Barefoot Bloggers Real Meatballs And Spaghetti

meatballs and spaghetti

When I was a new bride, I already had a few dishes in my cooking repertoire, but I wanted to learn to make some of my husband’s favorite dishes, too.  So I asked his mother to teach me to make these recipes, and one of them was spaghetti.

Here’s what she puts in:  onion, ground beef, tomato sauce (sounds pretty ordinary so far, right?), ketchup, tomato soup, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and 1/3 cup of sugar.  Not that it tastes bad or anything, I mean I had eaten it a few times before and it tasted fine, but not only is it way different than what I learned to make from my mother, but it’s almost like sacrilege to even call it spaghetti sauce, what with all the crazy things it contains.  My brain just can’t seem to accept it as spaghetti sauce.

But I make it for him sometimes, like when I have some ground beef in the fridge that I don’t know what else to do with.  And then sometimes I make something like this, Barefoot Contessa’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti (chosen by Rebecca from Ezra Pound Cake), all tomatoey and good.  And he eats it, a lot of it, but would probably like it better if I put in a third cup of sugar.

I don’t know if it was because I was so hungry after my salad at lunch, but I thought these meatballs and the sauce were super.  The kids really liked them, too.  I kept thinking while I was making them that they were going to be bland, since there isn’t much seasoning other than salt and pepper and parsley, but mine weren’t bland at all.  I did have to make just a few changes – I used half beef and half pork, no veal (didn’t plan far enough ahead to get to the store with veal), and I only had plain dried breadcrumbs, so I added a half teaspoon of Italian seasoning to the meatballs.  I used Cabernet for the wine, and only cooked up half of the meatballs.  Also, I used whole wheat spaghetti noodles.  I will make this again for sure. (*edit-just realized I didn’t add the water to my meatball mix, but didn’t make a difference to me!)

Real Meatballs and Spaghetti

from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

serves 6


For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Freshly grated Parmesan


Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

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14 thoughts on “Barefoot Bloggers Real Meatballs And Spaghetti

  1. Thanks for visiting me at my blog. It’s been fun reading all the BFB blog site. It’s amazing how different the same recipe can turn out. I’m going to try and go back and read some of your blog. Looks like you been at it for a bit so I have my work cut out for me. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. Your discussion about the sugar reminds me of a very tasty little Italian restaurant near where I grew up. Very authentic place, started by Italian immigrants and continued by their children over the years. The secret to their amazing sauce? A tablespoon or two of grape jelly!

  3. Good to see I am not the only one that has trouble getting ground veal – they were good anyway. I can understand liking Mom’s sauce – every once in a while I have to get her to make me some – but I have learned to like a nice simple sauce like this better now. I like your website layout – different than most I have seen with the horizontal layout.

  4. Your pictures makes this meal look so much better than mine did:) I was also thinking the sauce would be bland-but the meatballs made up for it. Love your site-I have been here before:)

  5. They look delicious. This was the first time I’ve made meatballs, I thought they were great. Your mother-in-law’s recipe is too funny. I’m not sure which is stranger, the ketchup or the sugar.

    • Cassie – Thanks! It seems like everyone has very strong opinions about spaghetti sauce and meatballs! Hope you enjoy the rest of my blog!

      Dear Daughter – You’re so sweet! It always makes me happy when the family likes what I cook!

      Meryl – Grape jelly!?! I never would have thought!

      Todd – I try to make as few stops as necessary when I have kids in the car! Thanks!

      Bellini Valli – Yes, that’s true!

      Tracy – Thanks! Come back soon!

      Amy – I’m trying to get in the habit of having some things in the freezer for weeknights when I get lazy!

      Summer – I think I’ll have to give the sauce a different name, like sweet meat sauce, or something!

      Judy – Yes, I usually add a little sugar, too. I think it takes a tiny bit of acidity away from the tomato, but just a little!

  6. I made a lot of the same substitutions that you did – whole wheat spaghetti, halved the amount of meat. I had just the right amount of sauce for mine as well. I was also surprised at how tasty they were considering there wasn’t much to them.

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