Did you grow up eating pasta out of a can? I sure did and I LOVED it. Our pantry would always have an abundance of 2-for-1 on sale cans of the saucy stuff and I would heat one up whenever I felt like a snack. I miss my kid metabolism…I can’t believe I used to eat cans of pasta as a snack! If only my snacks now were the snacks of my youth…I would be so happy.
Anyway, snacks aside I still love a tiny pasta and mini meatball because they’re spoonable and who doesn’t love spoonable food that you eat out of a bowl? Did you know that SpaghettiOs were apparently invented because back in the day they thought that kids didn’t know how to eat long pasta neatly? It also had something to do with the fact that small pasta retains it’s texture better in a can. Doesn’t really matter to me but I do admit there’s something fun about spooning up pasta. It seems a lot more efficient somehow.
As fun as spooning is, this recipe almost didn’t happen even though I’ve been wanting to make homemade spaghettiOs forever. Like so many other ideas I just never got around it it. Luckily (or maybe unluckily) these guys got made because of a failed experiment. I had a bunch of mini meatballs in tomato sauce because I wanted to create a bread cube stuffed with spaghetti and mini meatballs. The bread cube didn’t quite work out (I didn’t sauce the spaghetti enough) but the mini meatballs in sauce turned out to be SO delicious that they had to be mixed up with mini rings.
Those iconic spaghettiO mini rings are actually not that easy to find. We had some anelli pasta in the pantry, but it was the kind that had cut edges instead of those smooth rings you find in a can. I mean, they worked, but had I had time to plan in advance I would have scoured the internet for those smooth rings. Taste-wise they were practically the same except when you make pasta at home it invariably ends up more al dente from pasta in a can.
Sweet and slightly tangy tomato sauce, tender lil meatballs and spoonable scoopable pasta. This was a satisfying taste of nostalgia and I would totally do it again even though shaping those little meatballs was a pain in the butt!
Homemade SpaghettiOs with Mini Meatballs Recipe
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes optional
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes 1 can
- 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- 12 oz anelletti or small shaped ring pasta
- 1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley chopped
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 large egg
- 8 oz ground beef
- 8 oz ground pork
In a large, deep skillet, heat up the olive and and butter. Add the sugar, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and parsley. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and cook until the flavors meld, about 20 minutes (or as long as it takes you to make the meatballs). Taste and season with salt and pepper.
While the sauce is simmering, make the meatballs. In a large bowl, mix together the panko, 1 flat leaf parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in the milk and whisk in the egg. Add the beef and pork and mix until just combined, being careful not to overwork. Form into tiny dime sized meatballs, wetting your hands lightly as you go along so the meat doesn’t stick to your hands. Place the meatballs on a tray.
Gently place the meatballs into the simmering sauce. If there isn’t enough room for the meatballs to be covered by the sauce, add a bit of water or stock to ensure all the meatballs are fully covered. Simmer covered for 10-15 minutes or until the meatballs are tender and cooked through (cut one open to check).
While the meatballs are simmering, cook the pasta according to the package in a large pot of salted water.
When al dente, drain well and top with the mini meatball sauce, stirring to combine everything together. Enjoy topped with parmesan, chili flakes, and extra flat leaf parsley if desired.