The Real Deal – no-fuss spaghetti and meatballs recipe


This tomato-tastic spaghetti and meatballs recipe does exactly what it says on the tin; helps you cook up and combine some tasty Italian spaghetti with basil-tinged tomato and onion sauce, and scrumptious little balls of beef (‘polpette’ in Italian).

It really is the definition of a hearty treat…

no-fuss spaghetti and meatballs recipe

Seriously, if I was forced to make this spaghetti and meatballs recipe every day for a month… erm, well, you wouldn’t have to force me because it’s delicious!

Like all the meals on this site, this particular meatball recipe requires virtually zero kitchen skills. In fact, there are just 8 steps involved.

One quick note: if you know when you’ll be trying this spaghetti and meatballs recipe, buy the crusty bread 2 or 3 days beforehand (this gives it time to go a bit stale – perfect for meatballs).

Serves 2


For the sauce

Two 400g/14oz cans of plum tomatoes

One small onion (I prefer red), finely chopped

Around 20 fresh, washed & torn basil leaves

4 teaspoons of tomato paste/purée

For the meatballs

500g/17oz minced/ground beef

2 eggs

100g/3.5oz crusty bread (a little stale if possible – but not mouldy!)

Approx. 35g/1.2oz breadcrumbs (from a tub)

Grated parmesan cheese (for serving)

The rest

400g/14oz spaghetti (the standard 100g/3.5oz of pasta per person). Linguine is a possible alternative.

Salt & pepper

Extra virgin olive oil


Large mixing bowl

2nd mixing bowl (large enough to submerge bread in water)

2 large pans (1 for the pasta, 1 for the meatballs and sauce)


Cheese grater


Making the meatballs: 13 mins

Sauce (including cooking pasta): 25 mins

Total: 38-40 mins

STEP 1 – Chop the bread into big chunks and place in a bowl of room temperature water to soak.

Note: When you can squeeze the bread and feel it splurge through your fingers (nice!), it’s ready. This usually only takes around 5 mins.

STEP 2 – While the bread soaks, put the beef, eggs, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan into a mixing bowl.

STEP 3 – When the bread is soaked through, squeeze the water out (like a sponge), add it to the beefy mixing bowl and mix together with your hands.

Keep doing this until all the bread is broken up and mixed in. The consistency should be moist but not sticky.

Still sticky after you’ve added all the bread? Add a sprinkling of dried breadcrumbs, mix and repeat (remember, moist but not sticky).

STEP 4 – Now the best bit of this (or any) spaghetti and meatballs recipe: making those balls!

Size-wise, aim for ping-pong ball sized.

TIP: In future, if you want to serve up just meatballs in sauce without pasta (as part of a larger multi-course meal say), you can make them larger.


STEP 5 – Cover half the base of a pan with oil, put on a low heat. When hot, throw in the basil and chopped onion. Fry until the onion softens and begins to brown (3-4 mins).

STEP 6 – Add the tomatoes, a pinch of pepper and 2 teaspoons of purée. Cover if possible and cook on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. This softens up the toms.

STEP 7 – Then use a spoon to break the softened toms into rough chunks. Uncover the pan. Add the meatballs and occasionally (and now gently) stir.

Leave this bubbling away until most, but not all, of the excess water has evoporated and the sauce’s sourness has gone (roughly 15-20 mins, see pic below).


STEP 8 – With this 15-20 mins for the sauce in mind, check the spaghetti’s cooking time (see the packet).

Boil a kettle to get the pan of boiling water going. When it’s the right time according to your sauce timings – and the pasta water is boiling! – add the spaghetti (with a handful of salt to bring out the taste).

The aim is – of course – that the sauce and spaghetti are ready together.

Pasta ready? Drain the spaghetti and you’re good to serve.


To serve: Pop the spaghetti in dishes, and add the meatball sauce on top.

Sprinkle over a teaspoon of grated parmesan, and for real style points top it all off with a couple of full basil leaves (rinsed of course).

You could even go super classy and twirl your spaghetti into little nests (3 or 4 to a bowl), then put the meatball sauce carefully inside each.

Here’s how:

Enjoyed this spaghetti and meatballs recipe?

Then why not try…

• Calorifically catastrophic meatball lasagna

• In The Ring baked pasta recipe