Today is National Spaghetti and Meatball Day. To celebrate such an American comfort food event, I give you a recipe for spaghetti pie. And, yes it has meatballs in it. This is a dish meant to use leftovers. If you don’t have leftover meatballs, you can, switch out the meatballs for pepperoni or skip the meat altogether, but my favorite recipe for spaghetti pie is with meatballs.
Spaghetti and meatballs is historic and legendary, because it was a dish that was never supposed to happen. Neither was a recipe for spaghetti pie. At least not made with meatballs.
We think spaghetti and meatballs is an Italian dish, but in reality, it’s as American as the Southern biscuit. I’ve eaten all over Italy and Sicily and there are not spaghetti and meatballs on the menu.
The marriage of the meatballs to spaghetti took place in the early part of the 20th century probably in New York and spread rapidly throughout the northeast. If you’re shaking your head because meatballs and spaghetti are clearly Italian, you are right, but the the reason this is an American dish, it’s that it was never eaten together in the same dish.
Meatballs, known as polpette are served as a second course with a vegetable or a salad, after spaghetti is eaten as a first course. Somehow the Italians who brought their delicious and novel cuisine to the American appetite, realized that Americans wanted meat and the marriage of pasta with meat was born. Yes, it’s true that in Italy there are dishes of pasta and meat. For example, a bolognese sauce is used for pasta and lasagna and there are meat stuffed pastas, but when it comes to spaghetti and meatballs, they were never meant for each other.
I grew up here in American as a third generation Italian American, and throughout my whole childhood, we never ate the meatballs with spaghetti, and while Italian restaurants broke those rules, many Italians kept to tradition in their homes.
Today, it’s different. We serve it all together, and I’ll have to agree with the American appetite in that it’s one of the best comfort foods ever invented. It’s one of the most requested birthday dinners for children and adults alike.
Putting this altogether into a recipe for spaghetti pie is brilliant. Not my invention, nor is it any Italian invention either. This is what I love about America. We just never stop creating new ways to eat the food we love.
The easiest way to make this is with leftover spaghetti and meatballs and sauce. I usually keep a container in the freezer, and when the mood hits and I have a voracious appetite for comfort food, I make a spaghetti pie.
Here is my favorite EASY Homemade Tomato Sauce. (I won’t judge if you use store bought).
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 6 - 8 meatballs or 16 slices of pepperoni (recipe for meatballs here) Also see body of post for more.
- ½ to ⅔ cups cooked spaghetti
- ¼ cups freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cast iron pan or deep dish pie pan
- Make spaghetti according to instructions minus 3 minutes. You will want the spaghetti very al dente, as it will finish cooking in the oven and as it cooks will soak in some of the sauce flavor.
- Slice meatballs, and put half on bottom of pan.
- Mix spaghetti with sauce and half of the mozzarella cheese. You can add more cheese if you want. The cheese will hold the pie together. You don't want it too saucy.
- Layer the spaghetti on top of the meatballs.
- Add the remaining meatballs, and mozzarella.
- Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the top cheese is melted.
- Serve with remaining parmesan cheese.
- Allow to sit for 10 minutes before cutting.