Childhood Throwback: Spaghetti O’s with Meatballs

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    Oh, to be a kid again. It’s one of the most carefree years in your life. You really have no clue what’s ahead for you. You just live for the moment. I sometimes wish I could think like a kid and not be so overly worried and concerned! Speaking of being a kid again, I technically am going to go relive my childhood this weekend by going to Disney World! Yup, I absolutely cannot wait. I went to the Food Blog Forum at Disney last year, and going again this year! It’s going to be a magical weekend ;)

    I love when babies/toddlers are old enough to talk and they just have the cutest isms. They’re so literal and so matter-of-fact. Here are some Natalie-isms I wanted to share with you. Natalie is Jason’s 2 year old niece. I guess she’s technically mine now too since we’re married.

    “What would you like for breakfast, Natalie? Hmmmm a big cookie!”
    “Nat, who are you talking to on the phone? A boy.”
    “Nat, do you want more bread? For Natnie’s belly.”

    She’s so cute. She also calls me Jujee because she can’t say Julie yet :)

    Anyway, I’m sure all of us as children have had the canned version of Spaghetti O’s. Honestly, even as bad as they are for you, I thought it tasted really good (haha what kinda food blogger am I?!), but today I bring you a healthier homemade version! I picked up this book, Comfort Foods Makeovers by America’s Test Kitchen a few months ago and I literally went through a stuck a little post-it on each page. There’s so many dishes in there I want to cook and best of all, they’re LIGHTER and HEALTHIER. They have a little picture at the bottom where it shows you before calories and after. It’s a really great book. It’s got all your classics and then some. Definitely makes you feel a little better about eating all your comfort foods. They also give you reasons as to why they did what they did and how it works to make the dish lighter. Neat, huh? :)

    Childhood Throwback: Spaghetti O's with Meatballs

    Remember spaghetti o's from when you were a kid? Here's a healthier and lighter adult version!
    Prep Time: 20 mins
    Cook Time: 45 mins
    Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins
    Servings (adjustable, but please note that results, timing, and cookware may vary when adjusting servings): 5
    Author: Julie Chiou
    5 Hassle-Free Ways to Simplify MealtimeSign up here for all the secrets!


    • 6 ounces ground chicken
    • 2 1/2 tbsp reduced-fat pesto
    • 2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 onion, chopped coarse
    • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped coarse
    • 1 small celery rib, chopped coarse
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1: 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
    • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 cup ditalini


    • Combine chicken, pesto, pank, 1/8 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a bowl and mix with hands until uniform. Using a heaping teaspoon, lightly shape mixture into 3/4 inch round meatballs (about 28 meatballs); place on plate, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
    • Combine oil, onion, carrot, and celery in a large saucepan, cover, and cook over medium heat until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes with their juice and broth, cover and simmer gently until carrot is softened, 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Working in batches, process mixture in blender* until very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Return pureed mixture to clean pot, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in pasta and meatballs, cover, and simmer gently until pasta is tender and meatballs are cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.


    I used an immersion blender for step 3. I didn't feel like getting the blender out and making a mess with it so the immersion blender is a great alternative.

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    Recipe Rating


  • Tieghan says:

    This is so fun! I love remembering old childhood foods. It always makes me very happy! Being a kid is the best and is always fun to look back on!

    Have fun in Orlando!! Wish I was coming along!

  • Maria says:

    So much better than the canned stuff:)

  • Rachel Cooks says:

    Omg, I really want to eat this for breakfast. Really, really.

  • marla says:

    I could live on this pasta! Total throwback :)

  • Kevin @ Closet Cooking says:

    It is always fun to re-invent childhood favourites!

  • Kathryn says:

    Ha, we love spaghetti hoops (which I think are the same thing). Excited to try this makeover! Have a magical time at Disney : )

  • Sommer @ ASpicyPerspective says:

    These look way better than the ones I remember having! :)

  • Naomi says:

    This is going to be really useful! The canned stuff is reminds me being kid, but I’d rather have this remind me of being a kid. :)

  • Leah | So, How's It Taste? says:

    Have fun in Orlando! I’m really kicking myself for not going. I love this throwback recipe. I used to get the canned spaghetti and meatballs (I’d pick out the gross meatballs) and top it with slices of American cheese. Oh the crap I ate as a kid!

  • Aimee @ See Aimee Cook says:

    Oooh… the canned stuff is so gross but yet brings back fond childhood memories for me. This will be on the menu at our house soon! Thanks!

  • Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough says:

    Oh my gosh, my husband is going to FLIP when he sees this! He love love loves Spaghetti-Os (oh who am I kidding, I love them too :)).

  • Winnie says:

    I love their books. I just picked this one up, and can’t wait to use it. I will give your recipe a try as it looks delicious! I love meatballs!

  • Mercedes says:

    I used to love Spaghetti-O’s so I think this pasta looks great Julie!

  • Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom says:

    OMG, love this!!

  • Marian (Sweetopia) says:

    Jujee, what an awesome recipe! ;-)

  • Jackie @ Domestic Fits says:

    Kids say the funniest stuff. and when your try to tell someone else, you know you can never really recreate HOW funny it really was. Oh, and have fun this weekend!

  • Dan From Platter Talk says:

    Fantastic post and what food memories this evokes! I can’t wait to try this with our kids!

  • Heather Christo says:

    this is making STARVING!! looks incredible!

  • Michelle W says:

    This is definitely going in my Ziplist recipe box. No more cans!!

  • Michelle W says:

    This is definitely going in my recipe box! No more cans!!

  • Coleens Recipes says:

    I recently discovered ditalini; what a wonderful use of it!! This sounds really fun.

  • Gaby says:

    dying for a bowl of this ASAP

  • Laura (Tutti Dolci) says:

    Love this pasta, perfect when I’m craving a comforting bowl of carbs!

  • Cassie | Bake Your Day says:

    I made something similar a couple weeks ago because I found some “o” pasta in the store…I love this with all the veggies though!

  • amanda @ fake ginger says:

    I love canned spaghetti-os! I definitely need to make this!

  • nessa says:

    Yum! Have fun at Disney!

  • claire @ the realistic nutritionist says:

    You are just amazing. I want all of this. In my face.

  • ashley - baker by nature says:

    O-M_G, Julie… my mind is blown. I must have this asap.

  • Rachel @ Baked by Rachel says:

    I’ve never in my life had spaghetti o’s … for the obvious reason. I did buy a can for my kids when we were at high risk of losing power one time within the last however many months – probably a snowstorm – anyway…. they hated it lol. It was apparently too sweet or something and were weirded out by the super mini meatballs. What is wrong with my kids?! Maybe a homemade version would be more to their liking. I’ll have to give it a try sometime! :)

  • Nikki @Seeded at the Table says:

    I already have a favorite homemade Spaghettio’s recipe but I’m positive it’s not as healthy as this! :) Looks great!!

  • Angie | Big Bear's Wife says:

    One of my favorites for sure! I started making homemade spaghetti-os afew months ago but have yet to make them with meatballs! Will have to try that soon!

  • Deb says:

    I wonder why you have a pin button , if you do not want your posts pinned . I received an email from Pinterest , that you complained about copyrights , yet you have a pin button ?

  • Nutmeg Nanny says:

    I loved spaghetti-o’s as a child, this looks much better now though! I have to try this out :)

  • mimster says:

    OMGosh! I so loved Spaghetti-Os! I have even seen the “Os” in an Italian restaurant supply store…I would love to make this for my brother – memories…(in my best Bah-bah-rah)

  • Lisa @ The Cooking Bride says:

    It seems like I have been feeding canned Spaghetti O’s to my kid alot lately. I would feel much better about myself as a Mom if I was feeding him this instead.

  • alex says:

    yum! I think I need to pick up that cookbook…I just love classics like this!

  • Denise says:

    I made this for my twins and they LOVED it! I did as well, so tasty! Thanks for sharing this – I love America’s Test Kitchen, I’ll need to pick up a copy of this book.

  • Stephanie says:

    Natalie sounds adorable! The boyfriend’s son use to call me Stetatee because he couldn’t say Stephanie. hahaha

  • Meredith says:

    The hubster and I made this last night, for some comfort food. It was amazing. I loved the meatballs. Looking forward to re-heating this meal for lunch at work today :)

  • dew says:

    I touch the print button, and it opens a new window for just a millisecond before it closes. So I try printing using my mobile’s browser – 23 pages? Maybe the other sites that print better use something to not print menus, footers, and ads?

  • 5 Hassle-Free Ways to Simplify Mealtime