Indulge in a classic Italian comfort dish with our Baked Spaghetti & Meatballs recipe. Featuring homemade meatballs, San Marzano marinara sauce, a mix of cheeses, and perfectly cooked spaghetti, this recipe is a heartwarming meal for any occasion.
As a kid, I remember the magic of my grandmother’s kitchen, especially when she made her legendary Baked Spaghetti & Meatballs. It was more than a meal; it was a ritual. The aroma of garlic and onions sizzling in olive oil, the gentle simmer of San Marzano sauce, and the sight of gooey cheese melting over perfectly seasoned meatballs – these memories are etched in my heart. Every time I recreate this recipe, I’m transported back to those precious moments, sharing stories and laughter around the family table.
Why You’ll Love Baked Spaghetti & Meatballs
What sets this Baked Spaghetti & Meatballs recipe apart is its authentic flavors and textures. The use of San Marzano sauce elevates it with a rich, deep tomato taste, while the blend of colby-jack and mozzarella creates a creamy, ooey-gooey cheese layer. The homemade meatballs, tender yet hearty, are a testament to traditional cooking. This dish is not just a meal; it’s an experience – one that brings together the warmth of home-cooked comfort food with the sophistication of classic Italian cuisine.
Ah, the ingredients – the cast of characters in our culinary play! Let’s start with the meatballs. You can choose prefabricated ones, but if you’re feeling adventurous, go for homemade. For the sauce, it’s San Marzano or bust – this variety of tomatoes is like the Meryl Streep of the tomato world. The combination of colby-jack and mozzarella cheese is like a cheesy embrace for your spaghetti. And speaking of spaghetti, cook it just shy of al dente; trust me, it makes a difference. Lastly, don’t skimp on the garlic and onions – they’re the unsung heroes here.
- Meatballs: Choose quality, fully cooked ones or make your own for an extra touch of homemade goodness.
- Marinara Sauce: San Marzano sauce is recommended for its superior flavor.
- Cheese: A mix of colby-jack and mozzarella melts beautifully and adds richness.
- Spaghetti Noodles: Cook slightly under al dente for the perfect texture after baking.
- Aromatics: Don’t underestimate the power of finely diced onions and crushed garlic.
Let’s break down this culinary adventure:
- Sautéing Aromatics: Start by gently sautéing onions and garlic in olive oil. This step is crucial as it lays the foundation of flavor. Soft, golden onions and fragrant garlic are what dreams are made of.
- Adding Meatballs: Introduce the meatballs to the skillet. Here, they’ll soak up the flavors and get even more delicious.
- Simmering with Sauce: Pour in that glorious San Marzano sauce and sprinkle Italian seasoning. Let it simmer to marry the flavors – patience is key here.
- Cooking Spaghetti: Meanwhile, tackle the spaghetti. Remember, undercook it slightly – it’ll continue cooking in the oven.
- Combining Ingredients: After reserving the meatballs, it’s time to mix the spaghetti with the sauce. This is where the magic happens – each strand of spaghetti getting coated in that rich, tomatoey goodness.
- Assembling and Baking: Return the meatballs to their saucy bed, top with cheese, and bake. What emerges is a bubbly, cheesy, heartwarming dish that’s bound to steal hearts.
Now, about storing this masterpiece: The good news is, Baked Spaghetti & Meatballs stores beautifully. In the fridge, it’s good for up to 4 days – just make sure it’s in an airtight container. If you’ve got leftovers (lucky you!), they freeze well too. Just thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in the oven or microwave. It’s like reliving the delicious experience all over again.
Variations and Substitutions
Life’s all about options, right? Here are some twists and tweaks for this recipe:
- Meatball Madness: Not a fan of beef? Try chicken or turkey meatballs for a lighter version.
- Cheese, Please: Experiment with different cheeses – think ricotta for creaminess or sharp cheddar for a flavor kick.
- Gluten-Free Goals: Swap out regular spaghetti for a gluten-free version. No flavor compromise, I promise.
- Veggie Variety: Add mushrooms or bell peppers to the sauce for an extra veggie boost.
- Sauce Swap: If San Marzano isn’t available, any high-quality marinara will do the trick. Just look for one with a rich, deep flavor.
Baked Spaghetti & Meatballs
- Meatballs: Approximately 18 prefabricated fully cooked meatballs.
- Marinara Sauce: 24 ounces of San Marzano sauce recommended for its quality.
- Yellow Onion: 1/2 finely diced for nuanced flavor.
- Garlic Cloves: 3 crushed to release aroma.
- Italian Seasoning: 1 teaspoon for an authentic taste.
- Olive Oil: 2 tablespoons for sautéing.
- Spaghetti Noodles: 3/4 pound to be cooked slightly under al dente.
- Cheese: 1-2 cups grated a blend of colby-jack and mozzarella is suggested.
- Parmesan: 1/2 cup finely grated for topping.
- Sautéing Aromatics: Begin by sautéing the diced yellow onion in olive oil over a medium-low flame. Once the onions start to soften, add the crushed garlic and continue to sauté until the onions are tender.
- Adding Meatballs: Introduce the fully cooked meatballs to the skillet, allowing them to warm through and absorb the flavors of the aromatics.
- Simmering with Sauce: Add the San Marzano marinara sauce and Italian seasoning to the skillet. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes, permitting the flavors to meld together.
- Cooking Spaghetti: Concurrently, prepare the spaghetti noodles as per the manufacturer’s instructions in a separate pot, ensuring that they are slightly undercooked by about two minutes.
- Combining Ingredients: Using a large slotted spoon, carefully remove the meatballs from the sauce and set them aside. Transfer the partially cooked spaghetti into the skillet, incorporating about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Gently mix to ensure the spaghetti is evenly coated with the sauce.
- Assembling the Dish: Return the meatballs to the skillet, placing them atop the spaghetti. Evenly sprinkle the grated cheese and parmesan over the dish.
- Baking: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Bake the assembled dish for 20-30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and the cheese has melted to a golden brown. Serve hot.