Pasta with Mini Meatballs and Fresh Marinara

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Pasta with Mini Meatballs and Fresh Marinara


Pasta Pasta Pasta – It’s all the same, yet so different

Now the stoy of Pasta with Mini Meatballs and Fresh Marinara


pasta shapes

I’ve been experimenting with different shapes of pasta…I find it amazing that something that has the same 3 ingredients, flour, water and salt, can feel, taste and act differently just from the way it is shaped.

Spaghetti, macaroni, fusilli (corkscrew pasta), Orecchiette (little ears), Gemilli (tightly twisted “twins”) they all seem to work better with one type of preparation or sauce.

In Italy almost all meals start with a  “primo” course,  generally a filling pasta or risotto.  From there they move onto the main course, usually a meat, vegetable and potatoes.

Here, in America, the pasta dish is our main dish so here is a fun, tasty dinner that I’m sure the whole family will enjoy, Pasta with Mini Meatballs and Fresh Marinara.  It will take a little more than 30 minutes to get it onto the table, more like 90, but most of that is unsupervised time, so you can let your sauce simmer away on the stove while you go do other, more important things, like playing with the kids, the dog, or your friends on Facebook.


I find it amazing that something that has the same 3 ingredients, flour, water and salt, can feel, taste and act differently


For this recipe, I used Fusilli Pugliese made by Dal Raccolto, a maker of hand-rolled Artisan pasta native to the Molise region of Italy.  You can find these kinds of pasta and order them online.  If you don’t want to order it; go to your store (or Italian market)  and  substitute Cavatappi, Cavatelli, Gemilli or Orecchiette; or any pasta shape that will readily hold the sauce and is not too large so it will work well with the small meatballs.

The kids love the mini meatballs as they are just the perfect bite!


Pasta with Mini Meatballs and Fresh Marinara


Pasta with Mini Meatballs and Fresh Marinara


  • For the Sauce:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces red wine (remember, the alcohol cooks off so it’s o.k. even for the kids, but you can substitute a non-alcohol wine such as Fre, Ariel or Vandalia, just DO NOT use anything labeled “cooking wine” or omit altogether)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 1 tablespoon dry ( to be honest, dry basil doesn’t have much flavor IMHO)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (like basil, dried parsley doesn't have much flavor and fresh is always avail in the supermarket so why bother with the dried stuff?)
  • For the Meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork, veal or turkey
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs, or as needed
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound Fusilli Pugliese pasta, or use Cavatappi, Cavatelli, Gemilli or Orecchiette (all have good nooks and crannies to hold the sauce), cooked according to package directions, and well drained


Step 1

Heat the oil in a saucepan; add the onion and garlic, saute over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the tomato paste and saute for a few minutes; add the tomato sauce, along with the wine, and herbs. Mix well, lower the heat and simmer slowly for about an hour.

Step 2

Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs – combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl; using clean hands mix well adding more breadcrumbs if the mixture seems to loose (this is something kids love to do). Form small, about 3/4 inch, meatballs. After the sauce has cooked for an hour, add the meatballs and simmer for 30 minutes more.

Step 3

Pour the sauce and meatballs over the pasta; toss gently to combine. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.


Wine Recommendation: It’s Italian. Any medium body red wine will work. Look for a Sangiovese, Chianti Classico, or Tempranillo and you can’t go wrong.


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Nutritional Info

This information is per serving.
  • Calories
  • Fat
    18g (6g Sat, 8g Mono, 2g Poly)
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrate
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium

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