Sunday Supper: Grilled Spaghetti with Meatballs

Editor's note: Each Saturday afternoon we bring you a Sunday Supper recipe. Why on Saturday? So you have time to shop and prepare for tomorrow.


There's something so... cowboy about cooking spaghetti over an open flame. Fortunately, it's tasty, too. [Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

I first encountered this wackadoodle technique—grilled spaghetti—in "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello." Needless to say, I've been hooked ever since.

However, there are a few things to know before digging in. Though it works with most any tomato sauce, ones with a smoky edge are especially nice. I like to use fire roasted diced tomatoes as part of my base, along with some chipotle chilies to add both spice and smoke. The sauce picks up another layer of flavor when left to simmer atop the grill grates, more than it'd get with just a stove top simmer.

Chiarello's original recipe calls for steaming meatballs separately in the oven before adding them to the sauce. I tried that method side-by side with simply adding them to the sauce and I can tell you the latter proved superior, lending full-bodied, meaty flavor to the insidiously spicy sauce. (Cut back on the jalapeno and, possibly, chipotle, if you have a tender tongue.) You might be tempted to up the grilled flavor by grilling the meatballs before adding them to the sauce, but I'd avoid the urge—the meatballs are particularly tender specifically because they get cooked through in the sauce without any hard heat beforehand.

Besides, you get plenty of smoky grilled flavor from the actual pasta. Pasta on the grill? Yup. The trick is to use a perforated grill pan to allow the smoke and heat to pass through, but keeps the spaghetti from falling onto the coals or burners.

You start by par-cooking the pasta in boiling water, but resist the urge to cook it through—I go with about half the recommended package cooking time. The texture you get from the final, grilled dish is what it's all about. Properly grilled pasta takes on a light char and pleasant chewiness, making it distinct from other, more conventional approaches. Cook it too much, though, and it'll be limp and lifeless.

There's one more thing regarding the pasta to keep in mind. Disposable grill grates aren't at every corner store. If you can't find one, go ahead and poke holes in a regular foil tray. It won't have quite the same effect, but it'll do in a pinch.

Pro-tip: Have leftovers? Shove the goods between two slices of grilled, garlicky Texas toast.

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