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Homemade Spaghetti O’s and Meatballs

I am always looking for new things to make my kids for lunch.  A recipe gets bonus points if I can send it with the big kid to school and feed it to the little kid at home.  Tricia originally featured this recipe in the eCookbook “Survive Before 5: Toddler Meals for Your Busy Days“, a fabulous freezer cooking resource for anyone with young children.  I decided to add yummy meatballs to my spaghetti-os, and they were a huge hit!  This is a great recipe to freeze in individual containers, or in quart freezer bags, heat up on a school morning, and serve in a thermos for lunch – it’s that simple!

Homemade Spaghetti-os and Meatballs


Heather @ onceamonthmeals.com, adapted from eCookbook “Survive Before 5: Toddler Meals for Your Busy Days”


  • 10 ounces ground chicken
  • 4.5 Tablespoons pesto
  • 4.5 Tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 4.5 cups tomato sauce
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 2.25 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 0.5 pound anelleti or other fun shaped pasta
  • 0.75 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 0.25 cups whole milk
  • 8 Tablespoons butter
  • 1.25 teaspoons salt, divided
  • pinch of pepper


To make meatballs: Combine ground chicken, pesto, breadcrumbs, 0.25 teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper in bowl. Roll into meatballs about 3/4 of an inch using a heaping teaspoon. You should have about 40 meatballs.  To make spaghetti-os: Combine tomato sauce, water, garlic powder in a large pot. Bring to a boil. When tomato mixture is boiling, add pasta and meatballs to the pot.  Cook, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes, or until pasta is soft. Stir in cheese until melted. Add milk, butter and salt to taste.

**Note: There is no need to cook the meatballs before adding them to the boiling tomato sauce mixture – they cook right in the same pot while the pasta is cooking.  Easy peasy!

Freezing Directions:

Prepare as directed above.  Allow to cool and divide evenly into 8 ounce (1 cup) containers, or quart freezer bags. To serve: Reheat in microwave until heated through, approximately 1-2 minutes.  Serve, or place in thermos for school lunch.

Servings: 8

**conversion chart image provided by Erik Spiekermann

46 Responses to “Homemade Spaghetti O’s and Meatballs”

  1. Allison says:

    My family is not a fan of ground chicken. Would ground turkey work just as well?

  2. I was just craving Spaghetti-Os the other day, so this is awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  3. julieann says:

    What can I use in place of pesto? I’m planning on making these, and they look yummy for my daughter and the kid in me!

    • heather says:

      Hi Julieann, I guess you could use spaghetti sauce? I loved using the pesto because it added flavor and acted as a binder. I guess you could also just make them like regular meatballs – breadcrumbs and egg.

  4. Lena says:

    can i use ground beef instead of ground chicken or turkey?? This sounds like the perfect meal to send with the DH for his lunches this winter~

  5. Ryan says:

    Do you need to cook the meatballs before you add them to the pasta and sauce pot? Is that a dumb question? ;)

  6. Cindy says:

    Just made this and my kids loved it. I had a hard time talking them into leaving me some to freeze for lunch.

  7. Amanda B. says:

    So that’s the secret… you actually cook the pasta in the sauce. Huh. I never would’ve thought that would do it.

  8. Dee Johnson says:

    How many 1 cup servings does this make? I’m sure I’ll have to double the recipe.

  9. Tammy says:

    Tried these last night. A big success. I did not make the meatballs because my kids will not eat them. Going to make another batch. Will be great for my 1st grader for lunch and for my highschooler when he needs to eat quick and get to a practice or game (I do have to double his portion lol)

  10. Heather Collea says:

    Could we use rice milk or soy milk in place of whole milk?

  11. JessieLeigh says:

    This is so, SO good. My kids loved it but, really, so did their mama!

  12. Angie says:

    Made these last night for dinner and they were a huge hit with the whole family. I had enough left to freeze four 1 cup portions. Thank you for sharing this recipe. These are so much healthier and better tasting than the canned stuff. Now that I know how super easy these are to make (half an hour from start to table) I will always have these available for a quick dinner or school lunch.

  13. Kimberly says:

    This was delicious!!! Yummy!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Kathleen says:

    These are wonderful !

  15. Bianca says:

    So I am totally new at the freezing meals thing, how do you freeze individually soups, what kind of containers are easiest to buy? Thanks!

  16. Keli K says:

    I am SO SO SO excited that I found your site! I just finished making this recipe and, of course, had to take a taste. This is delicious and my kiddos will LOVE to take this for lunch! I will be making this a staple in our household. SO EXCITED that I can make this for may family and serve them a healthy and delicious version of Spaghetti O’s! Awesome! =)

  17. Jaclyn says:

    Made this tonight because *I* had a serious Spaghetti O’s addiction as a young(er) person and was skeptical about the kids because they won’t humor me on most soups (sad face). The result- I loved it and THEY loved it! Clean bowls from the 1 and 3 year old, my daughter, the little one, had seconds and was clapping her hands!! Love this! And we have TONS left for the freezer. Thanks!

  18. Jaclyn says:

    PS. I forgot to mention, I added minced raw carrot to the meatballs and it worked really well!

  19. Kristen says:

    I want to make the meatballs only, so how would I cook those?

    • heather says:

      Hmmm Kristen, they’re pretty small, you could probably just brown them on all sides in a bit of oil. Or bake them on a baking sheet for a few minutes.

  20. Mindy says:

    Do you think this would work in the Crockpot? I was thinking maybe simmer the sauce all day and then add the meatballs and pasta during the last hour.

  21. Jennie says:

    Currently converting this recipe for my thermomix. Hopefully I can work it out easily because all three of my kids LOVE this!

  22. brittany says:

    seems like a lot of butter?

  23. This looks delicious. My toddler is allergic to all dairy and eggs. Here’s what I’m thinking. Please tell me if this might work.

    Omit the cheese. Use almond milk and our safe margarine for the milk and butter. Use flax eggs instead of the pesto as a binder. Use non-fun (ha!) pasta because we only have a few safe pasta options.

    The only major change is omitting the cheese. Will that change the taste? Thanks!

  24. Tracy says:

    This is a silly question but how much is 10 ounces ground chicken? I bought a package that is .61 ounces and it sure doesn’t look like it will make 40 meatballs

  25. Tracy says:

    Ok. I guess there was enough. Tiny meatballs, I was thinking regular size.

  26. Suzanne C says:

    Awesome recipe! I adjusted the ingredients just a bit to avoid having leftover chicken from the 1lb package. We love meatballs so a few more proportionately per pasta works well. We will repeat this one… soon! :)

  27. Michelle says:

    Made this last night, and had to fight to keep hubby and the boys from digging in (I made it for school lunches, NOT for dinner, my mistake!) Great recipe! I made a double batch and used 1/2 ground turkey and 1/2 ground turkey sausage. Great meatballs! Unfortunately, I got sidetracked and forgot to add the milk and butter, but no one seems to care! Thanks!

    • Lisa says:

      Michelle – My 7 year old requests this for his lunch weekly! I can’t keep enough in the freezer. It is so yummy – glad your entire family enjoys!

  28. Joanna says:

    I like to use a small ice cream scoop and bulk sausage for this recipe. Scoop and plop little sausage balls! It is faster than making meatballs and a great use for sausage that is on sale!

  29. Jessica says:

    I just made this for the second time. Added a little more spice and tried sun dried tomato pesto to the mini meat balls. Excellent! Shredded some asagio that I had in the fridge. My kids and their friends ate it all!!!! I was planning on freezing the extra for a quick meal in the future, but there is none left!

    • Lisa says:

      Oh sun dried tomato pesto sounds like an amazing twist to this recipe! We often have none left when it comes time to put in the freezer as well!

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