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Say What?! Spaghetti and Meatballs—Not Italian?!

March 6, 2024 10:27 am in by

Close your eyes, conjure the quintessential image of a hearty Italian dinner, and what comes to mind? For many, it’s the delightful vision of a steaming plate of spaghetti topped with generously portioned meatballs, all lavishly coated in a rich tomato sauce.

The widely held belief that spaghetti and meatballs is an Italian original is as Australian as Vegemite… But here’s a twist that might leave you astounded — spaghetti and meatballs is not actually an Italian dish… Wait what?!

Turns out it’s a purely American concoction that weaves Italian-American cuisine to create one of the most amazing comfort foods we know.

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With Italy’s rich culinary history, it’s surprising to find out that one of its most famous dishes actually comes from American immigrants. Although pasta and meat are staples in Italian cuisine, combining them into a dish like spaghetti and meatballs is not typically Italian.

Spaghetti and meatballs are not actually a traditional Italian Dish.

The streets of Little Italy in New York City were where this mix of food ideas began. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Italian immigrants in America found it hard to get the ingredients they were used to. Meat was costly, seafood was rare, and the pasta was different from what they knew in Italy.

Finding it tough to cook in the New World, immigrants started making changes. Ground beef was cheaper than the usual fancy cuts for Italian meat meals, so they invented meatballs – a tasty and budget-friendly and magical idea. With lots of canned tomatoes and pasta in American stores, they put together the classic spaghetti and meatballs out of need and creativity.

Mixing ingredients from around the world wasn’t entirely true to traditional Italian cookery, but it truly resonated with the new culture in America. Consequently, whatever Americans eat, Australians like to try as well. So, there you have it: Spaghetti and meatballs is NOT a traditional Italian dish.

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