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grating parmesan over a bowl of spaghetti

spaghetti and meatballs for days

Rebecca Eisenberg
This richly flavored tomato sauce benefits from 2-3 hours reducing in the oven. Add the meatballs and sausage before serving, or serve on the side if you prefer.
Yield: 2 quarts of spaghetti sauce and 24-30 meatballs.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian


  • Large oven-safe pot
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil


For the sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ medium onion (finely diced)(save the other half for the meatballs)
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them, but any plum tomato variety will do)
  • 1 large carrot (optional, peeled and cut in half)
  • 1 large onion (peeled and cut into quarters, with the hairy end removed)
  • 2 stems fresh basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup parsley (chopped)
  • ¼ cup basil leaves (chopped)

For the meatballs and sausage

  • 1 lb ground beef (a mixture of pork and beef works nicely!)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 package Italian sausage (6 sausages, sweet or spicy)
  • ½ medium onion (diced, the other half of the diced onion from the sauce)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 3 tablespoon fresh basil (chopped)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ⅓-¾ cup Italian bread crumbs (use the larger amount of bread crumbs for softer meatballs)
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (for the sausage)

For the pasta

  • Pasta (whatever shape you want, however much you need to feed however many people are eating, and cooked according to package directions)


the sauce

  • Preheat oven to 325°F with one rack on the middle setting and another in the lowest setting (for the meatballs).
  • Heat large oven safe pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl it around. When it starts to shimmer, add the minced onions and sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Then add the 2 cans of crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.
  • One at a time, add the whole peeled tomatoes, squeezing each tomato in your hand over the pot before gently dropping it in. Once all the tomatoes are in, pour the remaining liquid from the can into the pot and stir.
  • Add the carrot, onion quarters, bay leaves, basil stems, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper to the pot. Stir until everything is submerged.
    NOTE: Don’t add too much salt in this step. Just a pinch will do. It’s about to reduce, and if it’s too salty now it’ll be wayyyy too salty later.
  • Put the lid on the pot at a slight angle so that steam can escape, and place it in the oven for 2-3 hours until it has reduced by ⅓ and is deep red in color. Stir every hour.
    NOTE: If making meatballs, now is a good time to do so!
  • When the sauce has reduced and taken on a dark red color, take the pot out of the oven and use a slotted spoon or wire spider to remove and discard the carrot, onion halves, bay leaves, and basil stems. Stir in chopped basil and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • If eating immediately, keep the pot on the stove on low-medium heat to poach the sausages and heat the meatballs).
    If prepping ahead, let the sauce cool to room temperature before transferring to an airtight container and placing in the fridge or freezer.

the meatballs

  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Combine ground meat, onion, garlic, parsley, basil, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix with your hands just until combined. Do not overwork it.
  • Shape golf ball sized meatballs and arrange them in rows on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • If using immediately, add desired number of meatballs to finished spaghetti sauce and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
    If prepping ahead, let cool on the sheet pan before transferring to an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Reheat by placing in warm spaghetti sauce on the stove for 20-30 minutes before eating.

the sausage

  • Heat spaghetti sauce on the stove until warmed through. Submerge the sausages in the sauce for 20 minutes at medium-low heat.
  • In the last few minutes of poaching, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
  • Remove the sausages from the sauce, being careful not to tear the delicate outer skin. Gently shake or scrape the excess sauce back into the sauce pot.
  • Place the sausages in the skillet and cook 3½ minutes on each side.
    NOTE: The sausages will brown quickly because of the sugars from the tomato sauce, but if the sausages start smoking, lower the heat.
  • Remove sausages from pan and let rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes.
  • Slice into rounds and add back into the spaghetti sauce.

To serve

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Toss pasta with a few tablespoons of spaghetti sauce, just enough to lightly coat the noodles so they don’t stick together.
  • Heat (or reheat) sauce over medium-low heat. Add desired number of meatballs. Poach, pan-fry, and slice sausage according to directions above. Add sausage back to sauce.
  • Serve sauce over noodles in bowls, OR place the pasta and sauce (with meat or with meat on the side) in separate serving bowls on the table and let diners serve themselves.
  • Garnish with additional grated parmesan cheese and thinly sliced fresh basil if desired.


  • Both the sauce and the meatballs will stay good in the fridge 3-5 days and in the freezer up to 3 months. Meatballs can be defrosted in the sauce from frozen.
  • The sausages can be poached all at once and then refrigerated in an airtight container. Pan fry, rest, and slice before adding to the sauce. DO NOT freeze the sausages after poaching.
  • Adding the cooked meatballs and sausage to the sauce before serving is mostly to get them up to temperature and to give them a chance to absorb some tomato-y flavor. Since they’re fully cooked, however, you can serve them on the side if you need to.


Tried this recipe?Leave a comment and let me how it was!