Introduction: Spaghetti ~IN~ Meatballs!

Picture of Spaghetti ~IN~ Meatballs!

Spaghetti in meatballs.  I have no idea where the inspiration for this appetizer came from.  An amazing visual just popped into my head last week and it wouldn't go away.  

I ran the idea by a close friend who seemed rather doubtful this recipe could be accomplished... which was all the motivation I needed. ;-)

These delicious little gems were created with angel hair pasta and whole milk mozzarella stuffed into one of the best restaurant-quality meatballs you've ever tasted.  Yes... they're that good... but instead of taking my word for it, let's get started:

Step 1: Ingredients and Tools Needed:

Picture of Ingredients and Tools Needed:
Meatball Ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb Hamburger Meat
  • 1/2 lb Ground Chuck
  • 5 oz (1 tub) Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup fresh Bread Crumbs from 2-3 slices of day-old French or Sour Dough Bread
  • 1/3 cup whole Milk
  • 2 cloves Garlic- finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning mix
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 oz Angel Hair Pasta
  • Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese
  • Garlic-Pepper Salt to season the water
Specialty Tools:
  • Blender or Food Processor
  • Chopsticks (connected) or a cocktail fork
  • Parchment Paper

Step 2: Pasta Prep:

Picture of Pasta Prep:
  1. Add 2-3 inches of water to a stock pot.
  2. Generously season the water with Garlic salt and bring to a boil.
  3. Add whole, unbroken pasta.
  4. Cook al dente.
  5. Drain and rinse.
  6. Put pasta in a bowl and cover with ice water for several minutes to chill.
  7. Drain again.
Line a large plate or baking sheet with plastic wrap or wax paper. 

Pile 1/2 cup cooked pasta on one side of the plate.

Insert (stab) the connected chopsticks into the center of the pasta and twirl it a few times until you have a quarter-sized ball of pasta.

Use the chopsticks to slide the pasta bundle out of the pile and off to the side. Twirl until the ball is tidy.  Repeat the process until you have 18-20 pasta balls.

Freeze uncovered for 20 minutes.

Step 3: Meatballs Part 1:

Picture of Meatballs Part 1:

These incredible meatballs was adapted from a S&M recipe at Bon Appetit.  They are far-and-away the best meatball I've ever made or tasted.  The recipe incorporates powder-fine parmesan cheese and fresh, country-style bread crumbs.  A little additional prep is required, but it's well-worth your time.

Parmesan Prep: 

Measure one cup of shredded Parmesan cheese and put it in your blender or food processor.  Pulse a few times, then blend on high until the consistency is very fine.

Put the parmesan powder into a small bowl and set aside.

Fresh Bread Crumbs: 

Remove the crust from the day-old  bread slices and tear it into smallish hunks. Put a few hunks into your blender/ food processor.  Pulse a few times then blend on high.  Work in small batches to prevent the bread crumbs from clumping if the moisture content is a little too high.

Measure 1 cup of bread crumbs into a small bowl.  Stir in 1/3 cup whole milk.  Stir to moisten.

Set aside for 5-10 minutes, allowing the milk to be completely absorbed. 

Mince the garlic cloves.  Whisk the eggs in a small bowl.   Whisk the minced garlic into the eggs.  Set aside.

Step 4: Meatballs Part 2:

Picture of Meatballs Part 2:
The key to making perfect meatballs may begin with quality ingredients, but over-mixing even the best ingredients will result in a hard, crumbly meatball that isn't worth eating.  

Proper mixing is absolutely critical  (obviously, I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.;-) and here's how to do it:
  1. Crumble the ground beef and ground chuck into a large bowl. 
  2. Put 1 tsp Italian season and 1 tsp Salt into your palm and rub it briskly with your free palm to release the essential oils and aroma. Sprinkle it evenly over the beef.
  3. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the meat mixture.
  4. Add the whisked egg/garlic.
  5. Scoop up the bread crumbs and squeeze gently to remove any excess milk. Add to the meat mixture.
Form your dominate hand like a claw.  Quickly and gently mix meat mixture just until all ingredients are evenly combined.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap.  Chill at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.


Step 5: Stuffing:

Picture of Stuffing:

Stuffing the twirled pasta balls:

While the meatball mixture is resting,  remove the pasta balls from the freezer.

Cut the mozzarella cheese into small cubes and push/work the cubes into both sides of the twirled pasta ball. 

Repeat until all pasta balls are stuffed with cheese.

Put the pasta balls back into the freezer until the meatball mixture has finished chilling.

Stuffing the meatballs:

Scoop out about 2-3 Tablespoons of meat mixture into your palm.  

Flatten it slightly and push the pasta ball inside.

Work the meat mixture gently around the pasta/cheese ball to seal it in.  Gently roll the meatballs into shape.  If you pack it too hard, the cheese will explode during baking. ;-(

Cover and chill the stuffed meatballs for at least 30 minutes before baking.  They can be kept refrigerated up to 24 hours if you want to make them ahead of time.

Step 6: Bake:

Picture of Bake:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

Place the meatballs 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper*.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. (Set your timer and check for done-ness after 10)

Oils/fats will release from the meatballs during baking and they may look a little messy until you remove them from the baking sheet with a spatula.  

As you can see, a teeny bit of cheese seeped through on a few of my meatballs. No worries if this happens to you, too. The meatballs will still be loaded with cheese and spaghetti.

*If you don't have parchment paper you can use foil that's been moderately greased.  Just be aware that the meatballs tend to stick so removing them is a little difficult.  I know this because?  I experimented. ;-)  

Step 7: Garnish, Serving Suggestions and Notes:

Picture of Garnish, Serving Suggestions and Notes:

I didn't want to overwhelm the flavor and texture of the meatballs, so I decided to use simple garlicky red sauce, complimented with sliced sundried tomatoes and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. 

Spaghetti in Meatballs are tastiest when served warm from the oven while the mozzarella is heavenly-luscious and melty.  Be sure to prepare your sauce-of-choice and garnishes ahead of time.

Sauteed fresh Portabello mushrooms and a smidge of freshly chopped basil would really compliment this appetizer.  A grilled cap could be used as a "boat" with the meatball nestled on top.  (sigh)... why is hindsight always 20/20 and why don't I have portabellos in my frig?!?


p.s. If presentation isn't terribly important to you, these meatballs also taste wonderful when gently cooked in a simmering red sauce for 10-12 minutes. (See the final picture.)


tafelice (author)2012-07-29

fantastic idea and excellent photography and write up. Best instructable I've read in a long time. What I didn't fully understand was the idea of mixing time on the meat. I make a bready meatball, no egg, and mix the heck out of it and it is firm but doesn't fall apart, not at all. Seems the soft balls are the ones that are always falling apart.

If you reply I'd like to hear more about the effect of mixing times.

Thanks so much for an excellent "I"

bajablue (author)tafelice2012-07-29

You know tafelice, I'm a firm believer in: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." and you are obviously doing something very right with your meatballs... even without using eggs!

I think a lot of meatball-makers tend to knead (overwork) the meat.  Too much compression changes the texture of the meatball, especially when fresh bread crumbs are being used. 

The claw method of mixing (used in this recipe) takes 10-15 seconds. Tops.

The resulting meatball mixture is a tad sticky, which bodes well for stuffing/filling and adds to the overall success. 

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.  I would love to learn more about your eggless meatballs.  I enjoy trying new things and I have about 20 lbs of ground chuck in my freezer! ;-D 


tafelice (author)bajablue2012-07-29

I think the trick to making a meatball stay together without egg is to also eliminate the liquid (milk/water etc). I don't add that either. I use a white bread food processed crumb that is pretty absorbent and (while I haven't thought about it overly much) probably gloms onto the moisture in the beef and sticks together. And usually the reason I overwork the meat is that I'm trying to get the crumb fully/evenly integrated. You have made me very curious and I think I will suppress my OCD a tad and live with a bit of uneven bread and try to go with a 10-15 second mix. I'll know if it is a different texture. Cool.

The italians make a deep fried rice ball with a cube of mozzarella surprise in the center (don't know the name and I have had it in italy) which I love. I can only imagine but I imagine rice would make a poor center for you meatballs.

Both my parents were 1st generation American but my grandparents were born in Abbruzzi. They told me that in preparing for my parents wedding they collected meat food rations (WWII) and made meatballs for the reception. Maybe it was the kind of meat that was available here that wasn't available in Italy.

PlayaSinNombre (author)tafelice2012-07-30

Hey guys, the rice balls stuffed with cheese are called arancini. They are usually made with left over risotto. Which would also make a nice filling for a meatball, now that I think of it. Thanks for the great 'ible

SkinnE (author)PlayaSinNombre2012-07-30

You beat me to it, Beach. You can also get them stuffed with pretty much anything you can think of in Italy, although it's always a rice ball...

You're an evil genius Baja, I envy your creative whimsy! Definitely going to try this idea at some point, with my own meatball recipe, and I'm with Csirna, so will only par-boil the pasta before stuffing.

bajablue (author)SkinnE2012-07-30

Thanks skinny... and please let me know how your adaptation works out!

SkinnE (author)bajablue2013-10-14

It worked out just delicious Baja, very interesting texture, and I guess it's something of an Italian answer to the British Scotch Egg. As I understand it, firmer pasta is something of at least a Southern Italian thing (which is my father's heritage), so it may not be to everyone's taste, but I liked the par-boiled pasta. I especially enjoyed the crispy bits of spaghetti that managed to poke out of a few meatballs. I took photos, but of course I don't have those here with me at work to share :( Will try to fix this shortly...

SkinnE (author)SkinnE2013-10-28

After far too much delay...

bajablue (author)SkinnE2013-10-29

omgosh SkinnE... It is 6am here (and I normally don't eat breakfast) but you've succeeded in making me hungry for meatballs!

They look DELICIOUS!!!

Another member replied that they stuffed the meatballs with cheese-stuffed shells, so I need to try that, too. I wonder if oricchiette would work well.

So many recipe ideas, so little time. I wish I had a clone (or 10) and a very big kitchen!

Thank you for sharing your photo!!!

bajablue (author)PlayaSinNombre2012-07-30

I love risotto... and cheese! Might have to Ible Arancini in the future unless someone beats me to it. ;-)

Thanks Playa!

bajablue (author)tafelice2012-07-29

I think your theory about the fresh bread crumbs is accurate.

I'm going to ponder a creamy wild rice filling for turkey meatballs. You know how it goes... one thing always seems to lead to another and the instructables world keeps on spinning!

tafelice (author)bajablue2012-07-30

I just had a thought, what about left over s'ghetti. Once it lays about a bit wondering why know one has eaten them for dinner they can get a little sticky and I think perfect to bunch up and ready to stuff in the next day. The sauce (we called it gravy) covered s'ghets might make it a little different, I think better, stuffing for the mbs.

bajablue (author)tafelice2012-07-31

F.a.n.t.a.s.t.i.c. !!! Comments and suggestions like this are why I love Instructables! ❤

Spaghetti always tastes more flavorful after drenching in red sauce overnight... and this should work beautifully.

I also think the pasta could be cooked in a simmering red sauce as opposed to salted water for a similar effect.

Thank you for sharing this brilliant idea, tafelice!

p.s. I have a friend from Jersey that calls spaghetti sauce "gravy" too. ;-)

tafelice (author)bajablue2012-08-01

I will say this about that. I have in the past tried to recreate "sauced" pasta to similate a leftover pasta for use in a Pasta Fritatta, because in my opinion only a sauced pasta fritatts properly. Never, not once was I successful. It just doesn't act the same. It seems the only thing that really works is to sauce a bowl with a little sauce, the way we used to pre-sauce our pasta (and then we added more sauce on the plate). Then let it sit likes it's a prop at a Nevada nuclear test house. When it assumes room temperature add another hour and a half, that might be close enough to work. However, I will stop short of saying your method won't work, it very well might but it always has a disgusting freshness about it that just doesn't go with this application.

tafelice (author)tafelice2012-08-01

You know it's ready when you stick a fork in it and the entire bowl of pasta comes back with the fork. haha rotfl

bajablue (author)tafelice2012-08-01


HowlinPreacherMan talked about his homemade sauce that uses spicy V8 juice and Romas.

My mind naturally wonders if the pasta might be successfully cooked in the V8 first, then use the V8 as the sauce gravy base? ;-)

I think it's worth a try. The V8 could still be used even if the cooked pasta isn't fit for human consumption. ;-)

EmmaMW (author)bajablue2012-07-30

Hi I would love to try this recipe. Is there a version that I can copy on one page I don't need pictures Thank you

handyman1940 (author)EmmaMW2012-08-03

All you have to do is highlight all the instructions and copy and paste them ( I use Word Pad to copy/paste them to,) then print it out, and you will have all that you need.
Hope this help's :>}}

bajablue (author)EmmaMW2012-07-30

ygm Emma. ;-)

pretty_chidi (author)2013-10-07

I love this recipe and i thank you for an excellent recipe! I've made it 4 times already! However I want to share the variation I made yesterday.... After a long day at work I was too tired to make, roll and stuff the spaghetti, so I made jumbo shells according to the instructions on the pack, chilled it for 10 minutes in the freezer and stuffed it with large cubes of mozzarella cheese and stuffed the meatballs with the stuffed jumbo shells. The meatballs were larger but it came out just as great but took less prep time!

bajablue (author)pretty_chidi2013-10-08

Sheer GENIUS!!! I'll definitely be trying it your way!!!

Thanks for sharing!

handyman1940 (author)2012-08-03

I have another take on this, bajablue,. I took a square baking pan and put a little sauce in the bottom than a layer of meat then spaghetti and cheese. then another layer of meat on top, and then some more sauce.
Didn' t come out round but it did the trick.
Let me know when you figure out the pumpkin Pie one.

bajablue (author)handyman19402012-08-04

Very creative, handyman! Sounds delicious and a time-saver, too!

I have a new, radical idea for pumpkin pie... I just need to experiment with it.

lol... stay tuned!!!!!!! ;-D

ClayChip (author)bajablue2013-06-20

I am going to have to try theses; I'm sure my kids will love them. Brilliant idea!!! If you're on the topic of pumpkin pie, we make them inside of small pumpkins. Cut open and hollow out small pumpkins. Bast them and the tops with a brown sugar, butter and spices. Bake for about 10 min. Fill them with pumpkin pie filling and a graham cracker crumble to simulate a crust. Bake again, and serve mini punkins. Pull the top off, eat and enjoy.

bajablanca (author)2013-02-11

This looks ever so delicious ! One of these days I will have to try it out. Thanks (((:

bajablue (author)bajablanca2013-02-11

Your welcome, Blanca! ;-D So happy to see you on Instructables, amiga!!!

DividersMaker (author)2013-01-18


bajablue (author)DividersMaker2013-01-19


bigbadbob77 (author)2012-09-20

Would these be cook-able in a slow cooker? I imagine it would take hours longer to cook the meat. I'm planning on making these for a tailgate later this season. I'll probably stick with the baking method, but just curious on slow-cooker thoughts... That way I could put them in when I go to bed, wake up and take the whole thing tailgating...I think. :)

BTW...Awesome idea and ible! Thanks!

bajablue (author)bigbadbob772012-09-20

Hi big, bad and bob! (lol... such a cute username, I couldn't resist!;-)

I did an experiment, placing the raw meatballs in simmering pasta sauce for 10-12 minutes.  They tasted wonderful and were fully cooked, but the presentation wasn't nearly as nice as the baked version. (pic of simmered meatballs below) They were also more delicate than the baked version.

I personally don't think these meatballs would hold up well if cooked for hours in a crock pot. I think the meat would tend to break down. They'd still taste great, but I doubt they'd resemble meatballs. ;-)

If it were me, I'd pre-bake the meatballs a day or 2 before the party and chill 'em in the frig.  On Party Day, I'd put them in the CP, cover with sauce and cook on low for just a couple of hours to reheat.

Let me know how you decide to cook them and the end results!

Thanks so much for commenting... and please report back when you get a chance.

bigbadbob77 (author)bajablue2012-09-26

Thanks! I'll probably go that route and let you know how it worked out!

bajablue (author)bigbadbob772012-09-28

Looking forward to it!

aritoner (author)2012-09-27

omg spagetti AND wait for it spagetti IN meatballs

bajablue (author)aritoner2012-09-28

lol... you're funny, aritoner. ;-D

rawrjamjam (author)2012-09-18


bajablue (author)rawrjamjam2012-09-20

Thanks for bringing a big smile to my face!!! ;-D

Mauigerbil (author)2012-09-07

This got on TDW!!!
Congrats bro!\

bajablue (author)Mauigerbil2012-09-08

How great it that!?!  Thanks for giving this sista a heads' up... I am honored!!! ;-D

Mauigerbil (author)bajablue2012-09-14

I use bro regardless. I call my friend VIctoria bro!

Mauigerbil (author)bajablue2012-09-13

YOU ARE MY 100TH COMMENT!!! (✌゚∀゚)☞ CONGRATS!!! t(-_-t)

bajablue (author)Mauigerbil2012-09-14

Cool Beans!!!! ;-D

AussieAnglerGal (author)2012-08-27

haha that is so cool :)

bajablue (author)AussieAnglerGal2012-08-27

TY! ;-)

grt57 (author)2012-08-12

O.M.G. can't wait to try these...

bajablue (author)grt572012-08-12

Enjoy... they're delish!

Thank you for commenting, grt57!

MaryT8M (author)2012-08-05

These look FAB-U-LUS! Can't wait to give them a try

bajablue (author)MaryT8M2012-08-05

MaryT... where have you been?  I've missed your ibling!!!

Please come back and play!!!

Thank you, too! ;-)

MaryT8M (author)bajablue2012-08-12

I've been in and out.....just lurking mostly. A little bit of drama going you know? I've been trying to downsize because we are doing a short sale on our house (other wise we lose it) so will have to move. Not much time to post here and I do miss it!
I've also been taking a few sewing jobs, some just mending, but I'm making a whole house of curtains, and drapes for one lady (who drives me nuts), and teaching an 11 yr old how to sew....she's making a baby quilt. YIKES
Then I was invited by our local botanical garden to do a soapmaking demo (yesterday) and this morning they contacted me again about doing a 5 week soap making "boot camp"

I couldn't resist your spaghetti IN meatballs though, and sent a link to my son (who is the cook in his family)

Thanks for "missing" me

bajablue (author)MaryT8M2012-08-12

Dang... I can understand how busy you must be. 8-/

Hopefully, you'll be back to ibling soon!

SpagoPizza (author)2012-08-10

Is this a norwegian receipe ?

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