Spaghetti with Veal Meatballs


Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern has been eating a variation of this pasta for some 40 years. The tomato sauce was inspired by his mother’s recipe; the tender veal meatballs are similar to the ones that legendary New York Times restaurant critic Craig Claiborne taught Zimmern’s father to make in the early ’70s. Slideshow:  More Pasta Recipes  Recipe from Food & Wine Chefs' Easy Weeknight Dinners. 

Spaghetti with Veal Meatballs by Andrew Zimmern
Always a crowd favorite, spaghetti and meatballs is perfect any day of the week. Photo: © Fredrika Stjärne
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs



  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves, halved

  • 1 basil sprig

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes with their juices, crushed by hand

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 pound ground veal

  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped

  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated (1/3 cup) 

  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 tablespoon plain dried bread crumbs

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 pound spaghetti


  1. Make the sauceIn a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, basil, oregano and red pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it darkens in color, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, season with salt and black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

  2. Make the meatballsIn a large bowl, mix the ground veal with the shallot, cheese, cream, garlic, egg yolk, bread crumbs, basil and oregano and season with salt and black pepper. Form into 16 meatballs.

  3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the meatballs and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente; drain and transfer to bowls. Spoon the sauce and meatballs over the pasta and serve.

Make Ahead

The sauce and meatballs can be prepared through Step 3 and refrigerated overnight. Alternatively, freeze the meatballs and sauce in resealable freezer bags for up to 1 month.

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