Make these classic spaghetti and meatballs for a comforting family dinner. Also check out more delicious meatball recipes, such as our baked Italian meatballs, healthy meatballs, slow cooker meatballs and vegetarian meatballs.

Our cookery writer, Adam Bush, shares the personal inspirations behind some of his favourite – and most requested – recipes.

"Part of the reason that I have a career in food is thanks to my mum. She cooked us delicious and interesting meals, and introduced us to many different flavours at a young age. She is still, in fact, the person I call when something is going wrong with a recipe that I can’t explain – even though I’ve worked as a chef in countless restaurants, sometimes mum does know best.

This spaghetti and meatballs, really, is her recipe. She cooked it almost every other Friday when I was growing up, as we all loved it so much. And now I can enjoy it with a nice glass of red wine.

This dish may have its roots firmly in Italy, but you’d be hard pressed to find spaghetti and meatballs on a menu anywhere in the country. Meatballs, or ‘polpette’, are usually an antipasti – much smaller and eaten on their own. Spaghetti and meatballs was a dish created by Italian immigrants in the US: a combination of more income to spend on meat, and canned tomatoes becoming a 20th-century American staple.

I reckon most people have a pretty solid spag and meatballs recipe in their repertoire, but this one has a few tweaks to take yours up a few notches.

Firstly, make your own meatballs and give them some TLC. Get the best-quality mince you can (10% fat is ideal for keeping them juicy) and season it really well. The grated onion will keep the meatballs moist as they cook. Adding parmesan means added umami – that deeply savoury fifth taste. Frying them at the start and then cooking the sauce in the same pan, as well as poaching the meatballs in the sauce at the end, means all that meaty flavour stays in the sauce.

Now, I know using English mustard isn’t conventional but, I assure you, it works. Its fiery, deep flavour ensures the sauce packs a proper punch. It’s already an Italian/American fusion, so why not add a bit of English fire, too?


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 400g tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp English mustard
  • 400g spaghetti
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped to make 1 tbsp


  • 500g 10%-fat beef mince
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 30g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • 1 tsp dried oregano


  • STEP 1

    To make the meatballs, put the mince, grated onion, parmesan, oregano and lots of seasoning into a bowl and mix really well. With slightly wet hands, form into 20 balls, put onto a baking tray and chill for 30 minutes.

  • STEP 2

    Heat a large frying pan with 1 tbsp of the oil and brown the meatballs, in batches, really well on all sides. Scoop out onto a plate.

  • STEP 3

    Add the remaining vegetable oil and the finely chopped onion to the pan with a pinch of salt and cook gently for 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chilli flakes and tomato purée, and cook gently for 5 minutes. Tip in the tomatoes, along with ½ a tin of water, the mustard and some seasoning. Gently simmer for 30 minutes.

  • STEP 4

    Pour the sauce into a blender and whizz until completely smooth. Pour back into the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the meatballs and any juices from the plate and simmer gently for 10 minutes, turning the meatballs halfway.

  • STEP 5

    Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water, then drain. Tip the spaghetti back into its pan, spoon half of the tomato sauce over it and mix well. Divide between 4 pasta bowls and top with the meatballs and more sauce. Finish with chopped parsley and more parmesan, if you like.

Check out more of our meatball recipes...

Meatball Lasagne Recipe with Sage and Butternut Squash

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