spaghetti con bufalo

I tend to like cooking best when innovation rules. I tend to stay away from the tuna casseroles and shepherd’s pies of past decades to take advantage of my era’s best.

But there’s something about the classics, right? And something kind of pathetic about a foodie who has never, in her 28 years, made spaghetti and meatballs. Or any type of meatballs for that matter.


Something about this plain-Jane meal appealed to me on a chilly October Sunday evening after a tough 13-mile run. And (as you can read in my guest post over on Washington Post food columnist Kim O’Donnel’s Eating Down the Fridge challenge), I had enough spaghetti to carb-load the Boston marathon.

You can read more there about why I chose to make spaghetti and meatballs when Italian-American is about the last cuisine to have graced my pots.w_meatballs_3983161823_o

There was one problem. I’m not much into ground beef. Actually, ground meat in general and I aren’t really on the best terms. I’ve read too much Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser to be at peace with the industrial beef system any longer.

Then there was the sweet couple at the farmer’s market selling their grass-fed, lean bison meat. I was suddenly without an excuse. And right there, standing at the back of their truck chewing the cud, spaghetti con bufalo (yes, that’s the Italian spelling) was born.


There must be thousands of recipes out there for this standard, and luckily I didn’t have to bother looking. Another component of the inspiration for this dish is courtesy of my mother. We share meal and food ideas like its some kind of hopeless addiction. (My father’s recent caveat on joining a phone conversation: “As long as you guys are done talking about food.”)

Poor guy.

So to stray from this blog’s usual vegetarian-or-vegan themed meal ideas, I bring you a decidedly meaty post. With a little help from my friend who, taking off in search of beer and bratwurst left me the contents of her cupboard, we had this dish on the table in no time. Mark was in charge of touching the ground meat. I simmered the homemade sauce, and then together we dropped the meatballs into the sauce to cook, all together in a pot.


No frying or baking required. How’s that for a one-pot success?

Your regular programming will soon return. Maybe I’ll even do a vegan version of this dish: spaghetti and bean balls, anyone?

But then again, these healthy, pasture-raised, nutrient-rich meatballs from free-roaming buffalo was indeed a treat. And after 13 miles, my quads also thanked me.

Spaghetti with Bison Meatballs

serves 4-6

Sauté in 2 Tbsp olive oil until tender:

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 green pepper

Add and set to simmer for 1 hour, partly covered:

  • 1  28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • one tin of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups water

Combine the following ingredients and shape into ping-pong ball sized balls. Refrigerate until sauce has simmered for 1 hour. Drop them carefully into the sauce and simmer it all for an additional 30 minutes:

  • 2 lb ground bison
  • 1 ½ cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ¼ tsp dried basil (or 1 tsp fresh, finely minced)
  • ¼ tsp dried marjoram or oregano (or 1 tsp fresh, finely minced)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp salt

Serve over a bed of your favorite spaghetti noodles, top with parsley and Parmesan and enjoy!

5 thoughts on “spaghetti con bufalo

  1. October 6, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    What a terrific idea to use the grass fed bison! This looks so fresh, hearty and delicious!

  2. Emily Hollywood
    October 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Looks awesome. Meatballs and meatloaf were the first things I learned to cook. I think its because I loved mixing the stuff and getting my hands messy. Also, I’d mold my meatloaf into different things, often seasonally related: snowmen, easter bunny. But oddly enough, I realize that I too haven’t cooked either since “growing up”. Also feel a little queasy about ground beef, and red meat in general. But maybe we’ll try the bison too. Pete would appreciate it.

    1. Jen
      October 6, 2009 at 9:08 pm

      The “Pete would appreciate it” made me smile. I cook a lot of vegetarian meals and sometimes I think men generally like meat more. But then when I DO cook meat, I’m the one who’s usually smitten with it for days on end! Farmer’s market bison is worth the indulgence! Do it!

  3. Alison Smith
    October 24, 2009 at 7:48 am

    this sounds marvelous…my favorite part is having ground bison in your freezer…

    but i, too, grew up with a full fridge/freezer, pantry, and the “basement freezer.” my mother would schlepp us 45 mins NW to a haven called “Shady Maple,” a Mennonite-run IGA that had a “smorgasbord” (still don’t understand why there was a smorgasbord at a Pennsylvania Dutch store) complete with shoefly pie and pudding. we’d come out with 4 grocery carts of meats and staples, our food for the month, to be frozen or packed away accordingly.

  4. a j furman
    November 18, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Looking for buffalo & hamburger solution to the creation of credible meatball dish. I do not run much anymore but have survived 4 Marathons in the past. My hunger for pannini bon propeta is never quenched however. Thanks for the post, now back to your Tortellini Tuesday even though it is Wednesday. a j in Wisconin, Free the Frumage.