Spaghetti & Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce

A quintessential winter dish: spaghetti & meatballs. Juicy, roasted pork meatballs served over saucy spaghetti with lots of pecorino romano on top. The tomato sauce is slightly spicy and has a really bright lemony finish. It’s a classic comfort food dish that’s hearty and truly warms you from the inside out. And I’ve added a few easy special touches to make this recipe extra delicious.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

January cooking is always a wonderful mix of healthy and comforting. I shared 24 of my favorite healthy recipes earlier this week and have cooked a few of these vibrant, nourishing dishes myself over the past few days (hopefully you have, too!). But, it’s almost the weekend, it’s freezing here in Chicago, and I’m ready for a big plate of comfort food.

One of my goals for the blog this year is to share more Italian food. With an Italian grandmother and grandfather on both sides of our family who have passed down countless recipes and a dad who owns an Italian pizza company, Italian food is definitely what we cook and eat most. Yet, I don’t have too many classic Italian recipes here on the blog.

And what better dish to start with than spaghetti & meatballs!?

Spaghetti & Meatballs

spaghetti & meatballs – the details

There’s a few steps to make really good spaghetti and meatballs, but trust me, the process is simple. It’s also very much worth it to make homemade meatballs and homemade sauce.

I’d highly recommend having all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go. This is so helpful for any recipe, but I find it especially useful for making meatballs and sauces. First up, you’ll want to get your bread soaking for the meatballs. Then, set that aside and get going on the sauce.

Layers of olive oil, shallots, garlic, white wine, tomatoes (both crushed and puréed for a smooth, yet textured consistency), red pepper flakes, and fresh oregano add plenty of complexity to the sauce. It all goes in one pot and simmers for just about 30 minutes.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

As the sauce simmers, you’ll want to get your meatballs mixed, formed, and into the oven. Last year, I developed these sage chicken meatballs that have quickly become my favorite to make.

I essentially took that exact recipe and made some swaps for more of a classic meatball flavor – used a mix of ground pork and Italian sausage instead of the chicken, pecorino romano cheese instead of parmesan (it has a stronger, saltier flavor), and extra parsley instead of the sage.

The meatballs are placed onto a sheet pan, drizzled with olive oil, and roasted until golden and juicy. They’re so rich and flavorful…the perfect meatball for this simple dish.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

After the sauce is done simmering, you can just turn off the heat and let it sit until the meatballs are ready and the pasta is cooked. When the meatballs come out of the oven, finish the sauce with butter, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice before tossing them right in for a nice coating. Transfer them out, and then you can drain your pasta and toss it with all the remaining sauce.

Plate it all up on a large platter or you can do individual platings with a big mound of spaghetti and 3-4 meatballs on top. A generous sprinkling of pecorino and parsley is the perfect finish!

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Spaghetti & Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce

classic spaghetti & meatballs (the tastiest roasted pork meatballs) with a vibrant, slightly spicy tomato sauce 

servings: 4

Ingredients

Scale

Spicy Tomato Sauce

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 small shallots, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato purée
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes, or more to your liking
  • 2 large sprigs fresh oregano
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Spaghetti & Meatballs

  • 2 oz fresh italian bread, roughly chopped into small pieces
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 small shallots, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • ½ lb mild italian sausage
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for topping
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for topping
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¾ lb spaghetti

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Prepare a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment. For the meatballs, place the chopped bread in a large mixing bowl and pour the warm water over top. Let soak, submerged, for at least 5 minutes.
  2. For the sauce, heat a medium Dutch oven (or heavy-bottomed pot) over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Once hot, add the minced shallots and garlic. Cook for a minute or so until softened. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper.
  3. Pour the white wine into the pot and simmer for a minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, red pepper flakes, oregano sprigs, and another pinch of salt. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often (after 30 minutes, turn off the heat).
  4. Meanwhile, for the meatballs, heat a 12” skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Once melted, add the minced shallots and garlic. Cook for a minute or so until softened. Stir in the granulated garlic and red pepper flakes. Turn off the heat.
  5. Add the ground pork, sausage, pecorino, parsley, salt, and shallot mixture to the bowl of bread. Mix until incorporated. Form the mixture into approximately 15 (2 oz) meatballs, packing them tightly. Place them onto the prepared sheet pan. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and bake on the top rack of the oven (or the rack closest to the heat source) for 30 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
  6. When the meatballs have about 15 minutes left in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the spaghetti, stir well, and cook according to the package’s instructions. 
  7. To finish the sauce, turn the heat back to low. Remove the oregano sprigs. Stir in the butter, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. Transfer the meatballs directly to the sauce and toss to coat. Use tongs to retrieve and transfer them to a serving dish.
  8. Drain the pasta and add it to the pot of remaining sauce. Stir well to coat. Plate the pasta with the meatballs on top or alongside. Spoon over any extra sauce. Top with a generous sprinkling of pecorino and parsley.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

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