Pappardelle with tomato sauce and meatballs

Is there any dish more classic than spaghetti and meatballs? Here we're making fresh tomato sauce and meatballs and adding them to pappardelle for a slight variation on the classic. This is partially a 'guest post', not pictured is an old friend who helped me cook this dish and plenty of wine!

For this dish I'm recalling some of the exact ingredient amounts from memory. You can always consult the original recipes, but the most important part here is to taste as you go, and add more salt / garlic / herbs / etc as you like. It's hard to go wrong here! We used 12oz of fresh pasta for 3 servings and had leftover sauce and meatballs; I estimate we made enough for roughly 5 servings.

Ingredients (in addition to sauce/meatball ingredients)

  • 12oz fresh pappardelle (we used a package of fresh pasta from Whole Foods)
  • Plenty of fresh grated parmesan for topping
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

For the sauce:

Loosely based on the FoodWishes recipe. There's a fair amount of room for interpretation and experimentation when making tomato sauce - we substituted or omitted a number of things (notably celery and sugar), but using San Marzano tomatoes here is really important. San Marzano tomatoes are a variety of plum tomato from Italy with a brilliant sweet flavor and not too much acidity, and are often considered some of the best in the world to use in sauce. To me this simple sauce is all about highlighting the essence of tomato flavor. In our case we used a canned smooth puree variety from Whole Foods that looks something like this, but you can also use canned whole tomatoes and puree them to your liking yourself.

Don't be freaked out by the addition of anchovy paste - it's used as a secret flavor booster here. Rest assured that your sauce won't taste anything like fish.


1 28oz can San Marzano tomato puree

1/2 onion

4 cloves of garlic

1 tsp salt

1 tsp anchovy paste

1 Tbsp tomato paste

Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp chopped parsley

2 Tbsp chopped basil


  1. Finely dice the onion, and mince the garlic.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, add the onions, and sweat for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add the minced garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and anchovy paste to the pan. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste, mix in with the spoon, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. If using whole San Marzano tomatoes, crush them with your hands or a food processor. Add the tomatoes and parsley/basil to the pan.
  6. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for up to an hour and a half. We got impatient and pulled it after 25 minutes, and it still tasted great.

For the meatballs:

We made our meatballs with a mixture of pork and beef, but you can tweak the components and ratios to your liking. In our case we used 85% lean meat. Here we're going to briefly sear the meatballs in a cast-iron pan just to get a nice brown crispy exterior and then finish them in the sauce (I don't have a cast-iron skillet so I use my dutch oven. Works the same!).


3/4 lb ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 egg

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan


  1. Mince the onion and garlic, and finely chop the parsley.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl and combine well with your hands.
  3. Form into balls; we made ours on the smaller side, not more than an inch and a half in diameter. We probably got 20 meatballs out of this.
  4. Heat a tablespoon of neutral oil in a cast-iron skillet until very hot and add the meatballs.
  5. Sear the meatballs for 2-3 minutes on the top and bottom, or until a brown crispy crust forms.
  6. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and finish cooking.

Meatballs searing off and sauce cooking. Look at that color!

To finish:

Boil 12oz of fresh pappardelle in salted water, several minutes until al dente. Drain, retaining a splash of the pasta water. Keeping some of the starchy water here helps gives the sauce a perfect silky texture. Add the meatballs and sauce directly to the drained pasta in the pot and combine well. Chiffonade some basil leaves by stacking them, rolling them into a tight cigar shape, and thinly slicing into strips perpendicular to the roll. Plate the pasta and meatballs and top with the basil strips and plenty of grated parmesan!

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