Dorie Greenspan’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

This spaghetti and meatballs recipe is everything you’d expect from Dorie Greenspan. It’s easy, utterly delicious, and a crowd pleaser. The meatballs take on a unique taste and texture thanks to a couple healthy stealth ingredients.

This spaghetti and meatballs from Dorie Greenspan is, as you'd expect, easy and delicious. #spaghetti #meatballs #spaghettiandmeatballs #doriegreenspan

These stand-out, flavor-packed, gotta-make-them-again meatballs from Dorie Greenspan sneak in a few stealth ingredients (hello, oats and walnuts!) while remaining light and tender. And, in classic Dorie Greenspan fashion, they’re both easy and unforgettable. First try them straight up simmered in this incredibly easy tomato sauce that packs its own ingredient surprise. Then have your way with the leftovers, whether you pile them atop a sub sandwich or make another batch of pasta or simply fork them straight from the fridge when the craving hits.–Jenny Howard

Dorie Greenspan's Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 45 M
  • 2 H, 15 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 3 reviews
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  • For the sauce
  • For the meatballs
  • For serving (optional)


Make the sauce

Pour the whole tomatoes into a large Dutch oven and use your hands or a pair of kitchen scissors to tear or cut them into bite-size pieces.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Place the Dutch oven over very low heat, cover, and gently simmer while you make the meatballs.

Make the meatballs

In a large bowl, combine the beef, sausage, onion, oats, walnuts, herbs, and salt and pepper and mix gently by hand. Add the lightly beaten egg and work it in just until combined. Using a medium (1 1/2 tablespoon) cookie scoop or your hands, form the mixture into 24 to 28 small meatballs about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter. Be careful not to compact the meat too much or your meatballs will be tough.

In a large skillet set over medium heat, warm the oil. Add half the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until they’re browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. (You’re not looking to cook the meatballs through.) Transfer the meatballs to a paper-towel lined plate and pat them lightly with additional paper towels to remove as much oil as possible. Repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding more oil to the skillet if needed.

Place the browned meatballs in the sauce, nudging the meatballs around to make sure that they’re submerged. Cover the pan and cook at the lowest possible simmer, with just an occasional bubble reaching the surface, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. This long, gentle simmer keeps the meatballs tender and imparts even more flavor to the sauce. (The meatballs and sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Before serving, simmer everything together in a covered pot over low heat for about 30 minutes.)

Make the spaghetti and serve

When the meatballs are almost ready, place a large pot of heavily salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta and turn it out into the Dutch oven along with the sauce and meatballs, tossing well to coat. (If your Dutch oven isn’t large enough for this, put the pasta in a large bowl and pour over the meatballs and sauce.)

Finish with a sprinkle of cheese and herbs, if using, and get this to the table pronto. Originally published October 24, 2018.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Wow! Dorie Greenspan's spaghetti and meatballs just moved to the top of our favorites list! The oats and walnuts added to the meatballs certainly do what the author intended for flavor and tender texture. Oats I can understand. But I never would have guessed about the magic of including walnuts in a meatball recipe.

The flavor of the sauce with the added balsamic vinegar was incredible as well, and simmering the two together was simply amazing. When the pasta was done and drained, I removed the meatballs to a bowl and then added the pasta to the sauce in the pot to coat the spaghetti and then served the meatballs on top as I didn't want to risk them breaking up while tossing the pasta.

To control the spiciness of the dish, I opted for the mild Italian sausage and added red pepper flakes to the sauce and this worked perfectly for us. I also threw in some chopped fresh basil to the sauce as it was simmering since I ended up with extra after chopping enough for the meatballs.

I used a #40 medium size cookie scoop (3/4 oz) to make 28 meatballs. I used a Dutch oven to make the sauce and a large 10 inch nonstick skillet to sear the meatballs in 2 batches.

I LOVED this spaghetti and meatballs dish. I intended to have it for dinner one night and then vacuum-seal and freeze portions so that we could enjoy it one or more evenings at a later time. I enjoy having packages like this in the freezer so that a good home-cooked meal would be just a defrost away. Well, so much for making plans. I loved this so much the first night that I couldn’t wait to have it again the next night. I actually thought about it all day. And then I could have frozen what was leftover last night, but, that was not to be. Guess what we are having for dinner again tonight? And I must say that I am really looking forward to it.

I do love meatballs and make them in myriad of styles, showcasing many different ingredients and many different cuisines. I cannot recall ever using walnuts or rolled oats in the past. The walnuts could be detected here and there, but I could not pinpoint the oats. I am sure that both added to the finish product and will eagerly make this again in the future. The hot Italian sausage could definitely be detected in the meatballs, and it also added a nice spice to the tomato sauce after the meatballs simmered in the sauce for an hour. The end result was a very tender, flavorful meatball.

After simmering the meatballs in the sauce for an hour on a burner that was as low as would go, most of the sauce had been absorbed by the meatballs. There would not have been enough to go over spaghetti. I chose to make another batch of sauce the next day, so that I would have enough for comforting bowls of spaghetti and meatballs. I also cooked everything for that extra 30 minutes to meld all of the flavors. Everything worked out perfectly.

One suggestion I have if this makes the site, is to mention somewhere, in large print, perhaps under the title of the recipe, is that there is 1 1/2 hours of inactive time. I am very famous for missing things like that. The reason that I was able to make another batch of sauce to add to the meatballs, was that I missed that sentence in the recipe, thinking that once the meatballs went into the sauce, I would simmer for a short time, and then we would eat dinner. My husband heard me laughing in the kitchen, and knowing me so very well, called out,” Does it have to cook overnight?” I know that I am not the only one who does this, so it might be helpful to have warning. Or, bold letters in the text? Perhaps underlining that sentence? I am now going to go into the kitchen and heat up what will be our final two bowls of this delicious dish. That is 6 helpings of meatballs and spaghetti altogether, and after that we will have 6 meatballs leftover to freeze. That’s pretty good for just 1 1/2 pounds of meat. BTW a glass of spicy Zinfandel was the perfect fit for this dish.


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    1. And that’s completely ok with us, Frank. Everyone has different tastes. Hope you can find some recipes that you would like to try.

  1. Omgosh!! This is the absolute best spaghetti and meatballs I have ever had or made in my 5 decades of cooking and eating. You should not pass this one up! It is better than any restaurant spaghetti sauce by far. It was also fun to prepare. I just came across it searching on the web and sorry I have missed it all this time. I am now going to order the cook book so I won’t regret missing out on any others that will my taste buds will throw a party for.

    1. Brenda, we couldn’t agree more! Thanks SO much for taking the time to share how much you love this! And we’re looking forward to hearing which other recipes on the site you try as well…

  2. Calling all meatball lovers! (And Dorie Greenspan lovers!) This simple meatball recipe is easy to put together and is quite unique in its ingredients. The sauce is simply made from quality San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, a touch of sugar, and the addition of a surprise ingredient: balsamic vinegar. The rich acidic flavor really adds a “pop” of flavor to the easy-to-make sauce and the sauce portion of this recipe would be great with a number of your favorite Italian recipes you already have on hand. If you’re like me and love to hide good-for-you ingredients in dishes, both chopped walnuts and oats fill these beef and Italian sausage meatballs; both add to the meatballs texture and deliciousness. This recipe was a huge hit at our latest dinner party; it was fun having our dinner guests guess what the secret ingredients in the meatballs were! I highly recommend this unique version of a classic.

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