On a snowy, below-freezing day like today, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when dinner time rolls around. Cold weather provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy a warm, nourishing, nostalgia-laden classic: spaghetti and meatballs. And with our recipe, complete with tips from our very own Chef Elana Karp at every step of the process, you can make this classic meal like you’ve never made it before.
Now, you might think there’s nothing more to be said about spaghetti and meatballs, and that everyone in the world already knows how to make this American staple. But Chef Elana begs to differ. Using ricotta cheese as a secret ingredient and baking the meatballs, rather than the traditional pan-frying, are just two of her unique strategies for maximizing the flavor potential.
Check out her full spaghetti and meatballs recipe below, and read her can’t-miss tricks for how to make the perfect meatball. You might think you know spaghetti and meatballs, but with this recipe, you’ll end up taking this favorite to a new level.
Recipe by: Chef Elana
Time: 20-30 minutes
1 jar marinara sauce
6 ounces spaghetti
10 ounces ground beef
21⁄2 tablespoons ricotta
1⁄4 bunch parsley
2 cloves garlic
11⁄2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons pecorino cheese
1. Prepare Ingredients
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Rinse parsley and roughly chop leaves, discarding stems. Peel shallot and mince. Mince garlic. Pat beef dry with paper towel.
2. Make Meatballs
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large high-sided pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Chef Elana says:
“This is called ‘sweating’ the shallot and garlic, meaning to cook over medium heat until soft, without browning. You can even add a pinch of salt here, to bring the moisture of the shallot and help it get softer faster.”
Remove pan from heat. In a large bowl, using your hands, combine shallot and garlic, ground beef, ricotta, bread crumbs, 1 egg, and half of parsley. Chef Elana:
“Ricotta is a great secret ingredient to keep your meatballs moist! Also, don’t over-mix it. Once the ingredients are evenly distributed in the bowl, you’re all set.”
Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and mix again.
3. Bake Meatballs
Roll meatballs into 8-10 11⁄2-inch balls and place, spaced apart, on a baking sheet. Bake until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Chef Elana:
“Baking meatballs rather than pan-frying them doesn’t require oil and can therefore save you a few calories. Baking also ensures that your meatballs get cooked through evenly—just make sure they’re all the same size!”
4. Cook Spaghetti
While meatballs bake, add spaghetti and a generous pinch salt to pot of boiling water. Cook until al dente, 7-9 minutes. Reserve 1⁄2 cup pasta cooking water, then drain.
5. Season Spaghetti
While pasta cooks, heat your favorite pasta sauce in pan from garlic and shallot over medium heat and allow to come to a simmer.
“We used Nello’s Hot Pepper Pasta Sauce!”
Add spaghetti to pan with sauce and stir to combine, adding pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time if needed. Stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
6. Plate Spaghetti
Add meatballs to pan with spaghetti and stir to combine. Divide spaghetti and meatballs evenly between 2 plates. Garnish with grated pecorino and remaining parsley and serve.
And after you’ve nailed this recipe, post your #platedpics to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.