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Saucy Spaghetti and Meatballs with homemade marinara is a family favorite around our house. Seasoned with classic Italian spices, zesty garlic, and Parmesan cheese, these flavorful meatballs bake in a pan with savory beef broth to keep them perfectly moist.

What’s more, this homemade meatball recipe heartily serves a family of four with plenty of leftovers to make meatball subs or to freeze for later use.

a plate of spaghetti topped with marinara sauce and meatballs with sprigs of basil.

These Saucy Italian meatballs are delicious and incredibly tender. Although they take a little time to prep, they are effortless — just mix, shape, and bake!

Even better, the leftover pan drippings are added to the homemade marinara, which gives it a delicious richness the longer it simmers.

My spaghetti and meatballs recipe is a great go-to dinner when you are hosting a crowd. With this recipe, you’ll get 4 to 5 dozen meatballs, depending on the size you make.

Hungry for more crowd-pleasing pasta dishes? Check out my cheesy Cherry Tomato Pasta and easy Italian Sausage Butternut Squash Pasta Bake!

ingredients for making meatballs on a table.

Key ingredients & substitutions for Spaghetti and Meatballs

Meatballs

  • Ground Beef — Ground chuck will hold the meatball shape nicely, however you may use 80% lean ground beef instead. You can also use half Italian sausage and half ground chuck for a unique take on a traditional meatball.
  • Bread crumbs — You’ll need simple unseasoned bread crumbs for these meatballs, but panko crumbs may be substituted.
  • Beef Broth — Beef broth is added to the meatball mixture and to the pan as they bake to keep the meatballs perfectly moist and juicy.
  • Parmesan cheese — Freshly grated parmesan cheese lends a more authentic Italian flavor. However, store-bought grated parmesan cheese is also fine and a little easier.
  • Eggs — Just three large eggs are what will hold all the ingredients together for these delicious meatballs.
  • Garlic — Minced garlic adds savory flavor and subtle spice. Garlic powder may be used as a substitute; however, garlic cloves are always a better option.
  • Fresh and Dried Herbs — Definitely use fresh parsley to add herby and slightly bitter notes to the overall flavor. For further seasoning and more classic Italian herbs, add some oregano and basil — dried or fresh, up to you!
  • Crushed red pepper flakes — We’ll add just a pinch of crushed red pepper to give these meatballs a slight kick of heat.

Marinara

  • Onion and Garlic — I like to use a sweet, medium-sized yellow onion for this recipe cooked in extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor. If you prefer, you may use a white onion or other variation.
  • Crushed tomatoes — Two large cans of juicy crushed tomatoes will make up the bulk of my marinara recipe. I like to use the brand Cento.
  • Parsley — Freshly chopped parsley is a staple to just about any homemade marinara recipe. Its bright flavor balances the meaty tomato and zesty garlic.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes — Red pepper flakes add subtle heat to the sauce. If you prefer, you can use ground black pepper as an alternative.
  • Meatball pan drippings — Save the drippings from your pan of meatballs to complete this marinara recipe with meaty and savory notes — YUM!

How to make Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs

mixing the dry ingredients with eggs, milk, and beef broth for meatballs.

STEP 1 | Mix the meatball ingredients

Keeping the ground chuck to the side, for now, stir together all your meatball ingredients, but only add 1/2 cup of the beef broth to the mixture.

Once the ingredients are well combined, add the ground chuck and continue mixing.

ground beef mixture for meatballs in a glass bowl; using an ice cream scoop to portion meatballs.

STEP 2 | Form the meatballs

Shape into meatballs about 2 inches in diameter. You can shape the meatballs by hand or use a small scoop to make your job a little easier and less messy. 

tips

  • Use a one-ounce scoop, such as a cookie or ice cream scoop, to make uniform size meatballs. Scoop the mixture into your hands and then roll gently to finish shaping the meatballs.
  • Don’t overcrowd the meatballs on the baking sheet so that they can brown nicely on all sides.

rolling a meatball in the palm of a hand; pouring beef broth onto a pan of meatballs ready for the oven.

Step 3 | Bake

Place your meatballs onto baking sheets lightly coated with cooking spray. Try not to overcrowd the baking sheets to ensure the meatballs cook evenly. 

Carefully cover the bottom of the pan with the rest of the beef broth to keep the meatballs from becoming overly dry while baking.

baked meatballs on a baking sheet; meatballs removed to a plate.

Once the meatballs are cooked through, take them out of the oven, but don’t discard the pan juices. Save the drippings for when you make your homemade marinara. 

Switch to Preparing the Marinara Sauce

sauteed onions in a pot for the base of homemade marinara.

STEP 1 | Sauté the onions and garlic

In a large pan, sauté the diced onions in olive oil over medium-high heat until tender.

Next, stir in your freshly minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until it’s fragrant. Garlic does not need much time in the pan.

adding crushed tomatoes and chopped basil to a pot for making marinara sauce for spaghetti and meatballs.

STEP 2 | Bring to a boil and simmer

Toss in your remaining ingredients and bring the sauce to a boil. Don’t forget the meatball pan drippings!

Then, reduce the heat and allow the marinara to simmer for about 15 minutes.

a wooden spoon in a simmering pot of marinara with meatballs.

STEP 3 | Add the meatballs

Finally, add your cooked meatballs to the sauce—however many you desire. Use a wooden spoon to place them into the simmering tomato sauce so they do not plop in and splash all over you and the stovetop.

Simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. Then, you’re ready to pour your homemade saucy marinara and meatballs over tender spaghetti noodles!

tips

  • I usually freeze half of the baked meatballs to use later, but if you are serving them all at the same time, you will want to double the ingredients for the marinara just to make sure you have enough sauce.
  • Top your saucy homemade spaghetti and meatballs with additional freshly grated parmesan cheese, and sprinkle some chopped parsley and basil leaves for vibrant color.

meatballs in marinara in a slow cooker with a wooden spoon.

Frequently asked questions

For the meatballs, can you mix in other ingredients?

Absolutely! Never hesitate to get creative in the kitchen. Meatballs make for excellent food to experiment with. You may add additional spices and herbs. Turn up the heat with extra red pepper flakes or toss in more fresh herbs, like bay leaves.

How long do the leftover meatballs last in the freezer?

As I mentioned, this meatball recipe produces more meatballs than you may need in a single sitting. This makes them perfect for freezing and saving for later! 

They last about three months in the freezer. When you are ready to serve the remaining meatballs, place them in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. Then, reheat them in the oven or stovetop until they are hot all the way through.

Can this homemade spaghetti and meatballs recipe be made gluten-free?

If you want to serve this delicious meal to someone who has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, there are just a couple of alterations that need to be made:

  • Rather than using breadcrumbs, choose unseasoned GF panko crumbs.
  • Make sure you grate your own parmesan cheese instead of using a pre-grated product. Shredded cheeses and similar options contain gluten, while blocks of cheese typically do not.
  • For the remaining ingredients, just ensure the nutrition label does not list gluten. If you are using bottled seasonings and spices, opt for gluten-free alternatives.
  • Finally, you’ll want to choose gluten-free pasta when throwing together the entire dish.
spaghetti mixed with sauce with meatballs on top.

Serving suggestions

For a filling and delicious complete dinner, serve your freshly made saucy spaghetti and tender meatballs with my irresistible Peppery Cheese Quick Bread.

Or, make a baked spaghetti casserole — perfect for family gatherings and potluck dinners! Toss the meatballs, marinara, and pasta together, then add to a buttered baking dish.

Pile fresh Mozzarella slices on top, then place under the broiler until golden brown spots begin to appear on the surface of the cheese. Serve with more parmesan and fresh basil for an even cheesier variation!

Behind the recipe: Homemade Spaghetti with Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs are a classic Italian meal and a staple dinner in most homes. Some historians believe the traditional recipe originated in Italy, while others claim Marco Polo brought it back from China — who would have guessed?

It’s no surprise that savory spaghetti and meatballs is adored all over the world. In fact, January 4th marks National Spaghetti Day here in the states!

You probably don’t need a specific day to celebrate this meal. But why not? Go ahead, mark your calendar to enjoy another batch of these tasty meatballs!

Please share!

Your shares are how this site grows and I appreciate each one. Do you know someone who would enjoy this recipe? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or on your favorite Pinterest board!

a plate of spaghetti topped with marinara sauce and meatballs with sprigs of basil.

Saucy Spaghetti and Meatballs

These Italian meatballs are delicious and extremely tender, and although they take a little time to prep, they are very easy — just mix, shape, and bake!
4.50 from 4 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 626 kcal

Ingredients
  

Meatballs

  • 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1-2 cups beef broth divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 large eggs beaten
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 lbs. ground chuck

Marinara

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups onion diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic minced
  • 3 cans 14.5 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup reserved meatball pan drippings
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions
 

For Meatballs:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Stir together all ingredients (except ground chuck) using only 1/2 cup of the beef broth. Add the ground chuck and mix together thoroughly.
  • Shape into meatballs about 2" in diameter (may use a 1 ounce scoop to make this easier). Place on baking sheets lightly coated with cooking spray; do not crowd together. Cover bottom of pan with additional beef broth.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, or until just cooked through. (Reserve pan juices for the marinara.)

For Marinara:

  • In a large pan, sauté onions in olive oil over medium high heat until tender.
  • Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  • For spaghetti and meatballs, add desired number of cooked meatballs to sauce and simmer uncovered another 10 minutes, or until heated through.

Notes

Original recipe by Cuisine at Home Magazine.
  • You can use half Italian sausage and half ground chuck for a unique take on a traditional meatball.
  • Use a one-ounce scoop, such as a cookie or ice cream scoop, to make uniform size meatballs. Scoop the mixture into your hands and then roll gently to finish shaping the meatballs.
  • Don’t overcrowd the meatballs on the baking sheet so that they can brown nicely on all sides.
  • I usually freeze half of the baked meatballs to use later, but if you are serving them all at the same time, you will want to double the ingredients for the marinara just to make sure you have enough sauce.
  • Top your saucy homemade spaghetti and meatballs with additional freshly grated parmesan cheese, and sprinkle some chopped parsley and basil leaves for vibrant color.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingsCalories: 626kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 44gFat: 36gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 189mgSodium: 1413mgFiber: 6gSugar: 12g
Keyword Italian sausage, marinara, spaghetti, turkey meatballs
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
sheila thigpen in her kitchen

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

4 Comments

  1. These “Alka-seltzer free” meatballs look delicious, Sheila! 🙂 There are so many great lines from old Alka-seltzer commercials! I had forgotten this one! My son especially loves adding spice (red pepper flakes, Siracha) to just about everything, so I know he will enjoy these meatballs. I often make double recipes of dinner foods and freeze half. Nothing like having dinner ready in the freezer on a busy weekday!

    1. Thanks, Wendy! I was really struggling with coming up with my food story and that commercial just popped into my head! I decided it was funny and worth sharing — good for a Friday laugh 🙂 I also like these meatballs for Meatball Subs, which I’m sure will make it to my blog before long.

  2. These are the BEST meatballs I have ever made. I too got the recipe from “Cuisine At Home” magazine, but now I can’t find my copy. I am thrilled to find it here! Thank you!

    p.s. that magazine was always full of killer recipes….wonder if it is still published?

  3. This is the most wonderful meatball recipe ever!!! I too found it in the Cuisine magazine years ago. So glad you posted it since I lost my copy.
    Thank you!!!!!

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