Looking for a main dish that is fast and simple and can feed a large family? I usually am as well! Due to our kid’s hectic sports schedules, I find that I need an arsenal of hearty and quick weeknight dinners that can be prepared a bit ahead of time and still be delicious warmed up. One of our family favorites it this ultimate spaghetti and meatballs dish. It rivals any comfort food main dishes and can be easily adapted to suit your tastes.
Who doesn’t love a good meatball? When I first started making spaghetti, I did it “old school”, with the meat chopped up into small pieces, cooked on the stovetop, and mixed in with the sauce. That was the way I grew up with it as a child and I wasn’t aware of the meatball alternative. When I started cooking on my own, I discovered a Swedish meatball dish that ignited my love of them. I liked how I could control the size and quantity of meat that comingled with my noodles. For me, I like more sauce than meat so it was the perfect solution.
From there, I decided to apply the concept of meatballs to a traditional spaghetti with red sauce. At the time, I had a roommate named Nina. She was Italian and had strong feelings on meatballs. In her family, they pan fried the meatballs with a small piece of white cheese in the center. She shared her grandma’s handed-down recipe with me. It was very tasty and had a nice combination of flavor, but a bit dense for my liking (sorry Nina!). Afterwards, I decided to experiment with the wonderful Italian flavors that Nina shared and try to lighten up the texture a bit.
After some time, I realized that by using different types of meats in combination helped me accomplish my goal of lightening up the density of the meatball. I was able to enjoy the seasonings and not feel like I just ate a bunch of bricks afterwards. Although the meatball is the center of attention, let’s not forget about the co-stars of this show – noodles and sauce!
Let me start by saying I have tried MANY noodles over the years. All different sizes, shapes, imported, domestic, and even homemade. I have come to the conclusion that for this particular dish my favorite is Barilla’s thick spaghetti. Barilla is a great pasta for maintaining it’s shape and texture after boiling. The thick spaghetti is able to hold up the hearty homemade marinara sauce better than some of the smaller alternatives.
Looking for a colander to drain your spaghetti noodles? This is an excellent colander that we recommend. This is a 5 quart colander that is sturdy and can handle all of your pasta draining needs
Healthy Tip: Did you know that garlic needs to sit at room temperature for at least 5-10 minutes before adding to a dish to activate it’s healthy enzymes? According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, the enzymes found in garlic are linked to certain health benefits that include cardiovascular support, sugar regulation, antifungal properties, and even detoxification.
And now for the sauce! Homemade is the best. It doesn’t take much longer than opening a jar of sauce and the difference is HUGE. When I am making sauce and don’t have garden fresh Roma tomatoes, I always opt for the canned San Marzano whole tomatoes. They have a sweeter taste and lower in acid than others.
When the cast comes together on this traditional main dish, you will be mentally transported into a little Italian kitchen with the aromas and tastes. Next time you are looking for a fast and simple weeknight favorite, give this one a try and let me know what you think.
Ultimate Weeknight Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup parmesean cheese
- 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Homemade Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 sweet onion, large
- 2 28 ounce cans of San Marzano tomatoes, whole
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 1/2 cup red table wine (optional)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 1-pound Barilla thick spaghetti noodles
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine ground pork, turkey, and beef with a fork until well incorporated.
- Add parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, oregano, basil, onion powder, and eggs. Stir until combined. Add red pepper flakes if desired.
- Place 2-inch meatballs into a mini-muffin pan. There should be enough for 24-28 medium sized meatballs.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to drain on a paper towel.
Homemade Sauce Directions:
- Dice onions and cook over medium heat in a small pan until caramelized. Press garlic and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
- In a large soup pot, add onions, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil, red table wine, sugar, salt and pepper.
- Cook on medium high heat until mixture reaches a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes.
- With a hand blender, puree sauce mixture. Allow to simmer on low heat for 10-20 minutes while noodles and meatballs finish cooking.
- Boil 2 quarts water and cook spaghetti until al dente as directed on box. Drain and add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the noodles.
- Top with sauce and meatballs. Garnish with parmesan cheese, parsley, and additional red pepper flakes if desired.