My Mom's Spaghetti and Meatballs

Serves 4 to 6


  • • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • • 2 carrots, peeled and minced
  • • 1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
  • • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • • 1 lb ground pork
  • • 1 lb ground beef
  • • 2 cups finely crushed saltine crackers
  • • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • • ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 tsp for garnish
  • • ¼ cup finely grated fontina
  • • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • • salt and pepper, to taste
  • • ready-made sauce or Dean’s quick sauce (below)
  • • 1½ cups beef stock
  • • 1 lb spaghetti, cooked al dente

  • Quick tomato sauce
  • • 2 28-oz cans peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • • ¼ cup olive oil
  • • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • • 1 or 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or to taste
  • • salt and freshly cracked black pepper or to taste
  • • 6 sprigs fresh basil


  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over mediumhigh. Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic and sauté until tender. Set aside and let cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the vegetable mixture with the pork, beef, crackers, eggs, the cheeses, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands to incorporate the ingredients but do not overwork.
  4. Form 2-inch meatballs with an ice-cream scoop. Space them evenly on a baking sheet. Bake, turning once midway, until golden brown, about 10 minutes per side.
  5. Transfer the meatballs to a stock pot. Add the sauce and the beef stock and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Serve over the spaghetti and garnish with 2 tsp Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Quick tomato sauce

  1. Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and squeeze them to break them up into small pieces.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-high. Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and the red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes with their juice and then season. Bring the sauce to a boil and add the basil sprigs. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce until you’re ready to serve. Discard the basil sprigs and the garlic cloves before serving.

For the Kids

If you want to fill your kitchen with extra helpings of giggles, get your children involved in making meatballs. I give my kids a melon baller to make the meatballs bite-size, and sometimes we put them on skewers before cooking. Even though kids love slurping spaghetti with their meatballs, you can throw together meatball sammies made with mini dinner rolls or slider buns. Slather them up with sauce, melt a little cheese over the top and watch them disappear.

Q&A …with Dean McDermott

Canadian Dean McDermott started in showbiz as an actor and appeared in hit shows like Due South and NCIS before becoming a reality-TV star with his wife, Tori Spelling. He’s gone on to forge a culinary career, first as host of Chopped Canada and now as author of his first cookbook, The Gourmet Dad. It features recipes he makes for Tori and their kids Jack, 16 (from Dean’s first marriage), Liam, 8, Stella, 7, Hattie, 3, and Finn, 2.

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