Recipe Review

Ina Garten’s “Real” Meatballs Are As Perfect As You’d Expect

published Feb 24, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn

Ina Garten is famous for creating crowdpleasing, foolproof recipes, so it’s no surprise that her spaghetti and meatballs recipe — a classic comfort food staple — has hundreds of five-star reviews. For our meatball battle, it was a no-brainer to try her meatball recipe, which calls for two types of breadcrumbs, two types of oil, and a sauce infused with red wine. I was curious: would these tweaks create a next-level meatball recipe, or just result in more work? I took to the kitchen to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti

First things first, you’ll need to make a batch of fresh breadcrumbs. Ina calls for them but doesn’t include a step for making them in the recipe.

Then it’s time to make the meatballs. You’ll add the ground veal, pork, beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, seasonings, and water to a bowl and use a fork to mash it all together until just combined. Use your hands to form the mixture into 2-inch balls. Ina specifies that this will make 14 to 16 meatballs, and she’s right on the money. 

You’ll fry the meatballs in a mix of vegetable and olive oil until browned all over, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Let the meatballs hang out at room temperature while you make the sauce.

Carefully discard the oil from the pan, then return it to the stove with all that good meatball flavor left in it. Cook the onion in fresh olive oil until translucent, then add the garlic until aromatic. Then, add the red wine and scrape up any brown bits left in the pan, and cook until the alcohol burns off. Lastly, pour in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes. 

Finish the meatballs by lowering them back into the pan and simmer for an additional 25 to 30 minutes with the lid on, until the meatballs are cooked through. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti

I’ve been a die-hard Ina fan since I was a teenager. I’ve watched hours of Barefoot Contessa, own all of her cookbooks, and have made countless Ina recipes, all of which have come out perfectly. I wasn’t exactly nervous when I tested this recipe (because Ina knows what she’s doing), but I was relieved that they were as good as I expected them to be. When I picture spaghetti and meatballs, this is what I imagine them to taste like. 

These meatballs were truly delicious. They were properly seasoned and had a great texture thanks to the technique of pan frying the meatballs and then simmering them in sauce, which resulted in a crisp exterior and perfectly moist interior. The sauce was easy to put together, and had an incredible depth of flavor thanks to both red wine and pan drippings. Simmering the sauce for an hour didn’t hurt either — although I did dock points for how long it takes this recipe to come together. Additionally, the frying process a bit messy, and you could likely cut down on the oil (and the mess) by adding a thinner layer of oil for the same result.

Credit: Alexis deBoschnek
Ina Garten Meatballs

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Meatballs, a Few Tips

  1. Before doing anything, make fresh breadcrumbs: Ina doesn’t provide a recipe for fresh breadcrumbs, but they’re called for in the ingredient list. Before you get started, make a batch of breadcrumbs so that you don’t have to pause halfway through the process. If you want to save time, skip making your own and buy plain white breadcrumbs.
  2. Switch up the order of operations if you’re short on time: The recipe calls for making the meatballs before the sauce, so that you can make the sauce in the pan drippings. While this definitely added great flavor, if you want to cut down on time in the kitchen, I’d recommend making the sauce first so that it’ll be ready by the time the meatballs are fried. 

Rating: 8/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn