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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 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Julie Chiou
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  • 6 ounces ground chicken
  • 2 ½ tablespoon reduced-fat pesto
  • 2 tablespoon panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped coarse
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped coarse
  • 1 small celery rib, chopped coarse
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup ditalini

The default measuring system for this website is US Customary. Unit conversions are provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. While we strive to provide accurate unit conversions, please be aware that there may be some discrepancies.


  • 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.

Recipe Notes

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.


Serving: 1 bowl | Calories: 234 kcal | Carbohydrates: 33 g | Protein: 12 g | Fat: 6 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 25 mg | Sodium: 324 mg | Potassium: 592 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 6 g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: childhood recipes, easy pasta recipe

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Wednesday 27th of April 2016

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?


Wednesday 27th of April 2016

What browser are you using? Here is the print version if you want it:


Monday 17th of June 2013

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 :)


Wednesday 5th of June 2013

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


Wednesday 5th of June 2013

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.


Saturday 25th of May 2013

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