use some of the suggestions made on this website. Example: bread soaked in milk, add another egg and adding some cheese.

    • your meat balls are falling apart probably because you are using much leaner ground beef in an effort to eat healthier. Unfortunately that make for a dry meat mixture that will fall apart

    • Rita Peck

      OMG, Willy, your so right, my mom always soaked Italian bread (Hard bread) in milk then squeezed it well before adding to other meatball ingredients.
      . Adding enough Italian grated cheese is also important. I always omit the salt, as the cheese is salty enough. Thanks for the reminder.
      Stay Well.

  • Hi, great to read the recipes for mbs.
    I always buy the combo meats.

  • Mary

    I also don’t add the herbs, just garlic, bread that I soak with water, then squeeze out the excess, grated cheese, a little salt (cheese has salt in it) & pepper.Then mix it well.

  • Rey

    Instead of parsley, I usually use cilantro, finely chopped, cilantro has more taste.

  • Jude Humble

    The best meatballs I ever ate were for a sour-cream based sauce, and included 1 minced & smashed anchovy filet.

    Baking meatballs is good, but broiled meatballs get a nice, brown crust that helps keep them juicier.

  • Sue Applebaum

    I have the butcher grind BRISKET with the fat.
    These make very juicy burgers or meatballs.
    I use 1 egg per pound, garlic powder, salt, pepper
    Lawry’s season salt. A little water and Corn Flake
    crumbs. Make the best burgers and meatballs.
    Enjoy. The butcher sells me the cri-ovac wrapped
    whole brisket and grinds if.

  • Linda Johnson

    Would love to try this recipe!

  • Juliette

    I have been baking them for a few years. I thought its because the meat is more fatty now. It certainly is great realizing that all that grease and fat is iliminated.

  • Phyllis Masson

    I have alwas baked my meatball I make them the same way but a touch of milk & a egg with the mix they shape better for me

  • Michele

    even better and healthier recipe:

    try turkey meat and follow same recipe if you wish; but when you bake on sheet you do need to add some oil because the meat does not contain much fat, I do add in seasoned bread crumbs, garlic powder, eggs, water and get the right moisture to make your meatballs and bake at 350 until done

  • steph

    forget the water…. a tablespoon or two of sauce makes the v meatballs…. tender and flavorful…(old Italian secret.. .

  • knitmaiden

    Well these are great and I add a bit of ketchup instead of the water. It gives them a certain sweetness, without being overpoweing, and it makes them super moist!!!!

  • Rose Morales

    I just wanted to thank you for such a great recipe. I made them for my husband and he loved them. Then I made them for my family and OMG they loved them to. What a beautiful recipe.

  • Kelly W.

    This would be my hubby’s favorite, he even helped with the meatballs! I LOVE this website and won’t even look at another recipe book first without looking here. I HAVE NEVER had a bad recipe off of here. Looking forward to cooking more of your recipes!! :)

  • Marilyn Greer

    I was happy to see the newest recipe, then all the other comments came up, now I’m as confused as every as to how to make the meatballs.

  • Amy Simonson

    I made these last night for my picky 5 year old. It got the “These are the best meatballs, mom!” comment! Kudos Jennifer!

  • Carol Herndon

    Just wondering, do these freeze well? If so, would you freeze them before or after you bake them? Always looking for ways to be a step ahead with dinner, but not at the expense of taste. I’ve made quite a few of your recipes and have never been disappointed! Thanks so much for bringing them to us! Carol

    • Jenn

      Hi Carol, Yes, they do freeze well. I typically freeze them after baking them (with the sauce). Hope that helps!

  • Renee

    Great recipe! Made some alterations as I couldn’t find meatloaf mix or veal at my grocery store so I used half ground beef and half spicy italian sausage instead. I also doubled the garlic. I think next time I’ll add more basil since that flavor didn’t really come through. Love that these are baked, not fried…easy cleanup! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Ponyo

    Made these the other night and they were delicious! The whole family – including a toddler and baby – loved it. I used whole wheat penne (easier eating for the kids) and it worked great. Still very tasty as leftovers the next day.

  • DLA

    These meatballs are my son’s favorite and are easy enough to make on a busy week night. I serve them with Rao’s jarred sauce and a salad. Fantastic.

  • Amy Simonson

    These meatballs are YUMMY!!! I’ve substituted ground turkey, chicken & pork for the meat and they still come out tender and really tasty. My husband didn’t even know!

  • John-Francis Saccone

    Congratulations, your recipe is virtually like my Gram’s and the best. A couple of things from having made them for over 56 years that I learned from my mother. Start with plain crumbs, the “Italian” may have herbs added that one doesn’t need with the flavor you have created in seasoning already. Mom always wet the crumbs with the water first and added all the herbs, cheese and eggs,(two). If the crumbs are dry you will get a grainy taste in the meatball. Most important place your meatball mixture in the refrigerator for half an hour. This gives the egg a chance to bind the meat and they form easily and hold together firmly. It never hurts to wet your hands with water before you start to roll the meatballs. Its keeps the meat together and not all over your hands as your making them.

    • Dee

      Thanks for those tips!!

  • Amy Simonson

    I just have to tell you, these meatballs are SO good!! My picky, won’t eat anything, 2 year old ate 2 for dinner tonight! Thanks for such a great recipe!

    I wanted to share some changes I’ve made too, for any others out there with funky allergies like I have. For the meat I use ground pork & chicken (about the same amounts of each). I have to omit the egg, but the chicken is so sticky it’s never mattered. Then, instead of bread crumbs, I’ve been using almond meal (from Trader Joe’s). Other than that, I follow the recipe exactly. They hold up really well and freeze well too.

    :-) Amy

  • Lucia

    Hi Jenn, I love your blog and recipes. I don’t eat pork, so can I use a 50/50 ratio for the ‘meatloaf mix’? What are your recommendations for an alternative mix?

    • Jenn

      Hi Lucia, Yes, that would work fine!

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