Red Sauce Spaghetti with Bison Meatballs

This image courtesy of Kathryn Barnard

Meatballs are traditionally made with three types of meat-beef, pork, or veal-but these leaner, less fussy bison meatballs are so flavorful, they just might become your new favorite. The quality of the red sauce depends largely on the olive oil and tomatoes you use, so get the best you can find. (Canned San Marzano tomatoes are particularly wonderful in this recipe.



Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationpeanut free, soy free, tree nut free



Moodblue, stressed, tired

Taste and Texturemeaty, umami

Type of Dishpasta, pasta sauce, sauces


  • 1 pound ground bison
  • ¾ cup parmesan or romano cheese, finely grated, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely diced
  • One 28-ounce can whole san marzano tomatoes or other top-quality plum tomatoes
  • One 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh basil
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces uncooked spaghetti


  1. To make the meatballs, in a large bowl, combine the bison, Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix in the egg, garlic, bread crumbs, and milk. Take care not to overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be dense and tough. Gently shape into balls about 1 1/2inches in diameter

  2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the meatballs and fry in batches until lightly browned on all sides.

  3. To make the red spaghetti sauce, when all the meatballs are browned, return them to the wok. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, garlic, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Partially cover the wok and lower the heat to medium. Simmer the sauce and meatballs for 25 to 30 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions and drain.

  5. Serve the spaghetti topped with generous ladlefuls of sauce and meatballs and garnish with Parmesan


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