Italian spaghetti and meatballs never tasted so good!
If you’ve been looking for the best spaghetti and meatballs recipe with homemade marinara sauce that tastes like your favorite Italian restaurant, then you’ve found it! These tender cooked Italian meatballs with a tomato sauce recipe is made with fresh herbs, garlic cloves, and other rich ingredients which make it the ultimate family friendly meal to share with your loved ones on any given night.
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How this recipe came about
It’s no secret that my husband and I love a classic spaghetti and meatball dish from our favorite Italian restaurants. There is something so comforting about a thick marinara sauce with tender cooked meatballs. We realized, that every time we eat Italian food we always order spaghetti and meatballs and now it’s double the quantity because our daughters love it just as much.
I gave my friend from high school a call who has an Italian grandmother. We got into a conversation about spaghetti and meatballs while her grandmother was with her at the given moment. So, I got the rough recipe right from the source. Her secret, use fresh ingredients (including the pasta). I tried to make it just like she said with a few changes and life has never been the same! Let me just say, this dish is a 100 times better when cooked at home and my value for it has increased greatly.
How to make meatball marinara
Fresh herbs are the key with this recipe. If you don’t have them on hand, you can use dry but I highly recommend fresh herbs. A little goes a long way, but we are flavor loving individuals and adding a bit extra has never affected the recipe. Meatball marinara includes a marinara sauce that is slow cooked until the flavors are infused and combined well. After the delicious marinara sauce is cooked, add the homemade meatballs to the pan and cook it on low so the meatball marinara flavors get even better. Why stop there? The slow cooking of the meatballs with the tomato marinara is going to help tenderize the meatballs which is a key step to this dish.
Does this recipe compare to restaurant spaghetti and meatballs?
You bet it does! I wouldn’t stress it as much as I have if it really didn’t hit the spot! Spaghetti and Meatballs is one dish we always order at restaurants whether it is Tomatina, Olive Garden, Pasta Pomodoro, Napolis, etc. This recipe came straight from my friend’s Italian grandmother and I am beyond thankful for her help not just for this recipe but for sending extra portions of pasta for me in middle school.
Why is this the best spaghetti and meatball recipe?
I am biased when I say that, but I really do think it is the best! When you have al dente cooked spaghetti mixed with a flavorful marinara and tender cooked meatballs the dish just becomes the best thing ever. Comfort food at its finest! But, what makes it the best is the fact that it is homemade, cooked with love, enjoyed by family and friends, and satisfying enough to leave everyone with a belly full of yummy food. P.S. leftovers taste great too!
Olive Garden copycat spaghetti and meatballs recipe
I do not think it is a copy of the Olive Garden spaghetti and meatballs, but it tastes phenomenal. The freshness of the recipe listed below is something that can be enjoyed with every bite. However, I thoroughly enjoy Olive Garden’s Spaghetti and Meatball dish and for that reason I would like to think this is the Best Spaghetti and Meatball Recipe out there. Yes, that is an opinion but a damn good one if you ask me ;).
Kid friendly Spaghetti and Meatball Recipe
What spaghetti recipe is not kid friendly? Never have I ever met a human who doesn’t like a pasta in the shape of a noodle. My kids love rice noodles, pasta noodles, and even kichu noodles. The list is never ending and I truly appreciate them trying + loving every cuisine out there. But this… this is a classic I encourage everyone to try.
Substitute Turkey for Beef
You can definitely substitute turkey for beef in this recipe. However, the key to getting moist turkey meatballs is to add additional fat. Sorry, not sorry, when it comes to that. If you want the tender meatballs then extra fat is needed to help break the meatball into tender bites while it gets slow cooked. It is well worth it.
Other favorite pasta dishes
One of our all time favorite pasta dishes is a Mushroom Pasta. It is loved by my family because it pairs well with one of our favorites-steak. To be specific, great cut of steak that is cooked medium rare with lots of herbs and garlic. Find this follower favorite recipe here.
What herbs taste best with Italian Food?
Basil-ALWAYS! I enjoy fresh basil and can’t stress how flavorful this dish is when you add fresh basil to it. Either way, basil or oregano are must haves in almost all Italian dishes. I add celery leaves to this recipe as well. Instead of the celery ribs only, I purchase an entire celery stalk because the leafy herbs come in handy for soups, salads, and recipes like this. Use the celery the tips after chopping them finely in this particular recipe. They hold so much flavor. Check the recipe below to see what other herbs I use for my Spaghetti and Meatball Recipe.
What brand of canned tomatoes to use for this Italian Recipe?
I almost always use Cento brand of tomatoes. If you are looking for an organic version then feel free to use Muir Glen, but I like to stay away from the pre-flavored versions of crushed tomatoes which include garlic, basil, etc. Add your own flavors with fresh herbs for this specific recipe.
The best spaghetti and meatball recipe with meatball marinara restaurant quality
I can’t stress how delicious this recipe is and hope you try it for you and your loved ones. We enjoy making it together and I hope you do the same. If you make this recipe, I would love to hear your thoughts. I enjoy hearing from and connecting with you! Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me via Instagram, Facebook, or email.
Spaghetti and Meatball Marinara Recipe
A marinara sauce that includes herbs combined with crushed tomatoes, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil mixed with homemade meatballs.
- 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes (I use Cento brand)
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, grated or finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, grated/minced
- ½ cup broth of choice (chicken, vegetable, or beef)
- cooking oil
- salt (I do not add black pepper but you are welcome to)
- 2 tbsp celery leaves, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, grated (white or yellow)
- 2 cloves garlic, grated/minced
- ¼ cup fresh parmigiano reggiano or parmesan, grated
- ¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- 1 lb ground beef, 80/20 (see substitutions below)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter (salted or unsalted)
- 2 slices of sliced white bread, crust removed (see substitutions below)
- black pepper
- cooking oil
- 12 oz dried spaghetti (or equivalent fresh pasta), packages come in 16oz usually but I recommend using only 12oz of spaghetti
Boil a large pot of water to cook the pasta adding only salt to the water.
Once the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to the packaged directions. I prefer to keep the spaghetti a bit al dente since it will be resting for a while until it gets mixed with the sauce and meatballs.
Heat some cooking oil in a pan on medium heat (try not to get the oil too hot). Add the garlic and herbs to the oil and cook until fragrant but not browned.
Add the onions and continue to cook until the onions are translucent.
Gently pour in the canned crushed tomatoes and mix well.
Pour the broth into the pot and let it simmer for about 15 minutes on medium heat.
In the mean time you can cook the meatballs.
Start by grating the onion and place it in a small bowl.
Take the sliced bread and combine it with the grated onion. The bread will dissolve and mix into the juices of the onion. Set this aside.
Combine all of the other meatball ingredients in a bowl (except the cooking oil).
Mix in the onion+bread mixture and combine it all well.
Make small/golf ball sized meatballs (you can make them larger if you prefer) and lay them on a plate. Set them aside and continue to make the marinara sauce.
Heat a pan on medium/high heat with some cooking oil.
Cook the meatballs until all sides have fully browned.
As they finish cooking place them on a plate and set them aside until all meatballs are cooked.
Discard the oil/juices from the pan. I do not like to use these juices, but you are more than welcome to pour it into the marinara sauce with the meatballs.
Add the meatballs, which have been placed on a plate, to the hot marinara sauce. Coat them evenly with the sauce so they are covered with marinara.
Let the meatball marinara simmer on low heat for about 25-30 minutes (the sauce will be thick).
Mix the spaghetti with the meatball marinara. Top with extra virgin olive oil and mix again.
Serve hot with additional parmesan cheese and red chili flakes.
Beef Meatball Substitutions
- Turkey Meatballs- Combine 1 pound of ground turkey with 2 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp oil, and a pinch of baking soda. The additional fats may seem like a lot, but I have tried to substitute less in the past and it has not came out the same in texture. So please do not compromise on the fat content if you prefer soft and tender meatballs. Continue with the recipe as listed.
- Vegetarian Meatballs- Purchase vegetarian meatballs from your local grocery store and continue with the marinara sauce recipe listed. Add 1 extra cup of broth and simmer for an additional 10 minutes on low to help the fluids absorb into the meatballs.
- Pork- If you want even better tasting meatballs, then substitute ¼ of the ground beef with ground pork. The additional fat adds a great deal of flavor to the recipe.