Nonna’s Spaghetti & Meatballs

This is our family recipe for Spaghetti and Meatballs given to me by my Mother-in-law, who makes the best red sauce I’ve ever tasted, and I have been making it myself for over thirty years. The trick to this recipe, as in most Italian cooking is to use the best ingredients you can find. Although my Mother-in-law cans her own tomatoes from her garden, I don’t have that option, so I buy a good canned, tomatoes imported from Italy. Pomi is one brand that is now available in grocery stores, and is a personal favorite of mine. The choice of meat is up to you, but I usually add a couple of sausages, plus a piece of beef to the sauce, and prefer a combination of ground beef and veal for the meatballs. Although I use strained tomatoes or passata most often when I make my sauce, chopped tomatoes work well also.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2011

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Nonna's Spaghetti And Meatballs

Yield: Serves 6

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 2 1/2hrs

This is our family recipe for pasta sauce with meatballs, and it makes the best meatballs I've ever tasted.


For The Sauce:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Onion
2 or 3 Small Pieces of Meat (Pork, Beef, or Chicken)
Salt & Pepper
1/4 Cup Chopped Basil
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
Dash of Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
1 (6oz) Can Tomato Paste
1 Large Can Pureed Tomatoes ( I use 1 (26oz) box Pomi Tomatoes)
About 2 1/2 Cups water
3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Pound Of Spaghetti or Pasta of Choice
1 lb. Ground Beef
1/2 lb. Ground Pork or Veal
Salt & Pepper
2 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Parsley
2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Egg
1 Cup Soft Bread Crumbs (best made from soft bread)
1/2 Cup Milk


Brown the meat pieces in the oil until well colored, then add the garlic, onion, and saute until tender.
Add the paste, tomatoes, water and herbs, and bring to a boil, then season with salt and pepper to your own personal taste.
Turn mixture down to a simmer.
For the meatballs, add the bread crumbs to the milk to moisten.
Mix all the meatball ingredients together with the bread crumb mixture.
Shape into golf ball sized balls, and gently drop into the simmering sauce.
Do not stir for the first 15 minutes or so until the meatballs begin to firm up.
Continue to cook for 2 hours over very low heat, stirring occasionally, and adding extra water as needed if the sauce becomes too thick.
This sauce, with or without the meatballs can now be used over your pasta of choice.
Just before serving, stir the 3 tablespoons of grated cheese into the sauce.
Serve over pasta cooked al dente, and offer a little more parmesan cheese at the table.


7 Responses to “Nonna’s Spaghetti & Meatballs”

  1. 1
    William Hays — December 20, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    I am a Scotsman (97% – the rest Norwegian), but am totally committed to Italian cuisine! A grandmother (100% Scots) taught my mother (94%) to put raisins in her meatballs! Sacrelige? No! Delicioso!!! I also use Italian-flavor bread crumbs and about three eggs/# of meat (no milk) to make the meatballs. Unconventional, but worth a try! The sweetness of the raisins does wonders. Fresh basil, as you recommend, is another secret…


  2. 2
    C Brecht — March 1, 2012 @ 12:06 am

    Oh, this sounds delicious. I’ll be trying it soon!


  3. 3
    Joybee — January 16, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

    This sounds really good. I’m looking for a good meatball recipe to have over pasta and later for sandwiches. I think I’ll try this, maybe make it in the slowcooker (like your slow cooker turkey ragu). Should I add the meatballs toward the end? Do you think they will fall apart if I put them in the sauce for too long? Thanks for the great ideas.


    Deborah Reply:

    I wouldn’t add the meatballs into the slow cooker for the entire period.


    Joybee Reply:

    Thanks Deborah, maybe I will just add them during the last hour or so.


  4. 4
    Elisa Whittington — January 24, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

    I’m preparing bison/beef/pork meatloaves wrapped in bacon with a carmelized onion gravy. This is a good recipe for e to use to get the spices just right! Thanks!


  5. 5
    Pat — August 17, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

    My mother-in-law was from Calabria, and she taught me to make sauce and meatballs the same wsy. No browning the meatballs ahead of placing them in the sauce, as so often people do. Just drop them in raw and let them simmer slowly in the sauce. They taste so hood! I am enjoying your blog…thank you!


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