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Spaghetti & Meatballs

meatballs and sauce in a pan on a checkered tablecloth


  • 1½ cups day-old bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1⅓ cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more drizzling
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 4 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 2 pounds ground pork/ beef/ veal
  • ¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¾ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

How to:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet.

In a bowl, soak the bread in the milk.

In a frying pan over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic. fennel seeds, and oregano and sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the carrot and continue to cook until softened, about 8 minutes more.

In a large bowl, combine the ground pork/veal/beef, Parmigiano, egg, parsley, and onion-carrot mixture; season with the salt, white pepper, and black pepper; and stir to incorporate.

Squeeze out and discard the excess milk from the bread and add the soaked bread to the mixture. Use your hands to break up the bread and mix everything together until well combined.

Using your hands, roll approximately twenty-four meatballs (slightly larger than golf balls) and place them on the prepared baking sheet.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the tops, then roast in the oven for 12 to14 minutes. Remember, cooking these in the oven means the bottoms of the meatballs brown first, so check to see if they're golden, then carefully roll them over and continue browning for 3 to 4 minutes more.

Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven or large pot over low heat, warm the red sauce. Transfer the meatballs into the sauce and continue to cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain the pasta in a colander, then return it to the still-warm pot, drizzling a little olive oil on it to keep the pasta from sticking together.

Serve the spaghetti topped with the saucy meatballs, lots of Parmigiano, and a few oregano leaves, if desired.