Spaghetti and Meatballs: The Dinner Hour Truce

Spaghetti and Meatballs: The Dinner Hour Truce

Whatever happened to the dinner hour? That time-honored ritual around the table where the family gathers nightly to share what happened that day. Between soccer practice, dance classes and countless other after-school activities, the dinner hour is often replaced with drive-through fly-by’s and pizza delivery.

I’ll admit it’s easier for a family to order their own particular meal from a menu–hold the lettuce! But making this type of dinner a habit may encourage a family of picky eaters with, most likely, not-so-healthy eating habits. Having at least a few meals around the table each week coaxed my kids to enjoy the “green things” on their plate, especially if they were hungry enough to initially try them.

This recipe proposes a dinner hour truce, satisfying the pickiest of palates. It’s a meal that encourages laughter and sharing around the table. Who can resist a tumble of meatballs served over a tangle of spaghetti?

If you prefer not using hamburger, substitute with ground bison or turkey. Don’t like the green stuff (i.e. basil)? Pass it on the side. Carb fearful? Just eat the meatballs. No time to cook? The meatballs may be homemade but bottled pasta sauce brings timely sanity to the preparation. (Psssst…a little known fact is the tiniest of hands makes the best meat balls!)

I served this with veggies and ranch dressing dip. Maybe one day I can wean them off the ranch dressing but in the meantime it helps them learn to love the “green things”.

Recipe: Spaghetti and Meatballs


  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1-3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil leaves, plus extra leaves for garnishing
  • 1/2-1 cup grated Parmesan cheese or asiago, plus extra for grating
  • 1 cup breadbrumbs
  • 1-1 1/2 (36-54 ounces) good quality jarred pasta sauce
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Combine the pork, beef, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add egg, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1/2 cup grated cheese, breadcrumbs and chopped basil. Combine all the ingredients with your hands or with a spoon until just mixed together. Don’t overwork or the meatballs will be tough. Remove a teaspoon of the mixture and sauté in the skillet or microwave 1 minute or until cooked through. Taste meat and add additional grated cheese, basil, garlic or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  3. Form meatballs, about the size of small golfballs. You should have about 25.
  4. Over medium heat, heat 36 ounces tomato sauce in a large-lipped large sauté pan. Whisk milk into sauce.
  5. Place meatballs into tomato sauce and let simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add additional tomato sauce to the pan if you desire. Turn meatballs and let simmer an additional 10 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
  6. While the meatballs are simmering, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water according to package instructions. Drain and place spaghetti onto a large serving platter or individual plates. Ladle meatballs and sauce over pasta, garnish with basil leaves and serve, passing extra Parmesan for grating.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4-6

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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