Make-Ahead Spaghetti and Meatballs

Make-Ahead Spaghetti and Meatballs

Frozen, pre-made meatballs are fairly common in grocery stores, but in this video, I’ll be making my own. I always make a batch of these meatballs on a weekend, then freeze them, and then they are ready for when I want to make spaghetti and meatballs later in the week. The video will show both the making of the meatball batch, and then cooking them with pasta and sauce.

These meatballs have great flavor – better than anything I’ve bought at the store. One of the things that gives it great flavor is buttermilk. However, it calls for only a half cup, and at least at my nearby stores, buttermilk is only sold in quarts. So if you don’t want to let the rest of the buttermilk go to waste, you have a few options:

  • Instead of buttermilk, use 6 tbsp plain yogurt thinned with 2 tbsp milk
  • Instead of buttermilk, use dried buttermilk powder, which you mix with water. I haven’t used this product before, so I can’t say from experience how well it works, but check out the reviews to see what they have to say.
  • Use the rest of the buttermilk for other things, such as: mashed potatoes, pancakes, or my upcoming video/recipe for twice-baked potatoes.

I also want to mention the meat, because this recipe uses ground beef and pork. If you’re like many health-conscious people, you probably sometimes use ground turkey as a replacement for ground beef, in an effort to reduce the amount of red meat that you eat. However, new research is showing that many of the health problems related to eating red meat are actually a result of eating corn-fed red meat. So I would say that if you normally substitute ground turkey, you might want to give grass-fed ground beef a try. Some say that it tastes a bit different and may take some getting used to, although I personally have not noticed much difference. It may be a bit hard to find depending on where you live. I don’t normally see it in my grocery store, but I am able to get it at my local farmer’s market.

And I haven’t even talked about the sauce yet. Believe me, this sauce is so quick & easy, you’ll never want to pay more money for a jar of Prego or Ragu ever again.

So, as usual, here’s the video, and the recipe comes afterward (or actually, 2 recipes: 1 for the entire batch of meatballs, and one for a serving of spaghetti and meatballs for two, with sauce). Please note that I made a goof in the video – when making the sauce, after removing the meatballs I should have then added the garlic to the pan first, before adding the tomatoes. The recipe itself has the correct directions. Also, the second half of the video makes a simple drinking game if you just take a shot every time you hear me say “browned bits.”

Freezer Meatballs
(adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated magazine recipe)

2 slices white sandwich bread
1/2 cup buttermilk or 6 tablespoons plain yogurt thinned with 2 tbsp milk
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
1/4 pound ground pork
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves (or 2 tsp dried parsley flakes)
1 large egg yolk
1 small clove garlic , minced (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
3/4 teaspoon table salt
Black pepper to taste


  • Remove crusts from bread and tear into 1-inch pieces. Combine bread and buttermilk in small bowl, mashing occasionally with fork, until smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes.
  • Mix all meatball ingredients, including bread mixture and pepper to taste in medium bowl. Form into into 1 to 1 1/2-inch round meatballs. Makes approximately 14-18 meatballs.
  • Keep meatballs in freezer (not touching or touching as little as possible) until ready to use. Allow to defrost in refrigerator for several hours, or defrost in microwave, before cooking.

Spaghetti and Meatballs for Two
(adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated magazine recipe)


2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp minced fresh basil leaves (or 1 tsp dried basil)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
4 oz spaghetti (preferably 2 oz regular and 2 oz whole wheat)


  • Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in 10- or 11-inch sauté pan. Add 4 to 6 meatballs. 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.
  • Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes, bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer, uncovered, until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package directions and/or desired tenderness, drain and leave in collandar when done.
  • Once sauce has thickened, stir in basil and oregano, and salt & pepper to taste.
  • Add meatballs and simmer, turning them occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  • Divide the pasta onto 2 plates (evenly distributing both types), top with 2 meatballs each, and the sauce.