Spaghetti and meatballs

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Spaghetti and meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs
CourseMain course
Place of originItaly
United States
Region or stateAbruzzo
New York City
Associated cuisineItalian-American
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsSpaghetti, tomato sauce, meatballs
Close-up view of spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is an Italian-American dish consisting of spaghetti, tomato sauce and meatballs.[1]

Originally inspired by similar dishes from southern Italy, the modern version of spaghetti and meatballs was developed by Italian immigrants in the USA. However, combinations of pasta with meat date back at least to the Middle Ages,[2] and pasta (including long pasta) dishes with tomato sauce and different kinds of meatballs are documented in certain Italian regions and in modern Italian cookbooks as maccheroni alle polpette[3] (translated as "spaghetti with meatballs"[4]) and maccheroni alla chitarra con polpette, though these dishes are often found only in particular regions and towns.[5] They are especially popular in certain areas of Southern Italy, from where most Italian immigrants to the United States emigrated, though generally the version served in Southern Italy features smaller meatballs than the current Italian-American and Italian immigrant version.


Spaghetti and meatballs was popular among Italian immigrants in New York City, who had access to a more plentiful meat supply than in Italy.[6]

  • In 1888, Juliet Corson of New York published a recipe for pasta with meatballs and tomato sauce.[7]
  • In 1909 a recipe for "Beef Balls with Spaghetti" appeared in American Cookery, Volume 13.[8]
  • The National Pasta Association (originally named the National Macaroni Manufacturers Association) published a recipe for spaghetti with meatballs in the 1920s.[9]
  • In 1931 Venice Maid in New Jersey was selling canned "spaghetti with meatballs in sauce".[10]
  • In 1938 the exact phrase "spaghetti and meatballs" appeared in a list of canned foods produced by Ettore Boiardi, later known as Chef Boyardee, in Milton, Pa.[citation needed]

Italian writers and chefs often mock the dish as pseudo-Italian or non-Italian,[11] because in Italy meatballs are smaller and are only served with egg-based, baked pasta.[12] However, various kinds of pasta with meat are part of the culinary tradition of Abruzzo, Apulia, Sicily, and other parts of southern Italy. A recipe for rigatoni with meatballs is in Il cucchiaio d'argento (The Silver Spoon), a comprehensive Italian cookbook.

In Abruzzo, chitarra alla teramana is a standard first course made with spaghetti alla chitarra, small meatballs (polpettine or pallottine), and a meat or vegetable ragù.[13]

Chitarra alla Teramana (con pallottine)

Other dishes that have similarities to spaghetti and meatballs include pasta seduta ("seated pasta") and maccaroni azzese in Apulia.[14][15][16]

Some baked pasta dishes from Apulia combine pasta and meat where meatballs, mortadella, or salami are baked with rigatoni, tomato sauce, and mozzarella, then covered with a pastry top.[17]

Other pasta recipes include slices of meat rolled up with cheese, cured meats and herbs (involtini in Italian) and braciole (pronounced "bra'zhul" in Italian-American and Italian-Australian slang) that are cooked within sauce but pulled out to be served as a second course.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dickie, John (2008). Delizia!: The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food. Simon and Schuster. pp. 225–226. ISBN 978-1416554004. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  2. ^ Karima Moyer-Nocchi, "Italian macaroni and meatballs", The Eternal Table November 27, 2021
  3. ^ Ada Boni, Il Talismano della Felicità, Rome, 4th edition, 1934, p. 128
  4. ^ Ada Boni, The Talisman Italian Cook Book, New York, 1950, translation, excluding non-Italian dishes (see p. v) and with Italian-American dishes marked with an asterisk (see p. v) of the 15th Italian edition, p. 154-155
  5. ^ "Ricetta Maccheroni alla chitarra con polpette". Il Cucchiaio D'Argento. Retrieved 2021-04-19.
  6. ^ Frankie Celenza (2018-07-03). "Italian-American Food Never Claimed To Be Italian, So You Can Stop Hating On It". HuffPost. New York: BuzzFeed.
  7. ^ Corson, Juliet (1888). Family Living on $500 a Year: A Daily Reference-book for Young and Inexperienced Housewives. Harper & Brothers. p. 43.
  8. ^ American Cookery. Vol. 13. Whitney Publications. 1909.
  9. ^ America's Favorite Recipes: The Melting Pot Cuisine, Part 2. 2009. p. 157.
  10. ^ "Venice Maid". Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. Vol. 633. United States Patent Office. 1950. p. 712.
  11. ^ Piva, Filippo (29 July 2014). "Gli spaghetti con le polpette e gli altri falsi miti della cucina italiana all'estero". Wired Italia. Milan: Condé Nast Publications.
  12. ^ "Pasta". The Atlantic. July 1986.
  13. ^ Winke, Rebecca (March 30, 2017). "Abruzzo's Traditional Foods From Mountain to Sea". ITALY Magazine.
  14. ^ Oretta Zanini de Vita (2009). Encyclopedia of Pasta. p. 315. ISBN 978-0520944718.
  15. ^ "Maccaroni Azzese". Accademia Italiana della Cucina.
  16. ^ "Ricetta Spaghetti con le polpettine - Le ricette di Paciulina". Le Ricette di 4 September 2012. Archived from the original on 20 December 2014. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  17. ^ "Pasta asciutta alla pugliese", in Touring Club of Italy, La cucina del Bel Paese, p. 292

Further reading[edit]

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