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Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

Spaghetti and Meatballs is a classic Italian dinner that’s easy to make from scratch with my homemade marinara sauce, or you can use jar sauce for an easy shortcut. These Italian meatballs are so juicy and tender, they almost melt in your mouth!

BONUS: You can make them on the stove top or in the Crock Pot! (And they make the best freezer meal.)

A pot of Spaghetti and Meatballs with a wooden spoon on the side and parsley in the background.

Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe:

I have learned some pretty amazing secrets when it comes to making meatballs. I’ve come to find that a good panade makes them flavorful and tender, rolling them in flour helps them stay intact, and I have the best 3-meat combination along with Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, subtle flavor enhancers,  and the best blend of seasonings.

Best Meat for Meatballs

  • A combination of ground beef, sausage, pork, and/or veal is best for a flavorful and tender meatball.
  • The amount you use of each depends on personal preference. I like to use 50% ground beef, 25% ground sausage, and 25% ground pork. 
  • The fat content in the beef that you use for meatballs depends on what other meats are included.
  • I use 85% lean ground beef for this recipe. If I were using a greater portion of ground sausage and/or pork, both of which have more fat, then I would use 90% lean.

What is a Panade 

  • A panade is a mixture of starch and liquid that is combined and mixed in with meat for meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers to preserve the tender texture of the meat. In this case, we’re using crushed Ritz crackers and half and half.
  • When meat cooks, the proteins expand and contract and in doing so, moisture escapes. The starch in the panade turns to a gel when cooked and lubricates the fibers in the meat as it cooks, which keeps them tender and moist.

How to Make It

See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

Soften onions and garlic in olive oil, then let cool. Combine the whisked eggs, half and half, and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Add the crushed Ritz crackers and stir for 1-2 minutes, the crackers will continue to absorb the liquid.

Add Parmesan cheese, parsley, Italian seasoning, mustard powder, salt, pepper, and cooled onions/garlic and stir to combine. Add the ground beef, sausage, and pork. 

Meatball ingredients in a glass bowl before being mixed together.

Gently mix until evenly combined. Don’t overwork the meat. Roll into 1.5-inch meatballs. You’ll end up with about 34 of them. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, then give them one more roll to smooth them out.

Meatballs before and after being rolled into 1.5 inch balls.

Roll the meatballs into some flour, this will help keep them intact. Brown them in olive oil in batches. Remove from pot. Add the marinara sauce, then add the meatballs back. Simmer with the lid partially cracked for about 30 minutes.

Boil 1 lb. of spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain, and ladle the sauce and meatballs over the spaghetti. Serve with Parmesan cheese and a side of garlic bread.

Browned meatballs on a plate next to a pot of meatballs in marinara sauce.

Make-Ahead Method

  • Brown and Refrigerate: Assemble and brown the meatballs as outlined. Let them cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Add them to the sauce and give 10 additional minutes of simmering time.
  • Brown and Freeze: Assemble and brown the meatballs as outlined. Let them cool completely. Place on a baking sheet or plate and freeze for 1-2 hours. Remove and transfer to a gallon freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. They can be thawed in the fridge overnight or added to sauce from a frozen state until warm and cooked through.

Crock Pot Method

  • Assemble and brown the meatballs on the stove top as outlined in the recipe. Transfer to the Crock Pot and add the marinara sauce. Heat on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7. Serve with freshly boiled spaghetti.

A large skillet filled with Spaghetti and Meatballs with fresh Parsley and Parmesan cheese on the side.

Pro Tips

  • Marinara Sauce: I love using Rao’s marinara sauce (affiliate link) for this recipe, a high-quality marinara sauce makes a big difference. You can also make a double batch of my easy homemade marinara sauce for this recipe.
  • Pasta: ¾ lb. pasta can be used if you prefer saucier pasta. This is also a good idea if you expect leftovers as the spaghetti will continue to absorb the sauce during storage.
  • Meat: The meat options are flexible, you’ll need 2 lbs. total. Ground beef, pork, sausage, and veal are all great choices. Some stores sell these meat combinations in a single package specifically for meatballs or meatloaf.
  • Flour: Dredging the meatballs in flour helps keep them intact during browning and while they’re cooking in the sauce.
  • Oil: Lightly coating your hands with oil will make it easier to roll out the meatballs as the meat won’t stick to your hands as much.
  • Flavor Enhancers: The Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder are subtle flavor enhancers in these meatballs, but they can be left out if needed.

Storage

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Tools For This Recipe

(Amazon affiliate links)- Check out all of my kitchen essentials here.

A white plate with Spaghetti and Meatballs topped with Parmesan cheese and a fork on the side.

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A large pot of Spaghetti and Meatballs with a spoon in it.

Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

5 from 2 ratings
Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs is an easy Italian dinner idea that you can make on the stove top or in the Crock Pot. Use my homemade marinara sauce recipe, or jar sauce for an easy shortcut!

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (1 and 3)
  • ½ cup flour, to dredge the meatballs

Meatballs

  • ½ cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Eggs, whisked
  • ½ cup Half and half, can sub milk
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ¼ cup Crushed Ritz Crackers, can sub Italian breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoon Pepper
  • 1 ½ lbs. ground beef, 85% or 90% lean
  • ½ lb. ground Italian sausage, sweet or mild
  • ½ lb. ground pork

Spaghetti and Sauce

  • 2 (28 oz.) jars marinara sauce, see notes
  • 1 lb. spaghetti

For Serving

  • Fresh parsley or basil
  • Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Assemble and Brown the Meatballs

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Remove and let cool.
  • Combine the whisked eggs, half and half, and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Add the crushed Ritz crackers and stir for 1-2 minutes. This is called a “panade” and will make the meatballs super flavorful and tender. Add Parmesan cheese, parsley, Italian seasoning, mustard powder, salt, pepper, and cooled onions/garlic and stir to combine.
  • Add the ground beef, sausage, and pork and gently work the meat until evenly combined. (Don’t overwork the meat, this can make the meatballs tough.)
  • Roll into 1 ½-inch meatballs. (Pro Tip: Coat your hands in a little olive oil to make rolling easier, the meat won’t stick to your hands as much.)
  • Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to firm up the meatballs. Then give them each one more roll to smooth them out.
  • Add the flour on a large plate and roll each meatball in it to lightly coat the outside. This helps it stay together during cooking.
  • Heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in the same pot that you cooked the onions in. Brown the meatballs in batches, leave plenty of space around them so that you can easily roll them to brown on each side. Brown for 1 ½ minutes per side, about 5-6 minutes total. Set aside on a plate once browned.

Simmer the Meatballs in Sauce

  • Carefully wipe off any black bits that may be in the pot but leave the brown remnants as this will make the sauce more flavorful.
  • Add the sauce to the pot. The sauce will thicken and reduce during cooking so I recommend adding about ¼ cup water as well so that the sauce doesn’t get overly thick. You can do this now or later as you judge the consistency.
  • Add the meatballs. Let them simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes.

Cook the Pasta

  • Bring a large pot of salted pasta water to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain and return to the warm pot. Ladle the spaghetti and meatballs over the spaghetti and use kitchen tongs to gently toss to combine.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley/basil and serve with Parmesan cheese and cheesy garlic bread.

Notes

  • Marinara Sauce: I love using Rao’s marinara sauce for this recipe, a high-quality marinara sauce makes a big difference. You can also make a double batch of my easy homemade marinara sauce for this recipe.
  • Pasta: ¾ lb. pasta can be used if you prefer saucier pasta. This is also a good idea if you expect leftovers as the spaghetti will continue to absorb the sauce during storage.
  • Meat: The meat options are flexible, you just need 2 lbs. total. Ground beef, pork, sausage, and veal are all great choices. Some stores sell these meat combinations in a single package specifically for meatballs or meatloaf.
  • Flour: Dredging the meatballs in flour helps keep them intact during browning and while they’re cooking in the sauce.
  • Flavor Enhancers: The Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder are subtle flavor enhancers in these meatballs, but they can be left out if needed.

Crock Pot Method
  • Assemble and brown the meatballs on the stove top as outlined above. Transfer to the Crock Pot and add the marinara sauce. Heat on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7. Serve with freshly boiled spaghetti.

Nutrition

Calories: 665kcal, Carbohydrates: 63g, Protein: 41g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 123mg, Sodium: 1777mg, Potassium: 1323mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 1133IU, Vitamin C: 19mg, Calcium: 140mg, Iron: 6mg

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5 comments on “Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe”

  1. My family loves these. Sometimes I use ground turkey, sometimes beef and sometimes meatloaf mix (beef, pork, veal). They’re fool proof. I use an ice cream scoop to form my meatballs. Much less rolling needed to get a good ball. Multiple dipping sauces make these wonderful hors d’oeuvres.

  2. My husband LOVES Spaghetti and Meatballs but I’ve never been able to make a good meatball from scratch. He LOVED this recipe!!! I did just as you suggested with the proportions of three meats. I’ve never used half and half in a meatball recipe before but clearly you were right because these meatballs can’t be beat!!!! I do like a saucier pasta dish so I used the 3/4 pounds of pasta you suggested with the Rao’s sauce. I will be making these meatballs again this weekend to freeze for an easy meal in the busy weeks to come. Thank you soooo much!!! Smiles around the table on this one!!!!

    • It sounds like you did a great job Wendy! I’m so happy you followed the different proportions for the different meats, I feel like it’s the perfect formula. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such great comments and a review!💖

  3. You’re right Stephanie, these meatballs pretty much do melt in your mouth. There’s so many great tips in here. I never knew about dredging in flour to help keep the meatballs intact. It definitely worked. Also I used your homemade marinara sauce and that was delicious as well. Thanks so much , the family gave it two thumbs up!

    • Yayyyy! I’m so happy you liked this as much as I do Sharon! I’m extra happy to hear you used my homemade marinara recipe too! Thanks so much for the great review!😃

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