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3 Lighter Takes on Spaghetti and Meatballs That Are Even More Delicious

Our test kitchen gives this all-time favorite comfort food a next-level makeover.

meatball makeover spaghetti
Photography by: Alpha Smoot

Spaghetti and meatballs are a regular in our fall meal rotation, and while we love the classic beef-pork blend, that isn’t the only way we roll. Our test kitchen's latest, greatest meatballs rely on a more nutritious (but just as succulent) beef-and-mushroom mix. Chopped creminis not only add a punch of umami, but they also help keep the meatballs moist.

 

Get the Test Kitchen's Favorite Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe
classic red sauce
Photography by: Heami Lee

Streamline meal prep by simmering our ultimate red sauce at the same time, and you’ll be twirling your fork before you know it. The simple marinara calls for just five ingredients (not including salt) -- canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and olive oil. Be sure to use whole peeled tomatoes in their own juice and puree them yourself for the best flavor and texture. Our food editors' pick? For the purest fresh-from-the vine taste, Muir Glen Organic whole peeled tomatoes, which is available at most grocery stores.

 

Get the Classic Red Sauce Recipe
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As for the pasta itself, spaghetti is a good choice if you want to stick with tradition. If you feel like mixing things up, try spaghetti's thicker cousin bucatini -- a favorite in Rome, it has a hollow center and heartier texture. You can also use spaghettini, a thin spaghetti that cooks more quickly and has a more delicate texture. Whichever shape you choose, you can't go wrong!

beef-and-mushroom meatballs
Photography by: Alpha Smoot

Two essential steps when it comes to the meatballs: broil and simmer. A quick blast in the broiler browns the meatballs and intensifies their flavor. Sear on one side for five minutes to create a crust, then transfer the meatballs to the marinara to simmer for five minutes -- the noncrisp parts will soak up the delicious sauce.

 

Get the Test Kitchen's Favorite Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

2 More Meatball Makeovers

shrimp meatballs
Photography by: Alpha Smoot

Shrimp Meatballs

Trade turf for surf with our shrimp variation that cooks in a flash in a pot of boiling water before you put in the pasta. Fresh basil and scallions brighten up the "meatball" mixture and are also used to garnish the finished dish.

 

Get the Shrimp Meatballs Recipe
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Photography by: Mike Krautter

Vegan Meatballs

Skip using meat altogether and whip up our vegan version instead, with brown rice, lentils, cremini mushrooms, onion, flaxseed, breadcrumbs, and parsley. Even carnivores will love these "meatballs" -- they're satisfying in their own right.

 

Get the Vegan Meatballs Recipe