Chicken meatballs with spaghetti & tomato sauce

· ·
chicken meatballs with spaghetti & marcella hazan's famous tomato sauce

These chicken meatballs with spaghetti and tomato sauce make a delicious weeknight supper.

When I think of cooking chicken mince, I immediately lean towards Asian flavours with loads of green onions, ginger and chilli. I want hoisin sauce and fresh leaves on vermicelli noodles, but that recipe will have to happen another day.

I was desperate to make Marcella Hazan’s legendary tomato sauce so I settled on Italian flavours here. Spaghetti was the only option pasta-wise because chicken meatballs with spaghetti are the perfect partner. Obviously ground beef will work perfectly with this sauce and these are my favourite meatballs in case you were wondering 

chicken meatballs with spaghetti & marcella hazan's famous tomato sauce

I have been seeing this tomato sauce recipe pop up everywhere for years. It even appears in the Food52 Genius recipe cookbook, which I bought and fell in love with last year, so I just had to give it a try. I kept imagining how such a simple sauce could be that spectacular especially since tomato sauce can be pretty generic and I have nailed it over the years. The key is simplicity and butter. I mean there is a fair amount in this sauce and you all know what they say about butter.

Marcella has stripped this sauce down to its bare basics where the flavour of the tomato shines through and it really is quite phenomenal. The obvious downside is taking the normally low-fat pasta sauce and turning it into something decadent, but if calorie-watching is not your concern, you should jump straight into your kitchen and make this. It is life-changing. If calorie-watching IS your concern, you should make it anyway and just notch it up as a cheat. 

In Marcella’s recipe, she uses 900 grams (2 pounds) of fresh ripe tomatoes, which you need to peel first. This is obviously the first prize and definitely one I will try in the future, but it also works really well with canned tomatoes too. The equivalent measurement is 2 x 480gm tins (2 cups) of Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice. I had some fabulous Italian passata in my fridge that needed using so I did one tin tomato plus the equivalent measure of the passata sauce. Having it smoother was also fantastic in terms of coating the pasta.

parmesan cheese grater

The other strange aspect of this recipe is the half onion which you add to the sauce to subtly add flavour. There is no chopping here. Marcella recommends removing this before serving but it really is quite delicious to add the florets to the mix.

That is if you are serving this sauce on its own, bare naked and without the meatballs which are perfect too. I might quarter it next time so that they come apart more easily into florets in the sauce. I ate them on their own in a bowl covered with a little sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. 

As a caveat since I now make this sauce so often, I blend the cooked onion back into the sauce at the end with a stick blender. It adds so much flavour and gives the sauce a slightly creamy texture. 

Speaking of Parmesan, don’t you just love my vintage Parm grater pictured above? I have been searching for it for so many years and eventually, it popped up on a prop sourcing mission. I don’t understand why modern utensil manufacturers don’t make this design all the time because I have never encountered a more effective way to grate hard cheese before. I’m smitten.

chicken meatballs with spaghetti & marcella hazan's famous tomato sauce

A few of my other favourite pasta dishes:

spinach & ricotta cannelloni bake

spaghetti meatballs

pasta with broccoli, anchovies, and garlic

Creamy chicken with ravioli & spinach

Meatball and spinach ravioli bake

 Spaghetti and meatballs

Tortellini with Italian sausage meatball bake

Meatball and spinach ravioli bake

High protein tomato pasta with chicken and spinach

My best pasta recipes

chicken meatballs with spaghetti & marcella hazan's famous tomato sauce

Recipe – feeds 4 

chicken meatballs with spaghetti & marcella hazan's famous tomato sauce

Delicious chicken meatballs with Marcella Hazans famous tomato sauce is an easy weeknight supper recipe.
Print Recipe
chicken meatballs with spaghetti & marcella hazan's famous tomato sauce


Chicken meatballs

  • 500 gms about a pound chicken mince
  • 2 x shallots or a 1/4 an onion very finely chopped
  • 2 thick rashers of streaky bacon or 3 thinner ones, diced very finely diced
  • 1 small garlic clove minced
  • 3 Tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes optional
  • 1 tsp miso paste optional
  • 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper
  • flour for dusting
  • olive oil for frying

Tomato sauce 

  • 900 gms fresh ripe tomatoes skinned or 2 x 480gm tins imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, in their juice 
  • 70 gms 5 tablespoons butter (Often use 40 - 50 gms and its still great)
  • 1 medium onion peeled and cut in half
  • Sea salt flakes such as Maldon
  • 1 x  500gm packet the best spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmesan preferably Parmigiano Reggiano


To make the tomato sauce:

  • Put the tomatoes, butter, onion and salt in a medium heavy-based pot and cook uncovered for 45 minutes on a gentle simmer. Stir every now and again breaking up any larger pieces of tomato with your spoon.
  • Taste and add more salt if its required (it needs a fair amount) and discard the onion.  

To make the meatballs:

  • While your tomato sauce is simmering away making your home smell delicious, prep all your ingredients for the meatballs.
  • Fry the bacon over low heat until the fat renders out and add the chopped onion and garlic. Allow this to soften for a couple of minutes (you do not want to brown this). *add a splash of olive oil to the pan if the bacon is quite dry. 
  • Mix this with all the other meatball ingredients using your hands to make sure everything is thoroughly incorporated.
  • Dust a tray or a cooking surface with a small handful of flour and dust your hands before rolling small meatballs. Lightly dust the meatballs and set them on the flour.
  • Heat a large non-stick frying pan with a few about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and fry the meatballs in two batches until golden on all sides. I found shaking the pan around a bit helps keep their round shape. Set aside.
  • Once the sauce is cooked and the onion removed, add the meatballs. Continue cooking for a further 5 - 8 minutes in the sauce until they are cooked through. Toss through the freshly cooked spaghetti and serve with lashings of grated Parmesan. 
Author: Sam Linsell




 Find me on Instagram & Pinterest





  1. I don’t think I’ve ever actually cooked with chicken mince (isn’t that terrible?!) I may just have to break that rule with this amazing recipe!

  2. This looks divine. My granny had a cheese grater like that, and a herb shredder! Used to love using them both as a child.

  3. I love meatballs, I have made them with turkey mince a few times but they always came out a bit rubbery and very dry and dense. These meatballs look delicious though and the recipe sounds a lot better than the turkey meatballs I tried. I will give this a go and let you know how I get on. This recipe sounds and looks delicious.

  4. Hi Clea, Im sorry I dont have as all the recipe plugins I use cause instability on my site so i prefer to just put the text in directly. If you copy and paste it into word with 2 clicks the job can get done 🙂

  5. Thats not terrible at all Snapystreet 🙂 – I rarely do too but its a good and healthy option.

  6. With all my tomatoes in season now….This is so on the menu this weekend.

  7. Will have to make this sooner rather than later! It looks wonderful Sam! I love Marcella Hazan!

  8. Butter makes everything better ;). I’ve heard many good things about that sauce, and your meatballs look so tasty!

  9. Thanks Laura, it really is hte most amazing sauce. I made it again the other day with shallots which I quartered and then ate these in the sauce (no meatballs) with linguini. Delectable.

  10. Enjoy Rosemary, you wont regert it and will be making batch after batch of this tomato sauce. Its addictive.

  11. Hi Sam – made these last night and they were delicious. Thanks for sharing all your recipes so faithfully to us all.

  12. HI Tracey, Im so glad you enjopyed the recipe and thank you for the lovely comment.

  13. Gilly Bowers says:

    I have been making this Marcella Hazan Sauce for over 20 years with fresh, ripe plum tomatoes, when in season and I use an old Mouli, like your cheese grater but larger to pureé them. Butter and onion Essential!! Love your Chicken Meatball recipe and I have some in the freezer. On the menu this weekend.

  14. Awesome Gilly and lucky you have had that recipe in your life for so long. It’s the best.

  15. Hi, I was wondering if there is a mistake in the ingredient list. Is it supposed to be 3 TBSP of chopped garlic? Thanks

  16. Hi Morgan, thanks for pointing that error out, its supposed to be 3 TBSP chopped parsley. I have ammended the recipe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *