Classic spaghetti and meatballs made however you like— on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, and even the instant pot!

Be sure to also try my pork quinoa meatballs and turkey and zucchini meatballs.

a big bowl of spaghetti with meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is a frequent meal at our house that we all enjoy. And after years of improvisation I’m finally writing down my recipe. This is it! This is the easiest and most delicious version I’ve made and I’m excited to share it with you.

These meatballs are tender, juicy and flavorful, and the comforting combination with marinara sauce and pasta can’t be beat.

I have instructions for cooking the meatballs either:

  • on the stove
  • in a slow cooker
  • or in a pressure cooker

So you can choose the method that works for you and your schedule! (Psst, my favorite easy weeknight method is to freeze meatballs ahead of time and then just throw them in a slow cooker for the afternoon.)

spaghetti and meatballs ingredients

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Ground beef (I use 90% lean)
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Finely grated parmesan cheese (freshly grated is preferred)
  • Fresh basil or parsley
  • Milk
  • Garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Marinara sauce
  • Spaghetti (or noodle of choice)

mixing meatballs

How to Make Spaghetti and Meatballs

The steps below may look long and complicated, but that’s only because I give you all the options to make this dish how you want! It’s really quite simple, I promise.

1. Prepare the meatball mixture. Let the breadcrumbs soak with the milk while you whisk together the egg, basil/parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Add both the breadcrumb and egg mixture to a large bowl along with the ground beef and parmesan cheese.

2. Combine and portion into balls. Use your hands (don’t be afraid to get them dirty) to gently massage all the ingredients together, just until the mixture is even. Do not overmix or your meatballs will be tough, work the beef only as much as needed. Use a scoop or spoon to portion into rounded tablespoons, then use your hands to shape into balls.

shaping meatballs

3. Brown OR chill. The meatballs are very soft as this point and may fall apart in the marinara sauce unless browned or thoroughly chilled. Browning the meatballs will give the dish a lot more flavor, while chilling them makes for an easy make-ahead option.

To brown, place on a lined sheet pan in the top third of the oven under the broiler for about 10 minutes. Or brown in a skillet with a little olive oil over medium high heat, about 4-5 minutes per side.

To chill, place on a lined sheet pan and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes or in the fridge for 1 hour. If freezing long-term, transfer to a ziplock bag once frozen completely.

browning meatballs and cook in marinara sauce

4. Cook meatballs in marinara. Once meatballs have been browned or chilled, cook them all the way through in marinara sauce, either on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, or pressure cooker. Meatballs are done when an instant thermometer inserted into the centers reaches 165°F or meatballs show no pink when cut open.

To cook on the stovetop, place browned or chilled meatballs in a pot of simmering marinara sauce. Simmer for 10-30 minutes, depending on if meatballs are browned or not, until meatballs are cooked through.

To cook in a slow cooker, add marinara sauce to slow cooker followed by the meatballs. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, until meatballs are cooked through.

To cook in a pressure cooker (instant pot), add marinara sauce to pressure cooker followed by meatballs. Cover, seal, and cook on high pressure for 7 minutes, with a 5 minute natural release.

5. Cook pasta. When the meatballs are almost done, cook spaghetti (or noodle of choice) in a pot of heavily salted boiling water. Drain

6. Serve. Combine spaghetti with meatballs and marinara and serve immediately. Enjoy!

meatballs in marinara sauce

Spaghetti and Meatball Cooking Tips

  • Feel free to use whatever fat % of beef you’d like (I usually use 90/10). The higher fat, the better the flavor but the more fragile the meatballs will be. Leaner beef can make tough meatballs if you’re not careful, but they hold together really well.
  • If you are concerned about keeping your meatballs round, use the broiler browning method instead of the stovetop.
  • I typically use my favorite store-bought marinara sauce to keep things easy, but you can also make your own! Try my easy marinara made with canned tomatoes, or my fresh tomato basil marinara sauce.
  • Reserve a little pasta cooking water to thin out the marinara sauce if needed.
  • Meatballs freeze really well! Freeze them in a single layer on a lined sheet pan, then transfer them to a ziplock bag, squeeze out any excess air and store them in the freezer for several months. No need to thaw before cooking in marinara sauce.

spaghetti and meatballs on a plate with salad

Make it a Complete Meal

Here are a few delicious suggestions of dishes to serve with spaghetti and meatballs:

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

Classic spaghetti and meatballs made however you like— on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, and even the instant pot!
a big bowl of spaghetti with meatballs
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5 from 1 vote

Ingredients

  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped basil or parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 lb ground beef (I use 90/10 but you can use other %)
  • ½ cup fresh finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 8 oz spaghetti (or noodle of choice)

Instructions

  • Add breadcrumbs and milk to a large bowl and toss together. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile whisk together the egg, basil/parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in a separate bowl.
  • Add ground beef and parmesan cheese to the large bowl along with egg mixture. Use your hands to gently massage ingredients together until combined. Do not overwork meat or meatballs will be tough.
  • Portion mixture into rounds using a scoop or spoon, then shape into balls.
  • (Optional) For more flavor, brown meatballs on a lined sheet pan in the top third of the oven under the broiler for about 10 minutes. Or brown in a skillet with a little olive oil over medium high heat, about 4-5 minutes per side.
  • (Optional) You can also chill meatballs as a make-ahead option and to help them keep their shape while cooking. Chill meatballs on a lined sheet pan in the freezer for 30 minutes or in the fridge for 1 hour.
  • To cook on the stovetop: Add browned or chilled meatballs to a pot of simmering marinara sauce. Cook for 10-30 minutes (depending on if meatballs are browned or frozen), stirring often, until meatballs are cooked through.
  • To cook in a slow cooker: Add marinara sauce to slow cooker, followed by the browned or chilled meatballs. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, until meatballs are cooked through.
  • To cook in a pressure cooker (instant pot): Add marinara sauce to pressure cooker followed by meatballs. Cover, seal, and cook on high pressure for 7 minutes, with a 5 minute natural release.
  •  Meatballs are done when an instant thermometer inserted into the centers reaches 165°F or meatballs show no pink when cut open.
  • When the meatballs are almost done, cook spaghetti (or noodle of choice) in a pot of heavily salted boiling water. Drain and serve with meatballs and marinara sauce.

Notes:

  • Recipe time listed above is for the stovetop method only.
  • If you are concerned about keeping your meatballs round, use the broiler browning method instead of the stovetop.
  • I typically use my favorite store-bought marinara sauce to keep things easy, but you can also make your own.
  • Reserve a little pasta cooking water to thin out the marinara sauce if needed.
  • Meatballs freeze really well! Freeze them in a single layer on a lined sheet pan, then transfer them to a ziplock bag, squeeze out any excess air and store them in the freezer for several months. No need to thaw before cooking in marinara sauce.

Nutrition

Sodium: 1027mg, Calcium: 165mg, Vitamin C: 12mg, Vitamin A: 823IU, Sugar: 7g, Fiber: 3g, Potassium: 724mg, Cholesterol: 88mg, Calories: 431kcal, Trans Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Fat: 19g, Protein: 24g, Carbohydrates: 39g, Iron: 4mg
Have you tried this recipe?I’d love to hear about it! Leave a review below or take a photo and tag it on Instagram @completelydelicious with #completelydelicious.