Meatballs & Spaghetti {Squash}


Meatballs  |  Marinara Sauce  |  Roasted Spaghetti Squash “Noodles”

Intro Collage

This week I posted 4 different recipes for meatballs on my Tumblr blog and when I posted our dinner menu for the week here I had not decided which recipe I was actually going to use.  Each recipe had something that appealed to me.  Slow Cooker Meatballs at Savory Simple…well, Jennifer had me at “slow cooker” but I also liked the idea of caramelizing an onion mixture {onions, garlic, tomato paste, spices} to add depth of flavor as well as making a marinara from scratch.  Spaghetti Squash Pasta With Meatballs at Roost…I already knew that I wanted to serve the meatballs over spaghetti squash but I liked how Caitlin added balsamic vinegar to her marinara sauce, once again deepening the flavor {as well as the color}.  The Best Meatballs You’ll Ever Have at A Cup Of Jo…I completely agree with Joanna that a superb meatball must have veal in the mixture to give it a “melt-in-your-mouth” quality but I also liked the addition of fresh sage {which I have an abundance of right now in the garden}.  Finally, Baked Meatballs and Tomato Sauce at Seasons & Suppers…Jennifer’s lovely photo of her meatballs in a cast iron skillet confirmed that I definitely wanted a crisp browning on the meatballs before simmering them in the final sauce.  To be quite honest, I didn’t make a decision until this morning shortly before I needed to start cooking.  My choice…a new recipe that combined my favorite aspects of each one of those fabulous 4 recipes.


I won’t keep you in suspense as to how the experiment worked out…ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!  Now, to be true to the scientific method, we need to account for all the factors contributing to our deliriously delicious dinner this evening.  Could tonight’s rousing success be attributed to the fact that it was FRIDAY, and we could all relax after a busy week?  Or was it that wonderful glass of pinot noir that I enjoyed in the company of my husband and children while we sat at the kitchen island trading stories of our day, meatballs safely tucked into the slow cooker doing their thing with no help from me?  Or, maybe, we became intoxicated from the aroma of those simmering meatballs filling the warm kitchen on this very cool autumn evening?  Whatever the formula, I can tell you that those meatballs were hands down the best meatballs we have ever tasted.  Moist, tender, luscious…they did not fall apart during the cooking process…


but gave way easily when sliced open with a fork…


The sauce, made rich from the caramelized onion, garlic, herbs and tomato paste took on a depth of flavor {and color} from the addition of red wine and balsamic vinegar.  The tender “noodles” of spaghetti squash, simply roasted with a coating of olive oil, salt and pepper, provided the perfect foundation for those lovely orbs of deliciousness.

Now, in my opinion, a homemade marinara sauce is a must here and it is not a difficult preparation.


The extra step involved in caramelizing the onions, garlic and tomato paste causes those ingredients to release their own natural sugars contributing a sweetness found in traditional Italian marinara sauces without adding additional sweeteners.  The onion mixture not only transforms canned, crushed tomatoes into a rich sauce but it also lends a dynamic flavor to the meatballs themselves.  Here, the onion mixture sits atop the ground meats and herbs just before being combined into the final meatball mix…


The final mix, held together with milk, breadcrumbs and eggs…


is easily turned into meatballs with the help of an ice cream scoop…


The meatballs get a nice browning in a hot cast iron skillet {and they don’t fall apart} before being submerged into the waiting marinara sauce…

Meatball 2 Collage

Once in the slow cooker, the meatballs simmer for 4-5 hours.  My batch of 24 meatballs simmered for 4½ hours today and were perfectly cooked through.  The meatball mixture yielded 36 generously-sized meatballs, a dozen of which I placed in the freezer {prior to cooking} for another dinner.  The meatballs can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Approximately 1 hour before you want to serve dinner, cut the spaghetti squash in half, remove seeds and season generously with olive oil, salt and pepper and then roast {cut side face down} on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350°F preheated oven until the skin of the squash can be easily pierced with a knife {about 45 minutes}.  When the squash is done, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool until the squash can be comfortably handled.  Then, using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash which will produce your noodles…

Spaghetti Squash Collage

Note:  a 3-4 pound spaghetti squash will yield enough “pasta” to feed 6-8 adults.

Meatballs & Marinara Sauce {Serves 6-8}

Onion Mixture:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 1-6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • ½ of Onion Mixture {above}
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2-28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes


  • 1¼ cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup Panko
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef, such as ground chuck
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • 2½ teaspoons chunky kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh sage, from 2 small herb bunches
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ of Onion Mixture {above}
  • Olive oil
  1. Begin by preparing the Onion Mixture.  Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until just beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Push onion, garlic and herbs to the edges of the pot, creating a hot spot in the center, and add tomato paste to that spot in the pot. Stir the paste until it begins to caramelize, about 2 minutes.  Mix onions, garlic, herbs and tomato paste until well combined.  Transfer half of the onion mixture to a large bowl and set aside.
  2. For the Marinara.  Add wine to the remaining onion mixture in the pot and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, then transfer to a slow cooker set on low and cover.
  3. For the Meatballs.  Pour the milk over the breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Stir them together and set them aside for at least 10 minutes for the crumbs to soften. Mix the pork, beef and veal together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Stir in the chopped parsley, sage, reserved Onion Mixture and Parmesan. Mix with your hands until these are very thoroughly distributed through the meat. Stir in the breadcrumbs and milk, as well as the eggs, and mix thoroughly. Shape and cook the meatballs immediately, or refrigerate the meat for up to 24 hours. You can also freeze the meat (in one big lump or as shaped meatballs) in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
  4. In a heavy cast iron skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering and brown the meatballs in batches.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain for a minute and then transfer to the marinara sauce in the slow cooker.  Cook 4-5 hours on low.  Serve over roasted spaghetti squash or pasta.

K Initial

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Print Friendly

Post Your Comment