Authentic Italian Spaghetti & Meatballs Recipe | Yes, You Heard That Right...
Anyone who is somewhat familiar with Italian cuisine knows that a dish of "spaghetti and meatballs" is about as Italian as a mocha caramel frappuccino with whipped cream. Italians cringe at giant meatballs swimming in delicate spaghetti and at meat being served with dry pasta (instead of egg fresh pasta, with which it belongs).
There is, however, an authentic Italian recipe for spaghetti and meatballs that originates in Abruzzo. It pairs spaghetti with meatballs, all while respecting the cardinal rules of pasta. How? By using a special egg fresh pasta (called "spaghetti alla chitarra") and miniature meatballs (called "pallottine") more suited to thin pasta.
It's "spaghetti & meatballs" but, trust us, it's so much better. Give it a shot and you won't go back!
Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make this recipe here:
For this recipe, you will need:
- 3.5 oz (100g) all-purpose flour
- 3.5 0z (100g) semolina flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 3 eggs
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 can (about 14.5 fl oz or 400g) whole peeled tomatoes
- 14.5 fl oz (425 ml) water
- 4 oz (125g) ground beef
- 4 oz (125g) ground pork
- Fresh breadcrumbs (preferably not dried)
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Fresh black pepper
Combine the all-purpose and semolina flours into a pile on a large work surface. Mix thoroughly by hand and form into a volcano shape with a depression in the middle. Crack 2 eggs into this hole and whisk them with a fork, gradually incorporating the surrounding flour.
When the mixture thickens, begin mixing all together by hand. Knead for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth and uniform. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.
Please note that slightly more or less flour may be needed depending on the size of the eggs, humidity, etc. If in doubt, add less of the semolina at the beginning and gradually add more as needed until you have a dough that is soft but not sticky.
In a small saucepan, combine the garlic, tomatoes and water with 2 tbsp of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop and cook, partially covered, for 40 minutes. After this time, the tomatoes should soften enough that you can easily crush them with a fork. Remove the garlic clove and add salt to taste.
Meanwhile, add the beef and pork into a mixing bowl. Add 1 egg and 2-3 heaping spoonfuls each of breadcrumbs and grated Parmigiano cheese, plus a pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix all together and continue adding breadcrumbs until the mixture is no longer wet and sticky, while still being firm enough to roll. The amount needed can vary substantially so use your judgement!
Roll the meat into 1-inch diameter balls and set aside for cooking. Since it's difficult to scale the meat down (without dividing an egg) you may end up with more meat than you desire for the spaghetti. We recommend making some extra meatballs for a baked pasta dish, or some larger meatballs to be eaten separately! You can also, of course, easily double the amount of pasta you make.
Bring 4-6 tbsp olive oil up to a medium/high temperature in a large pan. Brown the meatballs on all sides, then transfer into the tomato sauce. Allow the meatballs to simmer in the sauce for about 1 hour, or until the sauce thickens substantially. Turn off the heat while you finish and cook your pasta.
Working in batches, roll your pasta dough into long sheets. Be sure to dust your work surface and dough often with flour. Keep in mind that the dough sheets should be thicker than one would normally make homemade pasta: as thick as the width between your spaghetti cutter "blades."
Use a chitarra cutter or normal pasta machine to cut the sheets into spaghetti. If using the former, be sure the strings are tightened, place the sheet on top, and slide a rolling pin over the dough to push it through the strings. Be sure to dust the machine and pasta often to prevent sticking!
Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it generously, add the fresh pasta and stir. Meanwhile, ladle the desired amount of sauce and meatballs into a sauté pan and bring to a simmer. The pasta only needs 2-3 minutes to cook. When it is al dente to your liking, use tongs to transfer the pasta into the sauce. Stir all together over medium/high heat and serve immediately. If desired, top with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.