Bucatini and Meatballs

This is a seriously saucy upgrade to spaghetti and meatball night, and I'm about to let you in on the secret.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings 12 people
Calories 496kcal


For the sauce

  • 4 28 ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes whole, peeled
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes fire roasted, if available
  • 1/2 yellow onion finely diced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic minced
  • coarse sea salt to taste (I add 1 teaspoon at a time, usually ending up with about 4 teaspoons total over the course of cooking the sauce)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme tied with twine
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I use Penzey's Tuscan Sunset)
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley hand torn or chopped

For the meatballs

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 1/2 yellow onion finely diced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (I prefer Ian's Italian Panko Breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley hand torn or chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

For the pasta

  • 1 16-18 ounce package bucatini noodles (I prefer Rustichella d'Abruzzo brand)
  • water, generously salted


  • To make the sauce, in a 9 quart or larger dutch oven, sauté the onion in oil over medium-high heat until translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté briefly, without burning.
  • Add all other ingredients for the sauce except fresh parsley and stir, bringing to a low boil. Reduce to a steady simmer and let cook, uncovered for about 3 hours or until you've reached desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning regularly along the way. 
  • While the sauce is reducing, mix all ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl, and mix together without overworking. In the palms of your hands, form the mixture into roughly a 3-inch diameter meatball. Set formed meatballs aside until ready to cook.
  • Brown the meatballs either in a foil-lined sheet pan in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or in batches in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once browned, set aside on paper towel lined plate to remove excess grease. They do not need to be cooked all the way through.
  • Remove thyme stems, bay leaf, and any remaining parmesan rind. If using whole tomatoes, break them apart with a wooden spoon or masher once they are softened from the heat. 
  • In the final 30 minutes of cooking the sauce, add in the meatballs and torn or chopped parsley leaves, and stir to distribute throughout the sauce.
  • Meanwhile, fill a large stock pot with water about 3 inches from the rim, generously salt the pasta water, and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta, stir and reduce the heat to a quick simmer. Cook according to the package directions, testing for doneness at one-minute intervals near the suggested cooking time, until al dente.
  • With a pasta fork, plate the cooked pasta immediately and top with sauce and meatballs. Garnish with fresh parsley and freshly grated parmesan.


This recipe can easily be halved, but it’s so good you won’t want to. Pile any leftovers on a hoagie roll along with some provolone for a mouthwatering meatball sub.


Serving: 0g | Calories: 496kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 125mg | Sodium: 985mg | Potassium: 1098mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 685IU | Vitamin C: 36.7mg | Calcium: 222mg | Iron: 5.9mg