This is an Italian-American recipe, in the same way chop suey is a Chinese-American recipe. From the Italian perspective, meatballs in a tomato sauce is unheard of and kind of weird.
As far as anyone can tell, spaghetti and meatballs happened because, in the Italian tradition, you’d have pasta as a primi (first course) and meatballs as part of a secondi (second course). As Americans don’t tend to eat in quite the same style, with several courses through the meal, the pasta and the meat sometimes would end up on the same plate, and “spaghetti and meatballs” was a conclusion drawn by American diners, rather than by design.
But just like a good chop suey, there’s nothing wrong with spaghetti and meatballs. As I often tell people learning to cook, the only kind of authenticity that matters in cuisine is personal authenticity. Do what tastes good now, to you.
A family recipe provided by Jennifer Kiel of Washington, DC, from her mother-in-law’s collection, started in Kent, Ohio.
Spaghetti With Meat Balls
Two cans (1 lb. 13 oz. each) tomato puree
Two cans (6 oz. each) tomato paste
Three cups water
One half tsp. garlic salt
Two tsp. salt
One half tsp. pepper
One tsp. sugar
One half tsp. oregano
One bay leaf, crushed
One half cup grated Parmesan cheese.
Combine all ingredients in a heavy skillet. Simmer three to four hours sirring occasionally. Add more seasonings to taste, if desired.
One lb. ground chuck
One half lb. pork
One tsp. salt
One fourth tsp. pepper
One fourth tsp. oregano
One fourth tsp. garlic salt
One fourth cup bread crumbs
One half cup (or more to taste) Parmesan cheese.
Combine all ingredients; shape into balls, drop into sauce during last two hours of cooking. Yields 6-8 servings.