I Tried Taylor Swift’s Favorite Spaghetti & Meatballs Recipe and I Get Why She’ll Make It “For Life”
Listen, I’m extremely skeptical of any meatball recipe. Growing up in an Italian household where the art of making meatballs is just as important as learning how to talk and walk, anyone who tries to tell me that their meatballs are better than my Italian grandmother is usually sorely mistaken. However, when the queen Taylor Swift dubs a particular spaghetti and meatballs recipe as her favorite, I can’t help but be a little curious. I mean, Taylor and her spell-bounding music haven’t let me down yet, so maybe — just maybe — her taste in meatballs may also live up to the hype.
Equally skeptical as I was curious, I decided to give Taylor’s favorite spaghetti and meatballs recipe a try. Now to be clear, this recipe isn’t hers to take credit for; it’s actually Ina Garten’s. In her 30th birthday interview with Elle, Taylor shared that some of Ina’s recipes are some of her go-to favorites to make at home. Not only is she a big fan of Nigella Lawson’s Mughlai Chicken, but she also says Ina’s spaghetti and meatballs is one of her favorites to make for dinner parties at home.
While Taylor does say she only uses packaged breadcrumbs and ground beef in her version to make this simpler, I couldn’t help but go all out and do the recipe exactly how it says. And I’m not going to lie, I may have just shocked myself with how good this recipe is.
Get the recipe: Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti
How to Make Taylor Swift’s Favorite Spaghetti & Meatballs
In a large mixing bowl, add 1 pound of ground beef and 1/2 pound each of ground pork and ground veal. Toss in 1 cup of fresh white breadcrumbs (slice up sandwich bread, or even plain hamburger or hot dog rolls), 1/4 cup of seasoned bread crumbs (Italian seasoned is probably best), 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1 large egg beaten.
Pour in 3/4 cup of warm water into your bowl with the meatball ingredients, and stir gently. It may be best to combine the ingredients with clean hands, but don’t overwork the mixture! You want it to be just combined and not too tough.
Once the mixture is combined, roll 2-inch meatballs and place them on a clean plate. This recipe says you’ll end up with 14 to 16 meatballs, but it may be more like 16 to 18.
In a large skillet (12-inch at least), heat 1/4 cup each of vegetable oil and olive oil over medium heat. Add a small batch of meatballs and cook on each side for a few minutes, until the meatballs are slightly browned and sturdy enough to lift with a slotted spoon. Remove the cooked meatballs onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels, then continue this step until all of the meatballs have been properly seared.
Drain the oil out of the skillet but do not clean it. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil (use the good stuff!) then add 1 cup of chopped yellow onion. Cook the onions until they become translucent, at least 5 minutes. Then add 1 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic, cooking until the garlic is fragrant (at least 1 minute). Then add 1/2 cup of a good red Italian wine (like Chianti) and cook for five minutes, or until the alcohol from the wine has cooked off and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
Pour in a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, then sprinkle 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
Stir and let the sauce cook for three minutes before adding your meatballs back in. Turn the heat down to low and cover the skillet with a lid. Leave the meatballs to cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve on spaghetti with more freshly grated Parmesan cheese!
My Honest Review
Taylor may have turned this skeptic into a believer. I mean, are we even surprised? That woman is a mastermind. (If you know, you know.)
Now these meatballs are pretty different compared to my grandmother’s go-to recipe. While she does use a classic meatball mix (ground beef, pork, and veal), this recipe used both breadcrumbs and fresh bread, didn’t include fresh basil and oregano, or even dried Italian seasoning, and uses a lot more warm water than I would have thought these meatballs would need. Also, the meatballs simmered in the sauce for only a half hour, while my grandmother’s meatballs simmer for three hours in a massive pot of sauce.
Despite the differences, to my surprise, these meatballs were decadent. I admit, my first bite of meatball had me smiling with goofy glee. The texture of the meatball is moist and bursting with fatty flavor despite a small amount of simmering time. For not having all of the usual seasoning in it like my grandmother’s recipe does, I’m still surprised by the flavor. The parsley and the nutmeg, mixed with the sharpness from the freshly grated Parmesan, give it just enough taste that I almost feel like I don’t need the basil or oregano, which is what usually goes in my meatballs and homemade sauce.
The red wine gives the sauce an extra kick of flavor. It’s particularly delicious if you pair it with the wine that you cooked with. Because if you’re going to buy a nice bottle for this recipe, you might as well drink it with your meal!
3 Tips to Make Ina Garten’s Spaghetti & Meatballs
- For an even richer flavor, use milk: This recipe calls for warm water, but if you really want to kick up the fatty flavor, use milk instead. My grandmother will actually soak the bread in milk before adding it to the meatballs, which give the meatballs an even softer texture.
- Don’t skimp on the wine: This recipe calls for a nice bottle of wine; don’t skimp out on this. It doesn’t have to be an expensive bottle, but get yourself a nice bottle of Italian red (like Chianti, Montepulciano, or Sangiovese) to make the sauce. Plus you get to sip on some really nice wine while you cook!
- Use freshly minced garlic: Ina’s recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic, which is easy to measure if you have a jar in the fridge. However, I’m a huge fan of freshly mincing my garlic when I cook, so I highly recommend doing that for a more potent flavor. Two or three garlic cloves should be enough for the recipe!
Get the recipe: Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti