Zappa Family Spaghetti and Meatballs

READY IN: 3hrs 45mins
Recipe by enigmused

I was on a quest for the perfect spaghetti sauce, and thanks to this recipe from the NY Times, I think it's officially over. It tastes just like the sauce my childhood best friend's parents used to make -- they immigrated from Italy and had me over for dinner every Sunday. I didn't have any chuck roasts or beef briskets on hand, so I just let the meatballs simmer in the sauce. I like the thinner consistency because that's how my friend's parents made it, but my boyfriend prefers a thicker sauce -- next time I will cut down on the water. Also, instead of 1 cup of breadcrumbs, I used 4 slices of white bread that I tore into small pieces and then soaked in 1/2 cup buttermilk for 10 min. to form a paste, a tip I learned from the Best Recipe Cookbook.

Top Review by Bugsear

I was brought up on this sauce for way too many years and when I moved away I truely craved it. I do have to thank the Zappa family for posting this...

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Make the meatballs:.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except olive oil by hand, using a light touch. Take a portion of meat in hand, and roll between palms to form a ball that is firmly packed but not compressed. Repeat, making each meatball about 2 inches in diameter.
  3. In a large, heavy pot heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add meatballs in batches. Do not crowd. Brown well on bottoms before turning, or meatballs will break apart. Continue cooking until browned all over. Remove meatballs to a plate as each batch is finished. Let meatballs cool slightly; cover and refrigerate until needed.
  4. Make the sauce:.
  5. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over pork and beef. Place large pot over medium-high heat; when hot, add olive oil and brown meat. (Or cook meat in same pot used for meatballs, browning in the leftover fat.) Remove meat to a platter. Turning heat under pot to medium, add onions, and cook 3 minutes, stirring. Add garlic, and cook 2 minutes longer. Add tomato paste, and stir: cook until it absorbs fat in pan. Add oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, kosher salt and bay leaf, stirring to combine.
  6. Add cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce, then 4 1/2 cups water. Stir in sugar, parsley and peperoncini. Return meats to pot with their juices. Bring sauce to a gentle boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, partly cover and leave sauce to simmer 21/2 hours or more, stirring regularly.
  7. About 20 minutes before serving, add meatballs to pot. Boil spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, return spaghetti to pan and add 3 cups sauce. Toss pasta in pan for a minute to coat with sauce, and place on a large platter. Pour 2 more cups sauce over pasta. Place meat and meatballs on pasta, slicing large pieces. Serve with bowls of remaining sauce and Parmesan.

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