Cook the Book: Bobby Flay's Spaghetti and Meatballs

Cook the Book: Bobby Flay's Spaghetti and Meatballs

So far this week we've been featuring the winning recipes from Bobby Flay's Throwdown!, but judging by the caliber of Bobby Flay and his formidable competitors I had a feeling that the losing recipes were worth a try as well. To test my theory I opted to try Bobby Flay's version of Spaghetti and Meatballs, a lighter take on this Italian-American staple that ended up losing out to Mike Maroni's grandma's meatballs.

Flay's meatballs are worlds away from the denser, long simmered version that his opponent dished up, with a lighter texture due to the fact that he cut the eggs down to only one per pound of meat and went easy on the breadcrumbs. Since it wouldn't be a true Flay recipe without a chile or two, a cubanelle pepper and a sprinkling of chili flakes are added to the quick sauce for a bit of heat and great pepper flavor.

My theory is that Flay's meatballs ended up on the bottom for the fact that they weren't the rib-sticking, red gravy version that most of us look for, but nonetheless they're pretty tasty and won't send you into a meatball-induced coma like heavier, more grandma-centric recipes might.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Bobby Flay's Throwdown! to give away this week.

Adapted from Bobby Flay's Throwdown! by Bobby Flay. Copyright © 2010. Published by Clarkson Potter. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

  • Yield:4 to 6


  • Meatballs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 12 ounces ground beef chuck
  • 4 ounces ground veal
  • 4 ounces ground pork
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 6 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
  • Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans plum tomatoes and juices, pureed in a blender
  • 1 small cubanelle (or cubano or banana) chile
  • 8 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. 1.

    To make the meatballs, heat the 2 table­spoons oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

  2. 2.

    Whisk the eggs, 3 tablespoons cold water, and the parsley together in a large bowl. Add the garlic, beef, veal, pork, cheese, and salt and pepper and gently mix together until combined. Add the bread crumbs, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture just holds together. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.

  3. 3.

    Form the meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Heat the remaining 1 cup oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the meatballs and fry until golden brown on all sides. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

  4. 4.

    To make the sauce, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and cook until the onion is soft and the garlic is lightly golden brown on both sides, 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the pureed tomatoes. Make a slit in the side of the cubanelle chile with a paring knife, and add it and the parsley sprigs to the sauce. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

  5. 5.

    Add the meatballs to the sauce, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the meat­balls have cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes.

  6. 6.

    To serve, put the spaghetti on a platter and top with the meatballs (use a slotted spoon). Stir the chopped basil into the tomato sauce, and ladle some of the sauce over the spaghetti and meatballs. Top with lots of Parmesan and garnish with basil.