As Classic As It Gets

Spaghetti and meatballs. Is there any dinner that can be considered to be more classic? I think not. And as it turns out, making the sauce and meatballs from scratch is much easier than you would expect. You’ll never want to go back to canned sauce or frozen meatballs again!

If you’re vegetarian, the marinara alone over pasta will still be amazing. Try this now, while tomatoes are perfectly in season!

Classic Marinara

These are easy to make simultaneously. Should you choose to do so, here’s the order I’d recommend working in:

1. Start soaking the bread in the milk.

2. Cook the garlic and onions for the meatballs.

3. While the bread soaks and the garlic/onions cool, start making the marinara sauce and heat water for the pasta.

4. While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta according to package directions and make the meatballs.

5. Drop the finished meatballs in the simmering sauce, and the marinara and meatballs will be done at the same time.

Classic Marinara Sauce

2 T olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 T dried basil

1 1/2 T dried oregano

1 T dried rosemary

1/2 c dry white wine

2 c chopped zucchini

6 1/2 c crushed tomatoes, fresh or canned

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the dried spices and wine and stir for one minute.


Add the zucchini, tomatoes and 1 cup of water. I used a combination of fresh and canned tomatoes, because I ran out of fresh…oops! Cover the sauce and simmer for about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, allowing the sauce to thicken for 15-20 minutes.


Classic Meatballs

1 1/2 c torn bread

1 c milk

3 T olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, diced

1 lb ground beef or turkey

1 whole egg, beaten

1 T dried oregano

2 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Soak the bread in the milk for 30 minutes. In the meantime, heat 1 T of the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent and fragrant, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool


Squeeze the milk out of the bread so that it is soggy but not sopping. It should stick together in a ball when pressed together, rather than falling apart.

Mix the meat, bread, onion and garlic in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mix in the egg and spices.

Heat the rest of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drop 1″ balls of the meatball mixture into the oil, leaving an 1-2″ of free space around each meatball. You won’t be able to fit them all into the pan at once. Allow each meatballto brown for 2 minutes, then flip to an uncooked edge. Continue browning each edge for 2 minutes before flipping to the next until all sides are browned. Repeat with the rest of the meatballs until all of them are cooked.

As each meatball is browned, add it to the marinara so that it will get cooked all the way through.



  1. says

    Sometimes, those classics really hit the spot. I recently made a homemade marinara sauce, and it was amazing. I threw some mini bell peppers in the food processor and added that to my sauce. It really gives it a kick!

    I just want to say your photography is exceptional. Do you just have a really well-lit kitchen or do you have a light kit? (I have a professional camera, but my photos don’t turn out like this.)

    • Julie @savvyeats says

      Thank you! Bell peppers would be amazing in this too–I just had a HUGE zucchini from the garden to use up, and my peppers weren’t ready yet. πŸ˜‰

      Thank you so much for your compliment! We have a big window that goes almost down to the floor (all our windows do, because we live in a 100+ year old house on the second floor πŸ˜‰ ), so the lighting in the kitchen is usually really good. Unfortunately, as we get into shorter days, I think my good lighting is going to start going away…so I’m going to have to find another solution!

  2. says

    Ohh now I really want a delicious pasta dish! My homemade meatball recipe is almost identical to yours, except that I use crackers instead of bread. I’ll have to try the bread next time!