Less processed than the canned stuff, Homemade Spaghetti Rings with Meatballs will bring you back to your childhood with loads of leftovers!
Homemade Spaghetti Rings with Meatballs
This year calls for comfort food of my childhood – now more than ever, but I personally can’t eat too processed anymore (probably because I am no longer a child lol); one of my favorite foods growing up in the 90s were absolutely canned SpaghettiOs with Meatballs.
Tangy and sweet with pasta in an “O” shape, loads of parmesan cheese from a tub, and meatballs. Or sometimes without meatballs. But always from a can that you just dump in the pot, heat and inhale. Sometimes, you’d even burn your mouth – whoops.
These Homemade SpaghettiOs will take you back to your childhood and make you feel good. But like actually good because there aren’t any funky-weird ingredients. So really these spaghetti rings are a win all the way around!
What kind of pasta to use
Any “O” shaped spaghetti or small pasta will work perfectly for your homemade SpaghettiOs; aneletti, ditalini, or even alphabet. In a pinch, elbow macaroni will also work.
Truth be told, I had a hard time finding in my local grocery, but there are loads of options online. Ultimately I went with this brand, which comes in a 3-pack so you can make homemade SpaghettiOs whenever you’re craving a nostalgic bowl of pasta!
You’ll want to make sure to cook your pasta al dente: I suggest al dente (firm when bitten), because you’ll stir the cooked spaghetti rings into the pot with the sauce and meatballs. You want firm pasta to start so that as it absorbs all the tangy, saucy goodness it won’t overcook.
This pasta makes a ton, and you can very easily freeze the leftovers for another time. OR you can make a pot and bring the extras to a friend in need of some comfort.
If you loved the mini meatballs as much as I did, you’ll want to make these balls! Or you can easily omit the meatballs if you don’t eat meat.
One pound of ground beef will give you approx 40-ish mini meatballs to toss in your pot of spaghetti rings with sauce. Or you can half the entire recipe and make 20-ish meatballs.
I keep the meatballs low-carb by using grated parmesan cheese instead of breadcrumbs. These meatballs are so small that you don’t need to brown before adding to the sauce. If you brown like traditional meatballs, I’ve found they are dry. So just this once, I suggest adding these meatballs to your sauce as it simmers.
speaking of sauce
The trick to achieving a soupy-like sauce that tastes like tomato sauce that isn’t quite pasta sauce, is to use tomato paste and stock or broth. The stock will thin the paste out, mirroring the same textures and flavors as the canned stuff.
I used beef stock (because I made beefy meatballs) but you could use vegetable broth to keep this vegetarian. Save my Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese recipe if you want another vegetarian pasta recipe for later!
For sweetness and tang, stir in balsamic vinegar as the sauce simmers. I do add about 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar as well, but this is optional and to taste.
Reheating pasta with sauce can be done one of three ways: Bake it at 350 degrees F in a foil-covered baking dish for 15-20 minutes; warm it in a saucepan over medium-low heat until warmed (about 5-10 minutes); or re-heat, covered, in the microwave.
I personally prefer to warm in a saucepan (I do this all the time with leftover angel hair pasta with tomato cream sauce and Tuna Carbonara) over the oven or microwave, but all three ways will work. You do you.
I love to serve Homemade SpaghettiOs with fresh parmesan and basil. And wine. Because even though this is a meal full of childhood memories, enjoying as an adult has its perks – cheers!
Homemade Spaghetti Rings with Meatballs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter - for flavor
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning spice
- 4 cups low-sodium beef or - chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar - optional
- 3/4 lb. anelletti or small shaped ring pasta - 12 ounces
- freshly grated Parmesan and basil for garnish - optional
- 1 lb. ground beef - 85/15 suggested for flavor
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 large egg
- Heat a 4-qt saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. Once hot and butter has melted, add the minced garlic, salt and pepper and stir, cooking for 1 minute. Add in the tomato paste and stir, cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the beef stock and stir until the tomato paste is dispersed through the stock and the mixture is smooth and thick, about 5 minutes. Bring to a simmer and stir in balsamic vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, and sugar if needed (optional). Reduce heat and cover with a lid.
- While sauce simmers, make meatballs: To a bowl add ground beef, spices and egg. Mix gently to combine. Roll meat into small 3/4-inch balls. Place meatballs into sauce and continue to simmer on low, covered. Cook until the meatballs are cooked through, 8-10 minutes.
- While the meatballs are simmering, cook the pasta according to the package directions in a large pot of salted water. When al dente, drain well and rinse immediately with cold water (to stop the pasta from cooking any longer) and top with the mini meatball sauce, stirring to combine everything together. Top with fresh Parmesan cheese and basil, if desired and dig in.
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