Spaghetti and Meatballs
Let’s learn how to make my favorite family dinner that everyone always loves and devours – spaghetti and meatballs but the Moribyan version! My one secret ingredient will take this to a whole another level.
How to Make It
Throwing together spaghetti can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Although it’s delicious when made from scratch with crushed tomatoes, sometimes you need something more easy to whip up – especially if you’re a student or work full-time.
One of the first things I learned from my mom is how to take canned spaghetti sauce and elevate it into something so delicious as if it was made fresh. We used to go camping a lot in tents and cabins growing up so our dinners had to be simple enough to pack up and make for a big group of family and friends. Spaghetti was her specialty and everyone would always ask what her secret was.
My mom would take Hunt’s canned spaghetti sauce and add her own spices, fresh herbs, and season the ground beef to perfection! Personally, my favorite pre-made sauce to use is Rao’s and I highly recommend it. It is a lot more pricey but it’s truly worth it. I buy a pack of two from Costco for a great deal compared to buying it from other grocery stores. You can use any marinara or spaghetti sauce that you already love for this recipe.
The start of spaghetti is making the perfect sauce. Everything is better with onions and garlic. Saute both in equal parts olive oil and butter. I did not use any onions because my husband has a strong aversion to them but definitely add onions! Now add in the ground beef. Try to use a lower fat percentage, ideally 90/10 so the sauce doesn’t turn out too oily. Then it’s time to season. Crushed red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, oregano, Italian seasoning, and dried basil are key. Make sure to add salt to taste because every jar of sauce has different sodium levels. If you like it spicy, add more red pepper flakes.
Once the meat is browned, pour in the tomato sauce. Mix it all together and for even more flavor, cover and let it simmer on low for 30 minutes.
After simmering, it’s time for our secret ingredient. Add a little heavy cream, just a little! It helps balance the flavors so much and cut some of that tomato acidity. We’re also going to add some freshly grated parmesan and finely chopped parsley directly into the sauce and mix it all together. Taste it and adjust anything to your liking.
Boil the pasta noodles according to package directions. I like to cook it a minute past al dente. My favorite pasta shape to use is Bucatini. Imagine spaghetti noodles but 10x thicker and hollow in the center and that’s what you get. But of course, you can use regular spaghetti or any pasta you fancy!
Other Ingredients You Can Add
- Sugar! Tomatoes should be naturally sweet but since they’re available in stores all year around, they’re not always in season. Depending what sauce you use, you might need to add a bit of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. I love using Rao’s marinara because it has the perfect level of sweetness.
- If you don’t want to use white sugar, you can swap it for grated carrots to also get some veggies and sweetness in naturally.
- Sneak in Veggies! Mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, and carrots are great examples.
- More Fresh Herbs! This recipe calls for dried basil but fresh basil is even better if you’d like to use it.
- Parmesan Rind! The rind of parmesan is actually useful. Don’t throw it away. Throw it into your sauce as it simmers and then take it out in the end. It’s packed with so much flavor.
What to Serve With Spaghetti
- Caesar Salad: You can never go wrong with a refreshing salad on the side since spaghetti is so hearty!
- Garlic Bread: Everyone loves garlic bread and it’s so easy to make. The best part is you can use the bread to dip in any extra spaghetti sauce. Highly recommend!
Tips & Notes
- Boil your pasta in salted water and reserve some of that pasta water at the end! Add a bit of pasta water to your sauce for some flavor as well as starch that will help the noodles to bind to the sauce.
- If you ever have issues with the pasta sticking to each other while boiling, make sure you stir frequently to prevent this especially at the start.
- If the sauce is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar to balance it all out!
- Instead of pre-made sauce, you can also use a can of crushed tomatoes. Just make sure to add some water or broth to thin it out and season accordingly.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 6 garlic cloves finely minced, or 1 tablespoon
- 1 pound 90/10 ground beef
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt more or less to taste
- 3 to 4 cups marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan and more to garnish on top
- 2 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
- 12 ounces bucatini
MAKE THE PASTA SAUCE
- To a saucepan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and butter. Then add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
- Add the meat along with the red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, black pepper, and salt. Break it up as it cooks and browns, about 6 to 7 minutes. If using onions, add it in along with the ground beef.
- Pour in the marinara sauce and mix it all together. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Now add the splash of heavy cream along with the parmesan and parsley. Mix everything and taste. Adjust any seasoning to your liking.
COOK THE PASTA
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil about 15 minutes before the sauce is done. Salt the water and bring to a boil again.
- Add the pasta and cook according to package directions to al dente or a minute past al dente depending how you like it. Make sure to stir frequently so the noodles don't stick together.
- Once done, save some of the pasta water and transfer the noodles to the sauce with a little bit of pasta water (1/4 to 1/2 cup). Mix it all together.
- Add more parmesan on top and some fresh basil or parsley and enjoy!