A small white platter with classic spaghetti and meatballs piled high.
Main courses, Pasta

Classic spaghetti and meatballs

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Classic spaghetti and meatballs in a marinara sauce is one dinner everyone in my family gets excited about. And even if you’re gluten-free, you can still enjoy this fresh homemade dish.

A small white platter with classic spaghetti and meatballs piled high.
A family favorite, spaghetti and meatballs

Did you know today (Oct 17) is National Pasta Day? In fact the whole month of October is Italian-American Heritage Month.  Well, we’re happy to get on board with that because we love pasta and classic Italian food.  In fact, spaghetti and meatballs in a marinara sauce is one perfect family-style dinner everyone should learn how to make. You’ll be able to whip up this Italian favorite within 30 minutes.

First follow my recipe for homemade Italian meatballs. I often make these ahead and then reheat them on busy weeknights simply by simmering them slowly in our favorite tomato sauce. Use a large deep skillet for this. I recommend a marinara sauce or a simple tomato basil sauce.

An oval bowl of homemade Italian meatballs.
Homemade Italian meatballs

How to make your own marinara sauce

You can make your own marinara sauce using a large can of San Marzano whole tomatoes. Use your hands, a large spoon or fork to break up the tomatoes. In a pot on medium high heat, add a tbsp of olive oil. Add half a clove of garlic, crushed and let it sizzle for a couple minutes. Remove the garlic from the oil. Add the tomatoes and 2 tbsp tomato paste. Simmer and adjust the seasoning to your liking – a pinch each of sea salt, pepper, oregano or fresh basil.

Making the pasta

  1. Do not add olive oil to the pasta water. It will impede the absorption of flavor from your delicious sauce. If you stir the water a little when you add the pasta, it will not stick.
  2. Yes, the salt is important as it is during this cooking time that it will absorb flavor.
An oval white plate with classic spaghetti and meatballs.
Spaghetti and meatballs with marinara sauce

Finishing the pasta

Remove the spaghetti from the boiling water 2 – 3 minutes prior to the end of the cooking time (right before it is el dente). Use tongs to remove the pasta from the water. Add it to the tomato sauce a little at a time. Coat the spaghetti with the sauce for the last 2 – 3 minutes of cooking time. Add a little of the hot pasta water if necessary.

Following these final finishing steps is important. The pasta will continue to absorb the flavors of the sauce in the final 2 – 3 minutes of cooking.

Next, turn off the heat. Add the freshly grated Parmesan cheese and toss. Drizzle the pasta with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately with an additional sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top if desired. Garnish with fresh Italian parsley or basil.

Classic spaghetti and meatballs

Simple rich and delicious. Classic spaghetti and meatballs in a marinara sauce is everyone’s favorite.

  • 1 package spaghetti (if GF use gluten-free Barilla, or your favorite brand)
  • 4 to 6 quarts water
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 4 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 jar marinara or tomato basil tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped Italian parsley (or a few sprigs of fresh basil for garnish)
  • Italian meatballs. To make your own, follow this Italian meatball recipe.
  1. Fill a large pot ¾ full with water (about 4 – 6 quarts). I usually add about 1 ½ tsp to 1 tbsp sea salt. Stir and bring the water to a boil.
  2. Then add the pasta. Stir the water a little, so the pasta doesn’t stick. Begin timing the pasta. Cook per the recommended length of time on the package of pasta – generally around 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. In a large deep skillet, add about 1 ½ – 2 cups tomato sauce. Add your desired amount of cooked meatballs and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low.
  4. Remove the spaghetti from the boiling water 2 – 3 minutes prior to the end of the cooking time (right before it is el dente). Use tongs to remove the pasta from the water. Add it to the tomato sauce a little at a time.
  5. Coat the spaghetti with the sauce for the last 2 – 3 minutes of cooking time. Add a little of the hot pasta water if necessary.
  6. Next, turn off the heat. Add the freshly grated Parmesan cheese and toss. Drizzle the pasta with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately with an additional sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top if desired. Garnish with fresh Italian parsley or basil.

Making your own sauce is not as intimating as it may seem. Simple and fresh is best. When buying whole canned tomatoes, buy the ones without all the extra seasonings and low salt content. You add the flavor.

How to make your own marinara sauce

  1. Use a large can of San Marzano whole tomatoes. Use a large spoon and fork to break them up.
  2. In a pot on medium high heat, add a little olive oil. Add half a clove of garlic, crushed and let it sizzle for a couple minutes until it begins to turn golden. Remove the garlic from the oil. This infuses the oil with the flavor of garlic without it overpowering the sauce. Burnt garlic turns bitter, so be careful not to over toast it.
  3. Add the tomatoes and 1 tbsp tomato paste. Simmer and adjust the seasoning to your liking – a pinch each of sea salt, pepper, oregano or finish with fresh basil.
 

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