Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe Recipe

If you're looking for a delicious meat ball recipe, look no further. I grind both beef chunks and veal for added flavor, but the real secret is that I added bread that I soaked in milk. I learned that trick from a chef in Florence, Italy when I was a teenager. The mixture is flavored with various herbs, Parmesan cheese and binded with a few eggs. All that is left is to make your own tomato sauce. I browned each meatball in a non-stick pan, then let the meatballs braise in the homemade tomato sauce.

For a Vietnamese version, check out thịt viên or my mắm chưng thịt recipe, and for an Indian version, try kofta or kebab. Each culture has its own variation and it's equally delicious!


Yields: 10 servings

1-½ pounds beef (I used sirloin)
1-½ pounds veal
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 eggs
2 teaspoons papaya paste (see tips)
1 tablespoon caramelized onions (click on the link for other recipes)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
6 tablespoons canola oil, as needed
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
1-¼ teaspoons salt
1 cup bread
½ cup milk
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, as needed
1 (13.25-ounce) package whole wheat spaghetti pasta, cooked
2 tablespoons butter (or more oil)
1 quart homemade tomato sauce


Prepping the meat:

Cut the fresh bread into small pieces and soak them in milk for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Cut both beef and veal into 1-½" cubes and place the meat and soaked bread (give it a gentle squeeze) in a meat grinder (I used a Kitchenaid meat grinder attachment but you could use a food processor if you don't have one).

Making meatballs:

In a non-stick pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Brown the garlic. Transfer the garlic to the ground meat, leaving as much oil as possible in the pan.

Combine the eggs, red chili powder and salt. Beat the eggs with a fork.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat, eggs, papaya paste, caramelized onions, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, tomato paste, oregano, thyme and 2 tablespoons parsley.

Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

Checking the seasoning: In a small pan, heat about 1 teaspoon of canola oil. Add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Cook for about 2 minutes. Taste the meat. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Assembly time:

Grease disposable gloves with oil. Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls and place them on a tray, lined with parchment paper. Chill them in the freezer for 20 minutes (this step will make the cooking of the meatballs much easier).

Remove the meatballs from the freezer. Using a fine mesh strainer, sprinkle some flour on all sides of the meatballs and shake off the excess flour.  Cook them right from the freezer.

Using the same large flat non-stick pan, add more oil and pan-fry the meatballs until they're slightly browned; flip them and brown the other side as well, for a total of 2-3 minutes per side. Carefully remove to a platter previously lined with paper towels.

In a large saucepan, heat the homemade tomato sauce. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add the meatballs; cook for an additional 20 minutes. Stir gently, without breaking the meatballs; the sauce will thicken a little.

When you're ready to serve, form a nest of linguine in each plate. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and garnish with parsley.

Sauté the spaghetti in butter for about 2 minutes, just enough to heat up the pasta.

When you're ready to serve, form a nest of spaghetti in each plate. Place some tomato sauce in the center and some meatballs. Sprinkle some parmesan shavings and garnish with parsley. Finish with black pepper.

Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!


I use green papaya as a meat tenderizer to ensure juicy and moist meat. The papaya paste was Baji, Lulu's late grandma's secret for tender and moist meat. Peel a green papaya. Grind the cubed papaya with the seeds in a mini food processor; place about 2 teaspoons of papaya paste per slot in an ice-cube tray and freeze them. Transfer the ice-cubes into sealable plastic bags and place back in the freezer. I think it's the best way to keep the flavor without getting freezer burn.

Dredging the meatballs in flour keeps the moisture in (otherwise sticky) and makes a golden outer crust. Once you add the flour, pan-fry the meatballs immediately. If you wait too long, the moisture from the meat will become soggy.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on May 11, 2011.


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