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Classic Spaghetti & Meatballs With Tomato Basil Sauce – My Family’s Recipe!

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Classic Spaghetti & Meatballs With Tomato Basil Sauce – My Family’s Recipe!

Classic Spaghetti & Meatballs. This recipe is a shout out to an old friend and high school classmate, Cindy Sherman. Years ago Cindy had enjoyed my mother Margaret’s homemade Spaghetti & Meatballs several times. Cindy and I had not seen each other for over 20 years and ran into each other at local restaurant and began reminiscing.

Soon into our talk about the “old days” Cindy brought up my mother’s famous recipe. I have made this dish a thousand plus times, but like my mother and her mother before her, I had never written it down. This Elefante family recipe was as familiar to all of us that cooked in our family as tying our shoes,

So better late than never, I’ve finally written down the entire recipe for Cindy and anyone else who would like to experience one of the most delicious Spaghetti & Meatball dishes you will ever have!

recipe spaghetti meatballs tomato basil sauce

I’ve broken the recipe’s process down into the what I’ve tabbed “The 6 P’s Cooking Process”. (You can read more about Chef Mickey’s 6 P’s Cooking Process By Clicking HERE.) Which in a nutshell breaks down the process of cooking the perfect dish every time by breaking down the recipe into 6 steps like a professional Chef does.

Those 6 P’s consist of 1) Planning 2) Pairing 3) Product 4) Prep 5) Production and 6) Presentation.

So here it is, an authentic old country Italian family recipe that is over 150 years old and has not changed because there is no need to! Enjoy Cindy and any other lovers of delicious food that come across it and try it out!

P.S. Sorry Mom & Nan, I know if you were still around to scream at me for sharing this, you certainly would!! 😉

P1 Planning

This is a 4 step meal that is really simple when broken down into individual steps.

1 – Prepare meatball mixture and form meatballs

2 – Prepare Tomato Basil Sauce

3 – Poach meatballs in sauce

4 – Cook off pasta just prior to serving

P2 Pairing

Tossed Italian Salad

Garlic Bread

Nice Dry Red Wine – Chianti, Montage or Merlot

Parmesan or Romano Cheese To Top

Crushed Red Pepper if you want to spice your pasta up

Dessert: Lemon Panna Cotta, nice and light after a heavy dish on this and cleanses your palette after eating a robust flavored dish like this.

P3 Product

For Sauce:

1 lb country style pork ribs

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

4 Garlic Cloves – Sliced Thin

1 Cup Diced Onion

½ Cup Red Wine

2 – 28 Ounce Cans Hunts Tomato Sauce

2 Tbsp Dry Basil

Salt & Pepper To Taste

1 Whole Carrot – not peeled

½ Cup Chopped Fresh Basil


1# Ground Sirloin

1# Ground Pork or Bulk Italian Sausage

2 Eggs



2 Tbsp Dried Oregano

1 Cup Finely Diced Onions

2 Cups Pecorino Romano Cheese

1 Cup loosely packed Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley

6 Slices Italian Bread (or regular pre-sliced like Wonder Bread)

½  Cup Milk

½ Cup Beef Stock

For Spaghetti:

1# Thin Spaghetti

1 Tbsp Salt

1 Gallon Water

P4/5 Prep & Production

Tomato – Basil Sauce – Get your sauce started first

Dice your onions

Slice your garlic, thinly.

Heat a heavy medium sized saucepan over medium to high heat, add olive oil and country style pork ribs. Brown your ribs on both sides, about 4-5 minutes, add garlic and onions let them cook for 2 minutes then deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any meat that may have stuck when browning. Add tomato sauce, DRY basil, salt & pepper. Reduce heat to low medium so sauce is just simmering but not boiling. Add carrot, this will remove the acid from your sauce without having to add sugar which would alter the flavor, you don’t want that. Let the sauce simmer as you begin prepping your meatballs.

how to cook


Finely dice your onions

Place your sliced bread in a bowl with milk, let sit

In a large bowl combine ground sirloin & ground pork (or sausage), add diced onion, eggs, salt & pepper to taste, ( be careful not to use too much salt, the cheese will provide salt content as well) dried oregano, romano cheese, italian parsley and beef stock. Take your bowl of bread and milk, smash and crumble up bread with your hands until bread absorbs all the milk and is in small bit size pieces, about half the size of a dime. Add to meatball mixture and thoroughly mix all ingredients together.

Once you’ve finished mixing the meatballs take a small piece of the mixture about the size of a quarter and cook off quickly in a small saute or fry pan to taste for flavor and salt level. When you’re happy with the flavor and salt lever you can begin to form your meatballs.

Form your meatballs. VERY IMPORTANT. Take about 3-4 ounces of meatball mixture, wet your hands and softly roll into a ball. DO NOT press the meatball hard when forming, this will toughen them. Instead lightly roll them in your hands just enough to form a ball shape. The meatballs should be moist enough to be loose but still able to hold their form. You want a loose meatball, that way when poaching them in your tomato sauce they will be able to absorb the sauce and allow the sauce to permeate your meatballs with flavor.

Go back to your tomato basil sauce and remove the pork ribs, once they are cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bone, it should fall right off, shred that meat up and place it back in the tomato sauce and discard the bones. (Or feed them to Fido!)

Drop your meatballs one by one in the simmering tomato sauce. Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 45-60 minutes, check your meatballs at this time with a meat thermometer at 160 degrees or simply remove one and cut it in half to make sure it’s cooked through. When the meatballs are finished cooking set the heat on low and allow them to continue to poach in the sauce. Start your pasta water.

Cook Your Pasta

Bring 1 gallon of salted water to a boil and add your spaghetti, cook spaghetti for 1 minute less than the package directs you to for al dente. You can check the pasta at that point to see if it is at your personal desired doneness. When you’re happy with that, drain your pasta and DO NOT rinse.

P6 Presentation

Remove the meatballs from the sauce and place in a serving bowl, top them with some of the  sauce.

In a large serving bowl place a cup of tomato sauce in the bottom, add 1/3rd of the spaghetti and mix, then repeat the process with the rest of the spaghetti, 1/3rd at time, always making sure to use plenty of tomato sauce to coat the spaghetti completely. Once all the spaghetti is in the bowl and coated with sauce, top with about 2 more cups of sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Serve spaghetti and meatballs with extra parmesan & crushed red pepper on the side. Some fresh italian or garlic bread and salad if desired.


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