When it comes to easy mid week dinners you can't beat Weeknight Spaghetti & Meatballs for flavor and speed. This recipe is a great way to gussy up store bought meatballs with a healthy homemade tomato sauce and really make them your own!
I'm a huge fan of Jamie Oliver's Meatballs and Pasta and also Gordon Ramsay's Italian meatballs. I have used these recipes in the past. But for busy nights through the week, I just don't have time to make my own meatballs.
For convenience I like to use good quality store bought meatballs. They work a treat with the rich tomato flavored spaghetti sauce. Any ready made meatballs will work, but you can make your own if you have the time and inclination.
Now I know I haven't technically served my meatballs with spaghetti, instead I've used tagliatelle. But that's the point. You can use any shape of pasta noodle and they will all work a treat with the meatballs. As with all great recipes you can adapt it and make it your own.
Why You Should Make This Weeknight Spaghetti & Meatballs
- My store-bought meatballs dinner is all about convenience for those busy weeknight. The ones where we want something nutritious but don't want to spend too much time cooking.
- This dish is loved by adults and kids alike - I get clean plates all round in my house.
- The spaghetti sauce is really simple and quick to prepare, using a lot of the ingredients that most of us will have in our kitchens already.
- When it comes to great tasting dishes featuring meatballs or pasta you can't beat my Creamy Mustard Dill Sauce for Meatballs, my Creamy Pancetta, Pea & Mint Pasta, my Smoked Salmon Creme Fraiche Pasta or my Creamy Mushroom Pasta.
Are Spaghetti & Meatballs Authentically Italian?
No, in fact spaghetti and meatballs is an American dish, created by Italian-American immigrants.
Traditional Italian meatballs are called polpette and are a lot small than the large American meatballs we serve with spaghetti. Also Italians would traditionally serve their meatballs on their own or in a soup.
American meatballs as we know them are are a result of Italian-Americans who migrated to the US. With increased wealth they were able to buy more meat. As result the meatballs became larger and full of meat, rather than breadcrumbs.
Spaghetti was added to the meatballs as it was the only dried pasta available in the US at the time.
Can I Makes Weeknight Meatballs with Pasta that isn't Spaghetti?
Yes of course you can! In fact you can use any variety of pasta or pasta noodles that you and your family enjoy eating.
I like to use tagliatelle noodles as they catch the sauce better. And I also think younger children find this noodle easier to eat.
Tasty Meatballs Ingredients
Find the full list and quantities in the recipe below.
Meatballs - I use store bought meatballs for speed and ease, any variety will work in this dish. If you have your own favorite meatball recipe then by all means use that. Simply add the meatballs to the spaghetti sauce.
Pasta - I like to use tagliatelle noodles as they are great for soaking up the sauce and are also easier for kids to handle. You can use spaghetti, linguine or indeed any pasta noodle that you and your family enjoy eating.
Tomatoes - I use canned chopped tomatoes, but you can also use canned plum tomatoes. Break them up in the pan or a similar quantity of fresh plum tomatoes if you prefer.
If using fresh tomatoes just add a little extra water or veggie broth to the spaghetti sauce.
Sugar - is added to the spaghetti sauce as it balances out the acidity from the tomatoes giving you a better balanced sauce. If you prefer you can leave it out.
How to Make Weeknight Spaghetti & Meatballs
Find the full printable recipe below.
Gently cook onions until soft, season well then add crushed garlic.
After a minute, add the canned tomatoes, water and pinch of sugar.
Cook for around 5 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.
Add the beef meatballs to the sauce and simmer until fully cooked - around 30 minutes.
Meanwhile cook the pasta in boiling salted water then drain.
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if needed then serve the cooked pasta with the meatballs and sauce.
Top with grated parmesan and fresh basil leaves for maximum flavor.
Can I use Store-Bought Sauce to Make Spaghetti & Meatballs?
Yes of course. We all have those days where time has run away with us. So if you prefer you can add store-bought spaghetti sauce and cook the meatballs in it.
Could I use ready cooked meatballs?
Ready cooked meatballs are an even quicker way to get this weeknight spaghetti and meatballs dinner on the table. As the meatballs are already cooked you don't need to cook them in the sauce, only warm them up just before serving.
Variations of Spaghetti & Meatballs
This recipe is easily adapted for vegetarian or vegan diners. The spaghetti sauce can easily vegan if you swap butter for olive oil. Simply replace the store-bought meatballs with a veggie based meatball instead and don't grate over any Parmesan cheese.
I use meatballs made with ground beef, but you could use ground pork or even a blend of the two. For a flavor change why not try a chicken or turkey meatball? All these flavors will work with the tomato spaghetti sauce.
I recommend sprinkling over some chopped basil for a burst of fresh herb flavor that really lifts this simple meatball dish.
Tips For Making Weeknight Spaghetti & Meatballs
- When you are really pushed for time, ready cooked meatballs are a great substitute as they only need to be heated up in the meatball sauce.
- If making your own meatballs, take the time to brown them first in a separate pan before adding them to the meatball sauce. This will really add to the flavor of the finished dish.
- Also if making homemade meatballs ensure they are even in size, otherwise some may take longer to cook through.
How To Serve Weeknight Spaghetti & Meatballs?
This is honestly enough of a meal to serve on it's own, so I keep any sides light and simple. But if you want to make it part of a larger meal, a dressed green salad always goes well with pasta. You could also add some crusty bread or garlic bread.
How To Reheat Spaghetti & Meatballs?
Once cooked and cooled, any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
When ready to eat, simply heat the meatballs up gently in the sauce over a medium heat until warmed through. If the sauce is a little thick you can add a splash of stock or water to loosen it.
How to Freeze Meatballs & Spaghetti Sauce?
Make the sauce and meatballs then allow the dish to cool completely before placing in an airtight container suitable for the freezer. You can store the sauce and meatballs for up to 3 months.
When ready to enjoy, defrost the sauce and meatballs before heating up and adding to the freshly cooked pasta noodles of your choice.
NOTE, if you are using ready made meatballs that have already been frozen they cannot be refrozen!
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What Do You Think?!
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More Easy Dinner Recipe Ideas
Easy Weeknight Spaghetti & Meatballs
- 12 Beef Meatballs - store-bought
- 1 lb Pasta - I used tagliatelle
For the sauce
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 1 Onion - peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove Garlic - peeled and crushed
- 28 oz Canned Diced Tomatoes
- ½ cup Water
- 1 pinch Sugar - optional
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- Grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsp Butter | 1 OnionIn a large cast iron pot or heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter and gently cook the onions until soft - for around 10 minutes.
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper | 1 clove GarlicSeason the onions well, add the crushed garlic and stir for a minute.
- 28 oz Canned Diced Tomatoes | ½ cup Water | 1 pinch SugarAdd the canned tomatoes, water and pinch of sugar.
- Allow to cook for around 5 minutes on a medium heat whilst stirring occasionally.
- 12 Beef MeatballsAdd the beef meatballs to the sauce and simmer until fully cooked - around 30 minutes. Again give it the occasional gentle stir.
- 1 lb PastaMeanwhile cook the pasta according to packet instructions in boiling salted water then drain.
- Sea Salt and Black PepperTaste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Serve the cooked pasta with the meatballs and sauce.
- Grated Parmesan | Fresh Basil LeavesOptional - Top with grated parmesan and fresh basil leaves.
This recipe was shared with the #cookblogshare community, which this week was kindly hosted by Kate the Gluten Free Alchemist.
These look delicious. I love a classic tomato sauce with meatballs, you really can't beat it for both taste and simplicity of cook.
Jo Keohane says
Nothing nicer on a cold day than a cozy comforting pasta dish!! Thanks so much for your comment Lesley!
Kate - Gluten Free Alchemist says
What a perfect bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. Delicious to the last fork-full.
I am a huge fan of shop-bought meatballs, providing they are carefully chosen for ingredients, quality and flavour... To be honest, I am far too lazy to use my own.
Thanks for sharing #CookBlogShare
Jo Keohane says
Thanks so much Kate, yes it's more realistic all round to have some nicely chosen shop bought stuff in the mix!!
Such a great recipe, family-friendly, and absolutely delicious.
Jo Keohane says
Thank you very much Janice, hope you give this one a try!
Rebecca - Glutarama says
The perfect simple midweek dinner recipe for the family, my lot love meatballs and I do often buy a ready made sauce but this is the perfect recipe so I don't have to.
Jo Keohane says
Hope they love this recipe Rebecca! Thanks so much for the comment.