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There is nothing like homemade meatballs and spaghetti, the one meal my kids ask for over and over again. 

I remember my mother making meatballs as big as softballs topped with thick rich sauce over thin angel hair pasta. She would spend hours in the kitchen every few weeks on Sunday cooking up an Italian storm—you’d think she was Italian. She also made homemade garlic bread and antipasto. She’d make the table twice as big as normal and invite family over. She’d ask my sister and me to set the table with fine linens and glassware. I felt like a princess on pasta Sunday. I cherish those memories. I remember our guests raving about my mother’s meatballs as they asked for the recipe. 

I’ve adapted her recipe over the years to serve a crowd and to make it my own. I prefer a very smooth sauce. That way, the meatballs are the shining stars—not the sauce. I also like smaller meatballs—about the size of a walnut. I think they look prettier on a plate as opposed to one giant meatball.

I would say this is also one of my favorite recipes—just ask my kids. Two out of three have asked for it for their graduations, birthdays and more.

Homemade spaghetti and meatballs is a meal that makes memories, but it takes some extra effort—but trust me you won’t be disappointed! 

Spaghetti Sauce

Serves 8

2/3 cup good quality red wine such as Chianti

2 28-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 4-ounce can tomato paste

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 Tbsp. basil

1-2 Tbsp. sugar, to taste

2 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Meatballs with the grease and browned bits from the bottom of the baking sheet

In a large saucepan, bring wine to a slow simmer; reduce wine by half. Add remaining sauce ingredients. Simmer on low for at least one hour covered.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the meatballs. 

Italian Meatballs

1 pound ground beef

1 1/2 cups Italian croutons

1/3 cup pesto

1/3 Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, pesto, and cheese. Set aside. 

In a food processor, or in a bag with a rolling pin, crush the croutons. Add to the beef mixture with the milk. Carefully mix—but don’t over do it or the meatballs will be tough. Mix on low or with your hands until thoroughly combined. 

Get your hands wet with water and make the meatballs into the size of large walnuts with the shell. Place them a rimmed baking sheet about 1/2 inch from each other. Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes or until tops begin to brown—they do not have to be cooked through. The meatballs will finish cooking in the sauce. Transfer the meatballs to the simmering sauce. Simmer on low for 20 minutes covered. Serve over hot pasta. 


Lisa Erickson is a food columnist who loves adventure and food. You can find more recipes at or email her at


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