Mmmmm …. Spaghetti & Meatballs

So you’re wondering how to make spaghetti and meatballs.  Try this easy and undeniably delicious version. Or don’t. But then you’ll be missing out on something realllyyyyyyy good.


Skip right to the recipe.

I wanna talk about spaghetti & meatballs. Kind of because it’s spaghetti & meatball season and kind of because  I often want to talk about spaghetti & meatballs. Whenever there’s a chance to work spaghetti & meatballs into a conversation I do.   I suggest you do the same, for it will change your life; only and always for the better.

Take these conversations I recently made up, for example:

My mother:  “I don’t really like your hair that way, dear. You look like a squirrel..”
Me:  “Do you like spaghetti & meatballs?”
My mother:  “Oh my Lord! I LOVE spaghetti & meatballs. I remember this one time when your father and I … is that a new hairdo? It looks sharp!”

Another example:

Your Boss:   “Did you finish that assignment I gave you today?”
You:   “No. You can suck it. I’m taking a 5 hour lunch today that will involve eating spaghetti & meatballs, you miserable wound.”
Your Boss:   “Did you say spaghetti & meatballs? I LOVE spaghetti & meatballs. Hey! When’s the last time I gave you a raise?  Or a day off for no reason?  And do you have a company car? You totally need a company car. Jeez … I can’t believe you love spaghetti & meatballs. I love ’em too.”

There’s just something about spaghetti and meatballs that brings out the best in us.  And by “us” I mean human beings, dogs, cats, most other animals and the occasional stray from outer space.

There are a multitude of ways to cook spaghetti & meatballs including using fresh tomatoes, but my preferred way is to use tomato sauce that I jar in the fall.

The taste of this recipe completely changes according to how long you cook it.  The longer you cook it the smokier and denser it tastes … the less you cook it the more vibrant and bright it tastes.

As you can see from the recipe … if you don’t have a couple of quarts of homemade tomato sauce you can use the secret ingredient … tomato juice.  From the can.  Yup … that tomato juice.  The kind you’d normally drink in a juice glass while lounging in the velvet booth of  a 1970’s steak house.

Make sure you get reduced salt tomato juice though, otherwise your spaghetti sauce will be too salty.  Dead sea salty.  Salt lick salty.  Long Shoreman salty.

Here we go …

If you’re kind of a cooking expert who doesn’t need photos you can jump straight to the printable recipe here.



Gather your ingredients and preheat the oven to 375 °F


Do NOT be alarmed!  This is an old photo. I am not currently using decade old tomato sauce.

Pour all of your tomato juice (homemade or otherwise) into a roasting pan.


Add a full can of tomato paste. The recipe says a “large” can but I just add a full small can (the most common in stores)



Add your chopped onion and garlic.



Add in all of your spices and remember to crush them in your fingers to bring out the aroma and flavours of them.



Grate in about 2 Tablespoons of fresh parmesan cheese. Or used the stuff in a cardboard can. I won’t judge or give a care.



Stir everything up and then set it aside because ….



It’s time to make meatballs!!! I use 100% ground beef most of the time, but occasionally I’ll mix things up and do a 50/50 blend of ground beef and ground pork. Also, judge for yourself how much bread crumbs you’d like to use. I find adding in a little extra bread crumbs tends to make the meatball less hard and dense. I like a slightly softer textured meatball. So I add extra bread crumbs.



Taking a large tablespoon of meat, roll it in your hands with medium pressure. Again, the harder you roll the meatball the more dense it will be. If you barely form it together it will be too soft and will fall apart. Medium pressure.



Once you have rolled all the meatballs …



Throw em in the roasting pan full of sauce.



You may find they just sort of float on top of the sauce. Not to worry. This is how they brown.



Cover the roasting pan with a lid and put it in the preheated oven for half an hour to an hour. Once the sauce is bubbling and gurgling, you can remove the lid so the sauce will thicken.  Cook for another 1 ½ – 2 hrs until sauce is thickened.  Remember … the earlier you take it out the sharper and more tomatoey it will taste … the later you take it out the smokier and richer it will taste.  I go for smoky and rich.  Total cooking time … around 3 hours.



Serve on a skillfully folded tea towel, placed in front of some artfully arranged parmesan cheese and shavings.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Classic homemade spaghetti and meatballs.  PLUS it's super easy!
4.78 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Karen



  • 48 oz tomato juice (1 large can, reduced salt)
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsps parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 bay leaf


  • 1 lb ground beef Or use 1/2 lb pork and 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F or 350 degrees F convection.
  • Combine all the sauce ingredients into a dutch oven.
  • Mix the ingredients for the meatballs and then form them. You'll get 15 smaller sized meatballs from 1 lb of ground meat or 8-10 larger ones.
  • Add meatballs to the sauce allowing the tops to float out a bit. This will brown them.
  • Put a lid on the dutch oven and put it in a 375 degree F oven for half an hour. After that time, remove the lid and continue to roast for another 2 hours.
  • Stir the sauce occasionally to allow the meatballs to turn over and brown on various sides. (anything sticking out of the sauce will brown)
  • The sauce is done whenever you want.  The longer you cook it the darker and earthier tasting it will be.  If you take it out early it will be brighter and more tomatoey tasting. 


I use 2, one litre jars of my own home pressed tomato sauce for this recipe but if you don't have that (and many people don't) the best substitute is regular tomato juice. The kind you would drink. Don't forget to buy the reduced salt version of tomato juice because you boil it down so much in the oven it'll be too salty otherwise.

And the reason it’s called “Gramma’s Spaghetti & Meatballs”? Because when my niece first moved out of her parent’s house I typed out a bunch of her/my favourite recipes to give her. (GREAT gift idea by the way)

And the originator of this recipe is … her gramma. My mother. Betty. Who happens to like my hair … at the moment.

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Mmmmm .... Spaghetti & Meatballs


  1. Jacquie Gariano says:

    As you see, I’m still catching up. But, as part of my New Year resolution, I am reading you new ones as they come up. I am one of those large amount of fans who read to the last of your blog and the comments also. I can’t wait to see your new project.

  2. ReetaVeeda says:

    I just made this last night for Festivus Dinner December 23rd!
    IT. Was. Delicious! Everyone went back for more!
    I actually doubled the meatball recipe and there was still enough sauce not doubling the sauce recipe!
    Thank you for another amazing and EASY recipe!

  3. Sandy says:

    I gotta say, this was delicious and a HUGE hit at my house. With unanimous agreement from my husband and 12 and 15 year olds, we will be having “Karen’s Balls” for supper often. Even better than Schwetty balls!

  4. Other Karen says:

    Finally made this for dinner tonight … mind and tastebuds blown! Like a sucker, I’ve been separately browning meatballs for years. No more! This is now my go-to Spaghetti & Meatballs recipe. Many thanks Karen (and Betty)!

    • Karen says:

      Excellent! I’d normally be a “YOU HAVE TO BROWN THE MEAT” person, but you really don’t with this. Glad you liked it. :) ~ karen!

  5. pat b says:

    Having this for dinner. Perfect Sunday thing because it can simmer in the oven all afternoon. I just wanted to add my two cents to the comments because I’ve been making this since it was first posted. I don’t know home many times, but lots. I have to say this…this recipe needs absolutely nothing to make it more fabulous than int already it. I am an inveterate tweaker, always adding or changing things up. This needs none of that. I have other amazing tomato sauce recipes in circulation by Jamie Oliver and Marcella Hazan. This one stands as an equal. If in doubt…make it.

  6. Diane Amick says:

    Made this recipe last night…YUM. Meatballs were tender (added @ 1/4 cup more bread crumbs per your suggestion) and sauce was delicious. Thanks!

  7. Jenny W says:

    Ok, quick question. How do the meatballs brown with the lid on?
    I always make a loose meat sauce with precooked ground beef, but I really want to try this your way as my grown Son has asked for meatballs in his spaghetti forever.

    • Karen says:

      The lid comes off after half an hour. The lid is just to help the sauce get up to temperature and bubbling more quickly. ~ karen!

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