Monday, July 2, 2012

meatballs in tomato sauce with spaghetti

Can you tell that I love to cook and eat Italian dishes? With all of the Italian inspired recipes in this blog, it's not hard to figure out. As a child, I would always order spaghetti and meatballs when dining out. I remember one time, my Mom asking me to order something different off of the menu, but I was confused, why would I when I loved spaghetti and meatballs so much? It’s still one of my favorites!

There is this great Italian restaurant in Malibu, Guido’s Malibu. My hubby and I frequent Guido’s Malibu on Monday nights. We almost always split a chopped salad and spaghetti and meatballs. Of course a glass (or two) of red wine with dinner is a must.
Guido's Malibu on Urbanspoon

Guido’s décor is 1980’s with teal colored vinyl booths and floral lamps. The glass windows circle around the restaurant and over look Malibu creek. Somehow the 1980's ambiance works, making you feel very relaxed and hungry for Italian.

Returning from a ski weekend in Mammoth, I took this Monday off from work. The time off work gave me the opportunity to cook a more time consuming dinner. I offered my hubby grilled fish tacos (I’ve been dying to recreate the ones from Duke’s in Malibu) or spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Guess which one he picked? Bingo...spaghetti and meatballs! Typical for a Monday night :). I will save the grilled fish tacos for Taco Tuesday. Stay tuned for that recipe!

This recipe for meatballs in tomato sauce is perfect for a dinner party. The sauce and meatballs can be prepared a day ahead. The only required prepping prior to dinner is to fry the meatballs, simmer the sauce and cook the pasta. Serve with a simple salad and warm sourdough bread and you have a perfect Italian dinner.

Here are some easy to follow steps in creating the perfect meatball...

Use freshly grated Parmesan cheese for a more authentic flavor and added moisture.

Crustless white bread slices are soaked in milk. Squeeze milk before adding to the meat mixture. The soaked bread helps the meatballs keep their shape.

The veal, pork, and bacon (yes, bacon is the secret ingredient) is placed in a food processor and pulsed about 8 to 10 times to combine the meat.

I suggest using an ice cream scoop for uniformly shaped meatballs.

Meatballs are rolled in flour which helps to keep their shape while frying.

The meatballs are rolled in flour, placed on a baking sheet and refrigerated for at least an hour or overnight.

Meatballs are fried in extra-virgin olive oil which results in meatballs being crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.

Any pasta of choice will work. I decided on Perciattelli, which is an extra thick spaghetti noodle.

Just wait until you smell the aroma from this tomato sauce simmering. You will think you are in Italy…or in an Italian restaurant. This sauce has a very authentic Italian flavor. I’m very passionate about this recipe and have thought twice about sharing it, but am more so passionate about this blog and it’s viewers, so I made the best and final decision to share it.

meatballs in tomato sauce with spaghetti
Cooking time: 2 ½ to 3 hours
Makes approximately 18 to 20 large meatballs
Serves 6

Tomato Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 28 oz cans crushed Italian tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/8-teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup red wine
¼ cup (approximately 4 to 5 leaves) fresh basil, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, pour in olive oil and heat over medium flame. Add onion and sauté until soft for approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds, until fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomatoes paste, red pepper flakes, red wine, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to simmer. Continue simmering for 2 ½ hours, stirring often.

4 slices white bread, crust removed
¼ cup whole milk
1-pound ground veal
1-pound ground pork
3 slices bacon (I used thick cut), finely chopped
2 large eggs
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups all purpose flour, for dredging
1-cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed, for frying

Place bread slices in an 8 x 8 pan and pour in milk. Allow to soak for 5 minutes. Squeeze dry and break into bits.

In a food processor, add veal, pork, and bacon. Pulse 8 to 10 times to combine the meat, but do not over process.

Remove meat from processor and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the bread, eggs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Using your hands, combine the mixture until well blended. Make balls about the size of a large egg and roll in the palm of your hand until they are firm and fully rounded (or use an ice-cream scoop).

Pour the flour onto a large plate; dredge the meatballs in the flour, shaking off excess flour. Place meatballs onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Once all meatballs have been placed on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. The flour will help the meatballs maintain their shape while cooking.

To fry: Pour olive oil into a large frying pan or Dutch oven. The olive oil should reach approximately ¼ inch, or more, deep in pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, place the meatballs in a single layer. With a wooden spoon, gently roll meatballs around pan until all sides are uniformly crisp and brown. Remove meatballs and drain on a plate covered with 2 paper towels.

Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cook pasta as directed. Add pasta to sauce and top with meatballs.


  1. Love your secret ingredient! Never would have thought of that but it makes so much sense. Spaghetti and meatballs is one of my favorite dishes - pure comfort :)

  2. Yea love your ingredients, just love visiting your site to learn new recipes which are just too tasty :) .

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