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Beef | February 16, 2012

America’s Test Kitchen Spaghetti and Meatballs

America's Test Kitchen Spaghetti and Meatballs

Who doesn’t love a good spaghetti dinner? TheAmerica’s Test Kitchen recipe for Spaghetti and Meatballs intrigued me because it calls for bread soaked in buttermilk, instead of the dried bread crumbs I use in my go-to recipe. The meatballs were extra tender, and the buttermilk added a bit of tang, as the Test Kitchen book promised. Yummy.
If you are looking for the perfect Sunday meal, (which in my opinion includes a good part of the meal prepared ahead) make these Saturday afternoon. After completely cooking the meatballs and preparing the sauce, let the meatballs bathe in the sauce overnight in the fridge.
Trust me, you’ll want to double this recipe.
One step closer to the day of rest.

5 from 2 votes

Spaghetti and Meatballs

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen



  • 2 slices white bread crusts discarded, torn into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or 6 tablespoons plain yogurt thinned with 2 tablespoons sweet milk
  • 3/4 pound ground beef or 1 pound if omitting ground pork below
  • 1/4 pound ground pork to be mixed with ground chuck
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 small clove garlic minced (1 teaspoon)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for pan-frying

Simple Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • grated Parmesan for topping pasta


For the meatballs:

  1. Combine bread and buttermilk in small bowl, mashing occasionally with fork, until smooth paste forms.
  2. Mix all meatball ingredients, including bread mixture and pepper in medium bowl. Lightly form 2 tablespoons of mixture into 1 1/2-inch round meatballs; repeat with remaining mixture to form approximately 18-20 meatballs. (Compacting them can make the meatballs dense and hard. Can be placed on large plate, covered loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerated for several hours.)
  3. Meanwhile, heat about two to three tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat in 10- or 11-inch non stick saute pan. When edge of meatball dipped in oil sizzles, add meatballs in single layer. Fry, turning several times, until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes, regulating heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking. Transfer browned meatballs to paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Repeat, if necessary, with remaining meatballs.

For the sauce:

  1. Discard oil in pan, leaving behind any browned bits. Add olive oil along with garlic; saute, scraping up any browned bits, just until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, bring to boil, and simmer gently until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in sugar and basil; add salt and pepper to taste. Add meatballs and simmer. Keep warm over low flame.

For pasta:

  1. Heat 4 quarts of water to boiling in a large pot to cook pasta. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water. Follow package directions and cook until al dente, drain, and return to pot until serving.

Recipe Notes

This recipe serves about 6 adults.
– The longer the sauce simmers, the more flavorful the dish will be. Preparing the dish the day before allows for best flavor. This dish may be prepared up to five days before serving. On day of serving, cook pasta and heat up sauce on stove top over low to medium heat for about 45 minutes.


4 thoughts on “America’s Test Kitchen Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Recipe Rating

  1. 5 stars
    I liked the recipe but my meatballs always fall apart (mostly because they attach to the bottom of the pan and when I gently pry them off they fall apart)

    1. Hi Mirjam, I would try adding a little more oil next time, and turn the meatballs over more often. Thank you for sharing and for reading ABK!