Molly’s Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner

The addition of homemade sourdough bread crumbs makes these meatballs exceptionally moist and tender. Molly likes to add Fresno peppers because they occasionally grow in our garden but the recipe works fine without them.



Don't be scared off by fermented fish sauce, which is a traditional seasoning used in Southeast Asian cuisine and available in most grocery stores.  Worcestershire can be substituted, if preferred.


  • 2 lbs grass-fed beef
  • 1 cup homemade sourdough breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 3/4 cup chopped sweet onion, divided
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic, divided
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh oregano, divided
  • 2 tsp + 2 tbsp sea salt, divided
  • 1 tsp pepper, divided
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 portabella caps, gills removed & 1/4" diced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 6 cups marinara (2-32 oz jars)
  • 1 fresno pepper, seeded & very thinly sliced into rings (optional)
  • 2 packages brown rice spaghetti


  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, egg yolk, fish sauce, 3/4 cup sweet onion, 1 tbsp garlic, 1 tbsp parsley, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tsp sea salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Mix carefully with your fingers. Be careful; over-mixing creates tough meatballs.
  2. Using a 2-1/4" ice cream scoop, form the mixture into flat scoops to create 16 - 18 meatballs, slightly larger than a golf ball. As formed, place meatballs on a clean plate.
  3. Meatballs will be browned in two batches. In a 4-quart stockpot with a lid over medium-high heat, melt butter and extra virgin olive oil until glistening.
  4. Tilt the pan to cover the bottom with melted fat. Place half the meatballs into the hot oil, spaced out evenly.
  5. If the fat is beginning to brown and sizzle aggressively, turn down to medium and saute meatballs 2 minutes per side, until nicely browned.
  6. When properly browned, meatballs turn easily using a spoon, spatula or tongs. If meatball will not turn, it is not ready to be turned. If it is still sticking after additional cooking, use a kitchen spoon to gently scoop under the meatball and dislodge the meat from the pan. If this happened, the heat was too high.
  7. When meatballs are browned, remove them with tongs onto a clean plate. Continue with the 2nd batch. No additional oil will be needed in the pan, which will have plenty of fat by now.
  8. Combine both batches of browned meatballs on the plate. Do not discard pan drippings and turn off heat.
  9. Using the same stockpot (without cleaning) over medium heat, add the remaining 1 cup sweet onion and mushrooms.
  10. Saute for 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally; onions and mushrooms will have softened.
  11. Add garlic, and saute, while stirring, for 1 additional minute.
  12. Add wine. Boil for 1 minute, while using a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
  13. Add marinara, 2 tbsp parsley, remaining 2 tbsp oregano, 1 tsp sea salt and remaining 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir to combine.
  14. Nestle browned meatballs into the sauce and gently stir to combine.
  15. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one hour, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sauce and meatballs do not burn.
  16. To cook the pasta, bring a very large pot of water to a boil with remaining 2 tbsp sea salt.
  17. During the sauce's last 10 minutes of cooking, add pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions.
  18. Once pasta is ready, add remaining 1 tbsp parsley and thinly sliced fresno peppers to sauce. Serve family-style.