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Favorite Spaghetti & Meatballs

Your hands are the best tools for thoroughly mixing the ingredients for the meatballs. Just be sure to wash your hands well before and after mixing!


  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can (28 ounces) chopped tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 6 saltine crackers, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving


Chop the garlic
Be sure an adult is nearby to help.

Put the garlic clove on a cutting board. Place the flat part of a metal spatula on top of the garlic clove and press down hard with the heel of your palm to break and loosen the papery skin. Do not worry if you smash the garlic a little.

Peel off the skin and throw it away. Use a knife to cut the garlic into little pieces.

Cook the garlic
Get an adult to help you now. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Pour the olive oil into the pan and let it heat for 1 minute.

Add the garlic and stir with a wooden spoon until you can really smell it, about 30 seconds. Do not let it burn!

Make the sauce
Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oregano, 2 tablespoons of the tomato paste and the 1 cup water to the sauté pan. Stir with the wooden spoon until small bubbles appear on the surface of the sauce. This is called a simmer.

Partially cover the pan with the lid and reduce the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes while you make the meatballs. You will have about 4 cups sauce.

Mix the meatballs
In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, crushed saltine crackers, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oregano, the pepper and the remaining1 tablespoon tomato paste.

Wash and dry your hands thoroughly. Mix and squeeze the mixture with your hands until it is smooth. (Or, you can use the wooden spoon to mix.)

Shape the meatballs
Still using your hands, pluck or scoop a rounded tablespoon of meat from the bowl and roll it between your palms to make a small meatball. Repeat, shaping a total of about 20 small meatballs. As you make the meatballs, set them on a plate.

Wash your hands well before continuing with the recipe.

Cook the meatballs
Turn up the heat under the tomato sauce to medium. Using tongs, carefully put the meatballs into the sauce and cook them gently until they are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

To test whether the meatballs are done, use the tongs to remove one, put it on the cutting board and break it in half. It should be the same grayish color throughout. When the meatballs are done, remove the sauté pan from the heat. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Cook the spaghetti
Fill a large pot three-quarters full with water. Place over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. When the water is boiling, add the remaining 2 teaspoons salt.

Add the spaghetti to the pot, wait a minute, then stir and push the spaghetti down into the water with a wooden fork. Boil the spaghetti, stirring occasionally to keep it from clumping, until tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes, or according to the instructions on the package.

Put it all together
Set a colander in the sink. Ask an adult to help you pour the spaghetti into the colander. Let the spaghetti drain, shaking the colander a few times to shake off the extra water.

Add the drained spaghetti to the sauce in the sauté pan. Toss until it is well coated with the sauce.

Using the tongs, divide the spaghetti among 4 plates. Add the meatballs, dividing them evenly, then spoon some extra sauce onto each plate of spaghetti. Pass the grated Parmesan cheese at the table. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Fun Food, by Stephanie Rosenbaum (Simon & Schuster, 2006).