Spaghetti with Cheesy Meatballs
The secret to getting mouth-watering tender meatballs is bread. Yes, bread. And the secret to making a traditional sauce is to use simple ingredients and time, just the way our grandmothers did.
Most of you that have followed me for a while now, know that I try to eat low carb and often leave out bread or breadcrumbs from my meatballs but this would not be the right thing to do in this instance. When serving spaghetti with meatballs, the last thing you want is a dry, hard-to-swallow meatball, so I am sharing with you my mum’s best-kept secret – bread. Not breadcrumbs, but bread.
For this recipe, I have used gluten-free sliced bread but you can use whatever bread you like – my only suggestion would be to use good quality bread (wholemeal, sourdough, etc) – not a cheap slice of bread. This is because the bread needs to be soaked, the water squeezed out, and then using your fingertips, you will need to crumble it. The cheaper slices of bread just turn into some kind of soggy dough that resembles slime.
My other secret ingredient is zucchini. Yes, the humble zucchini makes it into this recipe as well! When you grate the zucchini, it is really important you use the fine grater (check out my video below how finely I grate it) – the same grater you would use to grate parmesan or even garlic. The thin strands of zucchini blend in and are virtually invisible yet they provide moisture and make the meatballs even more tender.
In saying that, it is also important to grate the onion for this recipe. You do not need to grate it with a fine grater – just the traditional grater you use. The reason you need to grate the onion is that this is what makes the meatballs fluffy. Do not squeeze the juices out of the onions once you grate them, add the juices and all into the mixture.
Now the cheese! I usually just add parmesan cheese but with this recipe, I added finely grated cheddar cheese as well. Holy heavens what a game changer! So good and of course the added flavour was amazing however if you prefer a more traditional meatball, then leave out the cheddar cheese and only add the parmesan cheese.
Finally, the basil. If you love basil, then add the whole cup of basil leaves. I absolutely love basil in Spaghetti with Meatballs and as I do not add much into the sauce, it is truly essential to add them to the meatballs.
Now onto the sauce. My sauce is simple because all the flavour is in the meatballs. Once you fry off the meatballs then add the can of crushed tomatoes (please use a good quality company – I use Mutti or an organic company) and fill the same can (three–quarters full) with water and pour it into the pot as well. Season very well with plenty of sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a couple of basil leaves. That is it. Now leave it to gently simmer for 30 minutes whilst every 10 minutes just give the meatballs a little swirl to make sure they are evenly cooking.
And there you have it! Spaghetti with Cheesy Meatballs!
And now it’s time to start cooking! As always, if you make any of my recipes, I would love to hear your feedback. I am available here via email or you can catch me daily on Instagram and Facebook. Don’t forget to save it on your Pinterest board as well! I have a board named CreateCookShare that you can follow and save. Can’t wait to hear from you.
Be Well, Margaret x
2 x the ingredients for a larger serving and keep leftovers for lunch the following day. Other options are to serve meatballs in a bread roll, as a side dish to steamed veggies or even with steamed rice.
Makes 16 meatballs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
500g beef mince
400g can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste, heaped
2-4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, grated
1 medium zucchini, finely grated
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
½ -1 cup basil, finely chopped + extra
2 garlic cloves, finely grated, or 1 tsp dried garlic granules
2 slices bread, crusts removed
½ cup parmesan cheese
½ cup tasty cheese, grated (optional for extra cheesiness)
1 egg, whisked
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 packet spaghetti
Optional to serve:
Heirloom tomatoes, basil leaves, parmesan cheese
1. Combine in a large bowl the beef, onion, zucchini, parsley, basil, garlic, parmesan, tasty cheese, egg, and seasoning. Soak the bread in water, squeeze the water out, and using your fingers crumble it into the mixture as well. Combine all ingredients and roll into balls. Place onto a large tray so the meatballs are ready to be cooked.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wide-based pan and fry meatballs in batches. Add extra oil when needed.
3. Return all meatballs to the pan and pour over the tomatoes and tomat paste. Fill the same can with three-quarters full of water and pour this also into the pan and over the meatballs. Season generously with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and add 10-12 basil leaves (rip them into smaller bits with your hands - not using a knife- it releases the aroma and oils) . Bring to boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, giving them a swirl every 10 minutes to evenly cook. Once cooked, turn off the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
4. In the meantime, in a large pot of boiling water add a teaspoon of sea salt and cook pasta according to packet instructions. Drain and divide between bowls.
5. Spoon over the meatballs with plenty of sauce and serve with fresh basil leaves, slices of heirloom tomatoes, and finely grated parmesan cheese.