Spaghetti and Meatballs

The best meatballs which everyone will love! These meatballs are full of fresh flavours with a mix of beef and pork, ricotta and lots of fresh herbs. They go perfectly with pasta for an easy and delicious Spaghetti and Meatballs!

spaghetti and meatballs in white skillet

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Minced beef (or ground beef) happens to be a popular ingredient at this point in time. When the pandemic was first announced, it appears that toilet paper and minced beef flew off the supermarket shelves as people everywhere prepared to hunker down at home.

And I suppose it makes sense that minced beef is such a popular ingredient; it is both economical and very practical. From this one ingredient, you can make so many meals, including the ever-popular Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Customise the meatball recipe to your liking, e.g. use a mix of beef and pork, or add chilli flakes for a spicy kick.
  • The secret is to use ricotta and panko breadcrumbs for very tender and flavoursome meatballs.
  • Easily double or triple the recipe and keep leftovers in the freezer.
spaghetti and meatballs in white skillet garnished with basil

Juicy, Tender Meatballs

My daughter’s favourite dish “ever” is pasta with tomato sauce (Marinara sauce). And I’m thankful because, if time is tight and all I have in the pantry is a few cans of tomatoes, I can make a quick tomato sauce for dinner and still be considered “the best mum ever”.

But to take things up a notch, I sometimes like to make meatballs to cook in the tomato sauce. They take a bit of extra effort to make, but I’ve been making these meatballs for so many years now that I file it with my easy recipes.

If time is tight, I make the meatballs on the larger side, a bit bigger than a golf ball, but then I let the sauce simmer for an extra 5-10 minutes so that they cook through properly.

Meatball Recipe

Most meatball recipes lend themselves easily to customisation. I recommend using my meatball recipe below mostly as a guide – add or substitute some of the ingredients to your own liking.

  • Use different types of meat: I often use a mix of minced beef and pork, or minced beef and veal. This is mostly because beef, on its own, can be a bit lean, and adding pork or veal helps to add a bit of fat to the mixture, which in turn helps to give more flavour to the meatballs.
  • Or use all beef: But you can definitely also just use 100% beef, if you prefer.
  • Fresh herbs: I like to add LOTS of finely chopped fresh herbs which not only make the meatballs look nicer when you cut through them, but I think the herbs also cut through the rich, meatiness of the meatballs. I like to use either parsley, chives or oregano, or a mix.
  • Dried herbs: If you don’t have fresh herbs to hand, dried herbs also work well here in both the meatballs and sauce. I recommend using dried oregano and/or a dried Italian seasoning.
  • Onions are optional: Sometimes I add grated or diced onion to my meatballs, sometimes I leave them out. Much depends on what ingredients I have to hand, and also how much time I have to prepare dinner!
  • Use panko breadcrumbs: I always have panko breadcrumbs in my pantry, and they work great here. Alternatively, you could substitute with regular breadcrumbs or semolina.
raw meatballs on baking tray

How to Serve Spaghetti and Meatballs

I like to serve Spaghetti and Meatballs family-style at the table. Which is to say, everything bubbling hot in a large pan or skillet, and portioned at the table.

I always mix the cooked pasta through the sauce before serving. This ensures that every strand of pasta is coated with the sauce, as well as flavoured with the sauce.

For this reason, it’s important to cook the pasta to “al dente”, so that it can cook an extra minute or two in the sauce.

Also, you are not limited to spaghetti here. Other pasta noodles also work well in this dish, such as fettucine or parpadelle. But my children particularly love risoni (orzo) or even bow-tie pasta here. Whatever you have in the pantry!

spaghetti and meatballs garnished with fresh herbs

More Italian Recipes

For more Italian recipes, you might also like:

Easy Marinara Sauce

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spinach Lasagna


Spaghetti and Meatballs

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5 from 8 reviews

  • Author: Thanh | Eat, Little Bird
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Italian

The best meatballs which everyone will love! These meatballs are full of fresh flavours with a mix of beef and pork, ricotta and lots of fresh herbs. They go perfectly with pasta for an easy and delicious Spaghetti and Meatballs!


For the meatballs

  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta
  • 12 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs, regular breadcrumbs OR semolina
  • 1 egg
  • 250 g (1/2 lb) ground beef
  • 250 g (1/2 lb) ground pork or ground veal
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped or coarsely grated
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, finely chopped

For the pasta sauce

To serve

  • spaghetti, (about 70 g dried pasta, per person) cooked according to packet instructions in salted boiling water, but reserve the cooking water
  • parsley, finely chopped
  • basil, finely chopped
  • parmesan, freshly grated


For the meatballs

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, panko breadcrumbs and egg, and set aside for about 10 minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to soften.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients for the meatballs to the ricotta mixture.
  3. Use your hands to mix everything together, taking care not to over-work the mixture.
  4. Once everything is combined, roll the mixture into meatballs, whether small or large.
  5. If you wish, you can taste the meatball mixture for seasoning by heating a small pan with some oil, and cook a small patty made from the meatball mixture until it is golden and caramelised.

For the pasta sauce

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Brown the meatballs in batches until they are golden and caramelised on all over. They do not need to be fully cooked through at this stage.
  3. Remove the browned meatballs to a large plate.
  4. In the same pan which you used to brown the meatballs, sauté the onion and garlic with a generous pinch of salt for several minutes, or until the mixture has softened.
  5. Add the tomato passata or canned tomatoes.
  6. Add about 60 ml (1/4 cup) water to the bottle of tomato passata, swirl it around to “clean” the bottle, and pour this water into the pan.
  7. Add the sugar.
  8. Let the tomato sauce simmer gently for about 10 minutes.
  9. Add the meatballs to the sauce, together with any of the meat juices which have collected on the plate.
  10. Simmer the tomato sauce and meatballs for about 20-30 minutes on low heat, until the meatballs have cooked through completely (the timing will vary depending on the size of your meatballs) and the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly.
  11. Taste for the sauce for seasoning.

To serve

  1. Whilst the sauce and meatballs are simmering away, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until it is “al dente”, i.e. still with a bite.
  2. Reserve some of the pasta cooking water (about 2 cups) and drain the pasta.
  3. If the tomato sauce needs to be thinned a little, add some of the pasta cooking water.
  4. To serve, add the cooked pasta to the sauce and meatballs. Give everything a good stir and make sure the pasta is coated in the sauce. Add more pasta cooking water as needed. Continue to cook for a few minutes, or until the pasta is fully cooked.
  5. Garnish with fresh herbs.
  6. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Kitchen Notes

* My recipe above uses herbs and spices which I always have to hand, but you can easily substitute with your favourite herbs and spices.
* I always use fresh herbs in my cooking (thanks to my herb garden), but dried herbs also work great as a substitute. I recommend using dried oregano or dried Italian seasoning.
* For a spicy kick, I recommend adding a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes to both the meatballs and sauce.

* Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for several days, or in the freezer in suitable containers or zip-lock freezer bags.
* When reheating, the sauce will be thicker than usual. I recommend thinning the sauce with some boiling water, or by adding some tomato passata or canned tomatoes to the sauce.

The meatballs can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer. I generally double the meatball recipe (half to serve right away, half to freeze for later), brown all of the meatballs as per the recipe, let the meatballs cool, and then freeze the partially-cooked meatballs in zip-lock freezer bags. Defrost the meatballs overnight in the fridge. Make the tomato sauce as per the recipe, add the defrosted meatballs to the sauce, and continue as per the recipe.

To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.

Did you make this recipe?

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This recipe was first published on 15 April 2020. It has been updated with more comprehensive recipe notes.

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  1. Brett 13 May 2020

    Delicious! I usually brown the meatballs first but I tried it your way and was surprised by how tender the meatballs were. Much healthier too!

  2. Cindy Chan 23 March 2021

    I’ve seen you make this a few times on Insta and had to give it a try. The meatballs were so tender and delicious. I think it might be the best meatballs I’ve ever eaten!

  3. Belinda 24 March 2021

    I was salivating when I saw you make this on your IG Stories last night so guess what I’m making for dinner tonight?? I’m also serving it with rigatoni. It’s still cooking on the stove but I just had a quick taste and the meatballs are divine!

  4. Greg 8 May 2021

    Very good recipe. The family loved it. I’ve never tried using ricotta in my meatball mixture before but I’ve used ricotta to make a mild tomato pasta sauce. The meatballs were very tender and savory. I recommend adding either a bit of ricotta or milk to the sauce as well.

  5. Adam 6 April 2022

    Delicious! Family loved this recipe. Very tender meatballs.

  6. Gabrielle 27 April 2022

    Absolutely delicious meatballs! Loved all of the flavors.

  7. Jennifer 29 April 2022

    I had never tried meatballs with ricotta but I had a tub of fresh ricotta which needed using. This was an excellent recipe! You have converted me 🙂

  8. Sue 24 August 2022

    Love the ricotta in the meatballs. I added the leftover ricotta to the sauce which made it nice and creamy too. Very delicious recipe!