Tony Soprano’s Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

Let me start by saying that spaghetti and meatballs is not an Italian recipe. If anything, Italians are the only people in the world to not eat spaghetti and meatballs on the same plate.

That said, I love meatballs and I love pasta, so after two years of Jake trying to convince me that I must try spaghetti and meatballs, I gave in. After a portion, I was more full than I could imagine and I’m still unsure whether meatballs are the right choice for a bowl of spaghetti. I’m also still partial to a classic bolognese sauce instead, but I have to admit that it was indeed tasty.

On top of that, we’re watching The Sopranos so it only made sense for us to prepare this. Hence, the title. But now let’s cut this and let’s move to the preparation of the spaghetti and meatballs sauce.

bowl of spaghetti and meatballs with parmesan on top

Spaghetti and Meatballs Easy Recipe

A classic Italian-American comfort dish – the meatballs are based on my mom's Italian recipe
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian-American
Servings 4 people


  • Large frying pan
  • Large saucepan


  • 500 gr beef mince
  • 1 large egg
  • 30 gr breadcrumbs
  • 30 gr parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 gr tomato passata
  • 50 gr water
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano
  • Salt
  • Black pepper


  • Add in a bowl the beef mince, chopped parsley, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, lemon zest and the egg. Mix together until combined, and add another egg if you feel that the mix is not holding well together. Adjust with salt as needed and shape into 2-cm balls.
  • Heat up some olive oil in a large frying pan and brown the meatballs for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer in a large pot or dutch oven and cover with tomato passata and add the water, salt, pepper and dry oregano. Bring to a simmer, lower the flame and let it cook for 15-20 minutes.
  • While the meatballs cook, bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt, and cook the spaghetti. When the pasta is ready, drain and dress with the meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.
Keyword Easy and quick recipe ideas, Easy Recipes, Pasta Recipes

Spaghetti and meatballs – a brief history

Despite what most people think, spaghetti and meatballs are actually a 100% Italian-American recipe, created by Italian immigrants in New York, and the rest is history.

I could start an essay on my thoughts on food and diaspora, but I can’t promise I’d be able to stop soon so I’ll just leave it for now. There’s an article on The Atlantic that can give you some interesting information about meatballs. The only thing I’d point out is that despite the author saying that we don’t usually have polpette served with tomato sauce, that’s just not right. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had meatballs in my life, but what I can say is that most of those times I had meatballs cooked in delicate tomato sauce because that’s just how my mom makes them. It’s a healthier version compares to the panfried ones, which to be fair, are still absolutely delicious.

The article traces back the origins of meatballs to the Ancient Romans, which is great, but what I’m most interested in is how they became such a major staple in the United States. Meatballs are naturally a very cheap meal to have. You don’t need a fancy cut, you just need some ground beef that you can water down with breadcrumbs (or even better, stale bread softened in some milk) and then bound together with eggs.

That, paired with a bowl full of spaghetti, was the perfect meal for the immigrant working class that emigrated from Italy to the United States and that was in need of the energy to work throughout the day – while also giving them a taste of the country they left behind.

Bowl of spaghetti and meatballs easy recipe

Is this an authentic spaghetti and meatballs recipe?

As we said many times, the concept of authenticity in food varies. When it comes to specific types of food, it becomes even more complex. Take Italian food as an example: Italian food, specifically carbonara. There are a variety of sources that gave a different history behind the world-famous Italian dish, and most of them agree on the fact that the recipe saw some changes during the course of the years. So what’s the original one? And is the original one the most authentic necessarily?

This doesn’t allow you to make carbonara with cream by the way – that’s never gonna be an option on these screens, so please, just don’t do that.

So to go back to the initial question, the answer is: yes and no. I did use my mom’s recipe for the meatballs, which I doubt was the case back in New York. As far as I know, the “traditional” recipe doesn’t call for nutmeg nor lemon zest. Plus, I’m not Italian-American in the first place. So in this sense, no, this is not authentic.

On the other hand, I feel that the way we cooked this does carry the same meaning: two immigrants living in the UK, an American that grew up with spaghetti and meatballs as a now-staple in the United States cuisine and an Italian, for whom meatballs are the most homemade food you can think of. It’s not only the meatballs, it’s the feeling of home that comes with them to make this dish what it is.

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