Weeknight Spaghetti and Meatballs

img_0595RECIPE #418, DAY #585


ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Italian Meatballs,” from Food Network Magazine‘s 50 Meatballs*

TIMING: 30-45 minutes


TOOLS: Rimmed baking sheet, soup pot, wide and deep saute pan, tongs, etc.

COOK TYPE: Oven and stovetop

HEALTH: If you already have an eye on your pasta consumption, this will not set you back. In fact, you could use whole wheat or alternate grain pasta, and these meatballs would hold up to it. Protein. Vegetable. With a salad, this would be a fine American dinner for the busy family.

EXPERIENCE: I made these because I was headed to the kitchen to make weeknight spaghetti bolognese (like from Newman’s jarred sauce) yet again, when my son asked me to make meatballs. So I found a recipe which didn’t require anything I didn’t have on hand, and voila!

What I like about this? The meatballs were simple and straight-forward, they were easy to make, and a harried, pantry-dinner night produced a fine supper. What I don’t like? The meatballs themselves lack pizazz. They need some sort of secret ingredient to pull it all together. (Fennel seed? Red pepper flake?) I would make these again for ease and lack of mental power with which to formulate a better idea.

The kids like them, just like all kids like all spaghetti and meatballs.

NOTES: In hindsight, I realized I should have sauteed some veggies before adding the jarred sauce. Acceptable veggies would include diced:

  • onion
  • carrot
  • celery
  • mushroom
  • eggplant
  • bell pepper

Also, this can be topped with fresh basil or parsley, a dollop of pesto, and/or any hard Italian cheese you have waiting to be shaved in the cheese drawer.


  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, gently combine 1 pound ground beef, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 1/4 pre-fab breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup minced parsley, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and a hefty pinch of pepper. Roll into uniform-sized balls, about 1 1/2 inches across. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until cooked through.
  4. In a wide, deep saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add any diced veggies you want to use up from your crisper (as listed above. Add mushrooms or minced garlic 1 minute from the end). Saute until tender.
  5. Add 1 jar of your favorite marinara along with 1/2 cup water (which I swirl around in the marinara jar). Stir and reduce to low, simmering until meatballs are ready.
  6. Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for another 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, add 12 ounces spaghetti (or other pasta) to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. When al dente, add pasta into the saute pan along with 1/2 cup pasta water. Stir, and allow to meld for a couple minutes.


Serve with a simple, green, weeknight salad and a sprinkling of Parmesan and basil chiffonade.

LEFTOVER IDEAS: Spaghetti and meatballs is great left over. I re-warm it in a pan with a bit of water and a lid. Otherwise, I bake it with grated cheese over top.

*Recipe changed from the original.


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