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Cooking with Fire

Cooking With Fire: Spaghetti & Meatballs


The Cooking with Fire guys continue their series-of-late featuring recipes inspired by movies. This week's motivation: the 2009 animated film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  



Spaghetti and meatballs: an Italian culinary classic, right?


Well, no. Spaghetti and meatballs aren’t a dish that you’re going to find on the menu of any restaurant in Italy, unless, of course, that restaurant was designed to cater specifically to tourists.

It’s actually an American dish that came about as so many recipes before it: It is the simple combination of newly available ingredients and the food culture of immigrant populations.

Now, Italians have been immigrating in one form or another to what is the modern United States for centuries. Christopher Columbus himself was Italian, but the Italian-American population we know and love today mostly immigrated between the years 1880 and 1924.


This population was mostly poor, and 75 percent of their monthly income in Italy was spent on food. When they arrived in America food was much cheaper and only consumed 25 percent of their income, allowing them to spend on items that were considered special back home.


One of these items was meat. Italian-Americans then went about slowly creating the cuisine that we enjoy today. All-beef meatballs seasoned with basil, garlic, fennel and more became very popular. And marinara sauce, which was a common food for sailors of the day since canned tomatoes were readily available on ships, was combined with these meatballs and served as a second course.

Over time spaghetti noodles were added, in what can be seen as a nod to American excess, and one of the world’s most famous food fusions, spaghetti and meatballs, was born. And those meatballs are even better on the grill.


We're making Meatballs and Marinara on this week's Cooking with Fire podcast. You can find it at iTunes or just hit play:

Meatballs and Marinara

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning

 For the marinara:

  • 1 (28 oz) can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T fresh basil, minced
  • 1 1/2 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 t salt


  1. Preheat your grill to 375ºF, set up for indirect grilling.
  2. To prepare the meatballs, combine the ground beef, breadcrumbs, parmesan, egg, garlic and  Italian seasoning in a mixing bowl. Mix well by hand, working quickly so as not to warm the mixture, until all ingredients are well incorporated. Roll the mixture into roughly one ounce meatballs. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF, about 20 minutes.
  3. While the meatballs cook, combine all ingredients for the marinara sauce in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and cook to desired consistency, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as the sauce cooks.
  4. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce pan with the marinara sauce. Serve hot over spaghetti.