Truly Amazing Spaghetti and Meatballs

You will love this spaghetti and meatballs recipe served in our quick, easy homemade marinara sauce. Trust me, these homemade meatballs are incredible!

Watch the Video

Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe Video

Garlic and Italian herbs make these meatballs delicious, and the perfect blend of ingredients guarantees the best texture.

For this easy recipe, you’ll bake the meatballs in the oven and finish them in our from scratch simple spaghetti sauce.

A plate of the best spaghetti and meatballs (made from scratch)

Key Ingredients

  • Ground beef and ground pork: Use ground beef that’s at least 15% fat (85/15). The beef keeps our meatballs juicy, while the pork adds flavor and tenderness.
  • Saltine crackers and milk: The secret to the best meatballs is panade made from saltine crackers and milk. We do the same when making our best meatloaf and these juicy Italian meatballs. It’s a game-changer.
  • Onion and garlic: Add moisture and flavor to the meatball mixture.
  • Fennel seeds and parsley: Make these taste authentic and Italian. Don’t skimp on the fennel. It makes such a difference in flavor.
  • Parmesan: I use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in these meatballs, and I love it!
  • Homemade sauce: Our sauce is so simple that you can make it in the time the meatballs take to bake — about 15 minutes. It’s light and flavorful, thanks to shallot, garlic, Italian seasoning, white wine, canned tomatoes, and fresh basil.

How to Make Spaghetti and Meatballs

To make the meatball mixture, you will combine crushed saltines and milk, and set aside. Then move on to cooking the onion, garlic, and fennel seeds in olive oil until soft and fragrant.

Combine the cooked onion mixture with the ground beef, ground pork, parsley, cheese, salt, and pepper. I love using my hands to mix meatball ingredients – it’s the best way to combine everything without overworking the meat. I do the same when making meatloaf.

Then, you’ll add the saltine and milk mixture. It seems too wet at first, but the milk absorbs beautifully into the meatball mixture, making the meatballs tender. Watch our video to see what my mixture looked like.

Meatballs ready to be baked in the oven for spaghetti and meatballs

I usually get around 16 meatballs from this meatball recipe, perfect for four servings. You can adjust the size to your liking.

I bake the meatballs until lightly browned, then finish them in the sauce for extra tenderness. See our recipe for Italian Meatballs for large meatballs (one meatball per person, large).

While the meatballs bake, I whip up a quick marinara with shallots, garlic, white wine, chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and fresh basil. It takes about 15 minutes! This is also a good time to cook your spaghetti (or favorite pasta.)

Putting baked meatballs into homemade marinara sauce ready for spaghetti and meatballs

When baked, add the meatballs to your sauce to simmer for a few more minutes. When your spaghetti is cooked, toss it directly into the sauce! It absorbs so much more flavor than just spooning the sauce on top. We use the same trick when making this spaghetti recipe with meat sauce.

Tossing spaghetti with marinara sauce and meatballs

Storing Spaghetti and Meatballs

Cooked meatballs, stored in an airtight container, will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator. If you do not add the meatballs, store homemade marinara sauce in the fridge for up to a week. Both the meatballs and marinara sauce freeze well. Freeze separately or together for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen meatballs and sauce overnight in the refrigerator. Heat the sauce and meatballs gently on the stovetop or oven until warm.

Best Spaghetti and Meatballs

What to Serve with Spaghetti and Meatballs

I love a classic Caesar salad or Caprese salad served next to spaghetti and meatballs. For more variety, add a hearty Italian chopped salad.

Of course, garlic bread or homemade focaccia is a must for soaking up the sauce, and a side of sautéed spinach is perfect for adding some extra veggies.

Best Spaghetti and Meatballs

Truly Amazing Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • PREP
  • COOK

I’ve fallen in love with this spaghetti and meatballs recipe. The meatballs are juicy and tender, and our easy homemade spaghetti sauce is flavored with Italian herbs and lots of garlic. An absolute winner!

Makes 4 servings

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

Spaghetti and Meatballs

12 to 16 ounces dried spaghetti or your favorite pasta

8 ounces (225g) ground beef, use 85/15 or 80/20

8 ounces (225g) ground pork

4 tablespoons (25g) saltine cracker crumbs from 8 crackers

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (135g) whole milk

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup (60g) minced onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon ground fennel

1/4 cup (10g) chopped parsley

6 tablespoons (1.5oz) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

1/2 cup (60g) minced shallot

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1/4 cup (60ml) dry white wine

1/3 cup (80ml) chicken stock

1 (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes, we like canned crushed tomatoes with basil

1/2 cup (15g) chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  • Meatballs
  • 1Combine saltine cracker crumbs and milk in a small bowl. Let sit.

    2Heat 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and fennel. Cook until softened, but before they brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

    3In a large bowl, combine ground beef, pork, parsley, cheese, salt, pepper, and the cooked onion mixture. Add the soaked saltine mixture and mix well (hands work best!).

    4Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Lightly oil a parchment-lined baking sheet. Shape the meatball mixture into four large meatballs. Place on the baking sheet and bake until browned on top, 10 to 12 minutes.

  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in the same skillet used earlier. Add shallots, garlic, and Aleppo pepper. Cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

    2Add wine and simmer until almost dry.  Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the shallots and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

    3Stir in stock, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and fresh basil. Bring to a low simmer.

  • Cook Spaghetti
  • 1Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook spaghetti according to package directions (usually 10 to 12 minutes), but check for doneness a minute or two before the suggested cooking time.

  • To Finish
  • 1Gently nestle the partially baked meatballs into the sauce and pour in any juices left on the baking sheet. Spoon some sauce over each meatball.

    2Cover the skillet and simmer over low heat until meatballs reach 160°F internally (5 to 10 minutes).

    3Toss in the cooked spaghetti, then leave for a minute so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce. If the sauce needs thinning out, add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Toss again, and then serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • A mixture of ground beef (85/15 for juiciness) and ground pork is perfect for a classic flavor. But feel free to mix it with ground veal, lamb, or Italian sausage.
  • Use clean hands to mix the meatball mixture for the best texture and to ensure everything is well combined.
    Our homemade tomato sauce is simple to make. If you’re short on time, choose a high-quality store-bought marinara. One 24-ounce jar of sauce should do it.
  • To ensure food safety and amazing texture, cook meatballs until they reach 160°F using a meat thermometer. Cooking past this temperature can make the meatballs less tender.
  • For extra-juicy meatballs, go for larger sizes – four per recipe is our favorite.
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values. Sodium will vary depending on how much salt you use to season your sauce.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1/4 of the recipe (4 meatballs) / Calories 811 / Total Fat 32.7g / Saturated Fat 9.9g / Cholesterol 86mg / Sodium 927.1mg / Carbohydrate 85.2g / Dietary Fiber 9.5g / Protein 41.9g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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6 comments… Leave a Review
  • Patty March 10, 2024, 4:58 pm

    I love the flavors of the meatballs and sauce, especially the fennel. I was surprised there wasn’t egg in the meatballs but they’ve held together.

    • Adam March 10, 2024, 6:14 pm

      Hi Patty, We love the fennel too! We are thrilled you loved the recipe 🙂

  • Gemma Folz March 8, 2024, 12:11 am

    Wow. This recipe is SO delicious, it tastes as good, better even, than Italian restaurant style spaghetti and meatballs! I Did everything as the recipe stated except that I used cassava chips instead of crackers(to make it GF). I used cassava spaghetti and my husband had semolina. We nearly finished all of this recipe in one meal so feel free to make a larger batch. It’s that good. Thank you for sharing this, Inspired Taste!

    • Joanne April 17, 2024, 1:19 pm

      Wow, Gemma, what a lovely comment! I am so happy these worked so well for you!

  • Linda Dimitroff March 5, 2024, 6:01 pm

    Just made your Best Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs and your sauce. My husband was the tester and he loved it. He can’t stop raving.I have shied away from making spaghetti and meatballs because it never turns out. I have finally found a recipe that works. Can’t wait to try one of your other recipes. Thank you so much!!!

  • Lucie Lucie March 5, 2024, 9:41 am

    The meat ball recipe is excellent and the sauce as well. Easy and a winner for all age groups savouring them.


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