Top | Main Dishes

Spaghetti and Meatballs

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)


Loosely based on recipes in Bon Appétit and Saveur, this sauce-and-meatballs combo is done all'amatriciana, or Amatrice-style — in other words, spicy, with plenty of bacon. You can make the sauce alone, sans meatballs, or make just the meatballs and add them to any tomato sauce you like. The pasta style is also up to you; spaghetti is the traditional Italian-American choice, but try cavatappi or penne. As with spaghetti carbonara, if you can get your mitts on pancetta or guanciale, use that instead of bacon. And for the ultimate version of this recipe, try Judy Rodgers' Pasta with Braised Bacon and Roasted Tomato Sauce.


    1. 2 lb. ground beef
    2. ½ lb. ground pork or 6 ounces (5 to 6 slices) bacon, diced
    3. ⅓ large onion, minced
    4. 2 large garlic cloves, minced
    5. 1 Tbsp. fresh or 2 tsp. dried minced herbs, such as oregano, thyme, marjoram, and basil
    6. ⅔ cup diced drained roasted red bell peppers (optional)
    7. ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    8. 1 to 2 tsp. dried chile flakes
    9. Salt and pepper, to taste
    10. 1 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs
    11. 2 large eggs
    1. 6 oz. (5 to 6 slices) bacon, sliced crosswise into ¼-inch strips
    2. A few Tbsp. olive oil
    3. 1 to 2 tsp. dried chile flakes
    4. ⅔ large onion, minced
    5. 2 large garlic cloves, minced
    6. 1 cup dry white wine
    7. 2 cans (28 ounces each) tomatoes
    8. 2 to 4 Tbsp. tomato paste, for thickening the sauce (optional)
    9. 1 Tbsp. fresh or 2 tsp. dried minced herbs, such as oregano, thyme, marjoram, and basil
    1. 1 lb. dried spaghetti or other pasta
    2. Extra fresh or dried minced herbs, for sprinkling
    3. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling


    1. Prep the meatballs: Put all of the meatball ingredients into a large bowl and gently mix together. Let stand for 15 minutes before forming into 1½-inch balls. Arrange on a baking sheet or plates and set aside until ready to cook.
    2. Cook the meatballs: Put the bacon slices into a large skillet and cook over medium heat until the bacon strips are crispy. Remove the strips and drain off the fat until just a light layer of fat remains in the pan. (Reserve the extra fat.) Cook the meatballs in the bacon fat, adding extra fat as necessary, turning the meatballs once or twice while they brown in the fat. Remove to a plate as they cook. (You can also save time and pan space by placing the meatballs on a couple of baking sheets and baking them at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes.)
    3. Make the sauce: While the meatballs are cooking, put a little of the reserved bacon fat and a little olive oil into a Dutch oven. Add the chile flakes and onion, and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the cooked bacon strips and the white wine, and simmer for a few minutes until the wine has reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, and simmer gently over low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tomato paste if desired to thicken the sauce, and the herbs. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the meatballs to warm through.
    4. Make the pasta: While the meatballs and sauce are cooking, bring a few quarts of salted water to a boil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and sauce. Pass the herbs and cheese at the table.