Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd

Spaghetti and meatballs is such a classic comforting meal. Hubby and I go an annual ski trip up to Maine with a big group of friends. Since I don’t enjoy skiing, I love to spend the day in the kitchen at the huge log cabin we rent. It’s always one of my favorite weekends of the winter.

Feeding 18-20 people can always be a challenge. I always shoot for comforting foods since everyone is exhausted after a cold day of skiing. Last year, I made this Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd. I had never made meatballs before these and I can honestly say I’ll never try another recipe. I used bacon instead of prosciutto since that’s what I had on hand. The ground pork and bacon add a great smokiness and round out the flavor of the meatballs. I used my cupcake-sized ice cream scoop to portion out the meat so that I’d get nice large meatballs.

This recipe was perfect for serving a huge crowd and it would be great to make one weekend to throw into the freezer. Or to give someone who’s expecting a baby. Or renovating their kitchen. You could also cut the recipe in half if you want a more reasonable serving size. That’s definitely something to consider if you don’t have two large pots to cook the sauce in!

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Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd

Make this for a crowd or to portion out and throw into your freezer. The meatballs are the best I've ever had!

Yield: Serves 12-14


For the Meatballs
2 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
6 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
5 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin, dissolved in 3 Tbsp cold water
Salt and ground black pepper

For the Sauce
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups grated onion from 1 to 2 onions
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
6 cups tomato juice (bottled)
3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
6 Tbsp dry white wine
Salt and ground black pepper
Spaghetti (3 pounds if cooking for a crowd, otherwise just make what you need)
1/2 cup minced fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
Granulated sugar
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


For the meatballs
Place wire racks in 2 foil-lined rimmed baking sheets. Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions, and preheat oven to 450 F.

Combine bread crumbs and buttermilk in large bowl and let sit, mashing occasionally with fork, until a smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes.

Add eggs, beef, pork, prosciutto, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, gelatin mixture, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to bread crumb mixture. Gently mix everything with your hands until thoroughly combined.

Spray the wire racks with nonstick cooking spray (or rub them with olive oil). Form meatballs using about 1/4 cup of meat mixture per meatball, and space the meatballs out on the racks as you form them. You should end up with about 40 meatballs.

Roast until browned, about 30 minutes, rotating trays from front to back and top to bottom halfway through.

For the Sauce
While the meatballs roast, heat olive oil in a LARGE Dutch oven or other pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden around edges, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomato juice, crushed tomatoes, wine, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Remove meatballs from oven, and lower oven temperature to 300 degrees. Add meatballs to sauce, cover pot, and place in oven. You may need to separate the sauce in to two pots at this time to fit everything.

Cook until meatballs are firm and sauce has thickened, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions.

To serve
Stir the basil and parsley into the sauce, and add sugar, salt, and pepper, as necessary.

Toss the pasta with a little bit of sauce to coat it. Top pasta with meatballs and extra sauce. Sprinkle grated Parmesan on top, if desired.

Recipe from Cooks Illustrated, as seen on Delicious Dishings

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