Tasty Versions of Spaghetti and Meatballs to Try

Spaghetti and meatballs is a classic for a reason. It’s hard to resist the traditional Italian dish, and luckily, there are many variations of the easy lunch or dinner. Because while most people can hop on the carb train, everyone likes their dish a different way and follows different spaghetti recipes to meet those needs. Whether you like your pasta swimming in tomato sauce, swimming in cream, studded with meatballs, or vegetarian, you can find a food formula that appeals to you. Here are seven recipes that will prove spaghetti and meatballs is for everyone.

1. Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

a plate of spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs | Thinkstock

Kicking things off with the classic, we’re first highlighting this recipe from Epicurious that yields the most traditional version of spaghetti and meatballs. There are no special ingredients or instructions for this dish — just simple bread, eggs, tomato sauce, cheese, and carbs. Anyone can make himself a homemade bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, and this recipe serves 4 to 6, so it can serve a crowd or feed 1 with leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 3(¾-inch-thick) slices Italian bread with crusts, each 3-by-5 inches
  • Milk
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Tomato-Sausage Sauce
  • 1 pound spaghetti, freshly cooked
  • Additional grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Place bread in medium bowl; cover with milk. Let stand until bread is soft, about 10 minutes. Place meat in large bowl. Mix in 2 tablespoons cheese and next 5 ingredients. Squeeze bread almost dry; discard milk. Blend bread into meat mixture. Using 1 rounded tablespoon for each, shape mixture into 24 meatballs.

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs; sauté until brown and cooked through, turning often to hold shape, about 15 minutes. Add meatballs and drippings in skillet to pot of tomato-sausage sauce. Simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.

Place pasta in large bowl. Add 1½ cups sauce and toss to coat. Top with meatballs and remaining sauce. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

2. Healthier Spaghetti and Sausage Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs | Thinkstock

Here’s another version of spaghetti and meatballs from Tastes Lovely that is a healthier take on the aforementioned variation but still has the classic spaghetti, sauce, and sausage meatballs on its ingredients list. This recipe enlists whole-wheat spaghetti and simple shortcuts such as pre-packaged Italian sausage, a jar of marinara sauce, and grated Parmesan cheese. Zucchini is also cooked into the dish, giving it an extra pump of green. This spaghetti and sausage meatball formula is easy to follow and will take you 30 minutes to make.

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounce package of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 medium zucchini cut into ¼-inch thick half moons, about 3 cups
  • 1 large yellow onion chopped medium, about 2 cups
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped, about 1 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 26 ounce jar of marinara sauce
  • 1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
  • salt and pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When water is boiling, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. While pan gets hot, cut each sausage link into five pieces, then roll into balls. Add sausage to skillet and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and onion to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until veggies are tender and meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add marinara, then reduce heat to low.

Add pasta to skillet and toss to coat. Serve at once, passing cheese at the table.

3. Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti with sauce | iStock.com

Backing away from the beef, we’re highlighting this recipe from Martha Stewart for spaghetti and turkey meatballs. The cooking process is still the same, but this time, we’re using lean ground turkey instead of beef. That substitute helps the nutrition stats on this dinner dish, and some prefer the well-seasoned turkey over the red meat. Try this take on spaghetti and turkey meatballs and see for yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Directions: Make the sauce: In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, oregano, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, covered, 20 to 25 minutes.

Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, whisk together egg, milk, 1¼ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper with a fork. Stir in onion, breadcrumbs, cheese, and parsley. Add turkey, and mix until combined. Form mixture into 1 ½-inch balls.

Add meatballs to skillet, and spoon sauce over to coat. Place over medium heat until meatballs are just cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Cook spaghetti until al dente according to package instructions, about 12 minutes. Drain pasta, transfer to skillet, and toss gently with the sauce. Serve with more cheese.

4. Paleo Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti Squash Pasta

Paleo spaghetti | iStock.com

Next up: paleo spaghetti and meatballs from Primal Palate. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? But that’s where spaghetti squash comes in. The fibrous tendrils that come from baked spaghetti squash replace the silky carbs in this dish, and Primal Palate also has the formula for paleo-friendly meatballs. If you’re looking for a challenge or just want to do something different, give this recipe for paleo spaghetti and meatballs a try and see how you like spaghetti squash. Your dinner will be fiber and nutrient-packed, and you may find a healthier way to get your carb fix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound ground turkey, or choice of ground meat
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 1½ cup onion, ¾ cup finely chopped (for meatballs), ¾ cup chopped for marinara
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 24 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole spaghetti squash, halved, seeds scooped out

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combien meat, onion, egg, coconut aminos, garlic poowder, salt, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Mix together using your hands, being careful not to mush the meat too much. Form into 1-inch balls and transfer to two parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Arrange squash on another baking sheet. Bake squash for 50 minutes and bake meatballs for 25 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a skillet set over meidum heat. Add onion and cook until tender. Add diced tomatoes, oregano, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove squash from oven and use a fork to separate strands into noodles. Toss squash with sauce, top with meatballs, and serve right away.

5. Spaghetti and No-Meat Balls

Source: iStock

Meatless meatballs | iStock.com

Vegetarians can also enjoy the classic carb dish by having their meatballs meat-free. This is where tofu comes in. The recipe for spaghetti and no-meat balls featured on Food Network will show you how to serve you and your meat-abstaining friends a vegetarian-friendly dish that might be lacking in meat but won’t be lacking in flavor. You’ll even make your own tomato sauce for the dish, and that will coat the traditional spaghetti that is studded with tofu no-meat balls. Whether you’re a long-standing vegetarian or just want to lay off meat for a night, you’ll surprise yourself with how much you enjoy this plate of spaghetti and no-meat balls.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup finely diced onion
  • Pinch sea salt, plus ½ teaspoon and more to taste
  • 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms, about 4 ounces
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • Spaghetti, to serve

Sauce:

  • 1 (28-ounce) can organic plum tomatoes with juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 6 large basil leaves

Directions: In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have given off their juices and are lightly caramelized, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables to the work bowl of a food processor. Add the tofu, egg, and ½ teaspoon of salt and pulse to combine. Add the bread crumbs and parsley and pulse to combine again. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Spread the flour on a plate. Moisten your hands with water and form the tofu mixture into 1½-inch balls. Lightly coat the balls in flour and put them onto a baking sheet or large plate.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the balls and cook them until browned all over, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

Add the tomato sauce to the pan and simmer until the balls are firm and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite pasta.

6. Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Meatballs with Spaghetti

Pasta Bake with Meatballs

Pasta | iStock.com

It’s hard to make the prep work for spaghetti and meatballs any easier, but when you bring a crockpot into the mix, there’s really no reason you should resist making the Italian dish for yourself. A crockpot will do all the work for you, and in the case of this recipe, it’ll master the chicken Parmesan meatballs that will stud your spaghetti. That’s right — it’s time for a spaghetti and chicken Parmesan meatballs dish, and this recipe from Slow Cooker Gourmet shows you how to prepare the meatballs that will star in your dinner. While your meatballs are cooking, prepare your spaghetti, and then marry the two together after 6 hours of cooking your chicken parmesan meat balls on low.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup old fashioned oats
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Spaghetti of choice

Directions: Grease crockpot with nonstick cooking spray or a bit of olive oil. Combine chicken, egg, oats, cheese, garlic, olive oil, salt, lemon pepper, dried onion, and dried parsley in a medium bowl and mix to combine. Form into golf ball-size balls and transfer to crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. During last hour of cook, add sauce and top each meatball with a piece of mozzarella.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to package directions. Spray crock with olive oil. Mix all ingredients except pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese in bowl just until evenly mixed Form meat into golf ball sized rounds and place in single layer in crock. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. During the last 30-60 minutes, pour in pasta sauce and top each meatball with a little slice of cheese and heat until just melted.

Prepare spaghetti. Serve with meatballs and sauce.

7. Gluten-Free Spaghetti and Meatballs

meatballs with sauce

Meatballs | iStock.com

Last but not least: spaghetti and meatballs for your gluten-free friends. Yes, it’s a possibility, and this recipe from Cooking Channel is the ticket. The only specialty ingredients you need for this food formula are gluten-free grits or cornmeal and gluten-free sausage. Aside from those, all of the required ingredients are those you likely already having in your pantry. Get ready to make your own gluten-free meatballs that will top your spaghetti and homemade tomato and meat sauce. Gluten-free cooking can be tedious, but this recipe for gluten-free spaghetti and meatballs is surprisingly pain-free.

Ingredients:

Meatballs

  • ½ cup gluten-free hominy grits or coarse cornmeal, or crumbs from 2 slices gluten-free bread
  • 1 ½ pounds ground chuck
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil or canola oil, or more if needed

Sauce

  • 1 pound gluten-free sweet or hot Italian sausage
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced in a food processor
  • 3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 or 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 pounds gluten-free dried spaghetti

Directions: Prepare the meatballs: In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of water with the grits, cornmeal, or bread crumbs. Mix to moisten; the grits/cornmeal/crumbs should be damp but not wet. Set aside.

Place the ground chuck in a large bowl. Add the egg, garlic, parsley, grated cheese, salt, and pepper, and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the moistened grits/cornmeal/crumbs and mix, first with the spoon and then with your hands, just until the ingredients are combined.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the oil. Working in batches so as not to crowd the skillet, and adding more oil as needed, cook the meatballs until they are browned, minutes. As they are cooked, transfer the meatballs to a plate and set aside for use in the tomato sauce, or cover and refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to make the sauce. The meatballs will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Prepare the sauce: Cut the sausage into 2-inch pieces. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, and brown the sausage on all sides in the oil. Add the minced onion and cook it with the sausage until the onion is soft and light brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 can of the crushed tomatoes to the pot. Fill the can about one-quarter full with water, swish it around to rinse out the can, and pour the water into the pot. Stir, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining 2 cans of tomatoes, rinsing each can with a can of water as before and adding the water to the pot. Add the sugar, salt, pepper, and basil leaves, and stir to mix. Add the meatballs and stir.

Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; then lower the heat to a slow simmer. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, or longer if desired. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

When you are ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions. Then drain, and serve topped with the pasta sauce.