Showing posts with label childhood favorite. Show all posts
Showing posts with label childhood favorite. Show all posts

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Scratch Spaghetti Os with Meatballs

With tiny Italian sausage meatballs and anelli pasta in a rich tomato sauce, these scratch Spaghetti Os are so much better than what you can buy in the can! 

Food Lust People Love: With tiny Italian sausage meatballs and anelli pasta in a rich tomato sauce, these scratch Spaghetti Os are so much better than what you can buy in the can!

When I was a kid, the Spaghetti Os with meatballs were a treat. (You can buy them without meatballs, but why would you?!) I don’t recall that my mom bought them very often because Hamburger Helper made a meal for the whole family and that can of pasta served pretty much one of us.

The Spaghetti Os slogan was "the neat round spaghetti you can eat with a spoon" and which child didn't want that? It was a favorite for sure. If you grew up outside the US, you might know these as Heinz spaghetti hoops which unfortunately never came with meatballs. 

Fast forward a bunch of years and the only time I really bought Spaghetti Os for my girls was when we had a long flight on our itinerary. When we were living in Paris, a friend took the six-hour flight back to D.C. with her infant and toddler and the elevator that was supposed to bring the food up from the hold for serving malfunctioned. 

Desperate parents of small hungry (crying!) children were beside themselves with no help in sight. Finally, the beleaguered flight attendants served the cold sandwiches that were put on board for the final meal before landing. The restless hoard was fed but this story taught us all a lesson. Do not board a plane with children without also laying in supplies!
After that, I not only packed snacky things, but also the small pots (with the pull-off lids) of Spaghetti Os and Mac and Cheese. Sure, they were supposed to be heated in a microwave prior to consumption but hungry girls will eat them at room temperature as well and with relish. 

Scratch Spaghetti Os

For the meatballs, I use fresh hot Italian sausage for the flavor it adds to the sauce. If you prefer, you can use your favorite meatball recipe. When I don’t use sausage meat, this is mine

Olive oil
4 cloves  garlic
5 medium ripe red tomatoes
3 oz or 85g tomato paste (half the small can or tin)
3 1/4 cups or just shy of 3/4 liter chicken stock (fresh or made with cubes – either would work)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Black pepper
1 lb or 450g pasta rings aka anelli or anelletti
1 1/4 lbs Italian sausage, pinched off into small pieces and rolled into tiny balls, like this!

Optional to serve: Grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of chopped parsley

Preheat oven  to 400°F or 200°C. Put the meatballs in a baking pan single file and separated so they will cook evenly. Bake the meatballs for about 10 minutes then turn to broil for a further 5-7 minutes to brown the tops. You want them quite dark so that they will add flavor to the sauce as they simmer in it later. That is a teaspoon to give you an idea of how small you want the meatballs to be.

Remove the pan from the oven and leave to cool tilted a bit to one side so any grease that baked off the meatballs can be easily removed. 

Pour the oil off and then add a little of the hot stock to the pan so you can scrape up the lovely browned bits stuck there and add them to your stock. Use the spatula to get every bit off. 

Peel and chop the garlic finely. 

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add in the chopped garlic and let it fry over a low fire for just a few minutes, until it softens slightly. You don’t want it to brown, which makes garlic bitter.

Meanwhile, halve your tomatoes and remove the core and seeds.  Chop the tomato into small pieces. 

Add the chopped tomatoes to the garlic and give the pot a quick stir. Cook over a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to soften and the juice starts to come out of them a little. 

Add the stock, the 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, a few good grinds of fresh black pepper and the tomato paste to the pot.

Cook for 20 minutes on a low to medium heat.  

Meanwhile, as the sauce simmers, cook your pasta rings according to package instructions, for about 2 minutes before it would be al dente. (My package said 15-17 minutes for al dente, so I drained them at 13 minutes.) Drain the pasta and reserve a half cup or 120ml of the pasta water. 

Take the pan of sauce off of the stove and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Carefully puree the soup in a blender or with a hand blender straight in the pot until completely smooth. Do not splash and burn yourself! Add the sauce back to the pot and then add in the meatballs. Simmer uncovered for about 10-15 minutes. 

Food Lust People Love: With tiny Italian sausage meatballs and anelli pasta in a rich tomato sauce, these scratch Spaghetti Os are so much better than what you can buy in the can!

When you are about ready to serve, stir in the cooked pasta rings and cook for about 2 minutes for pasta to reach al dente. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water. Serve immediately!
Since we are making scratch Spaghetti Os, feel free to serve them with freshly grated Parmesan. This is better than your childhood favorite and deserves a sprinkle of cheese and chopped parsley.

Food Lust People Love: With tiny Italian sausage meatballs and anelli pasta in a rich tomato sauce, these scratch Spaghetti Os are so much better than what you can buy in the can!


It’s Sunday FunDay and at my instigation, my fellow bloggers are sharing recipes for homemade dishes that they loved from their childhood. Check out the links!

We are a group of food bloggers who believe that Sunday should be a family fun day, so every Sunday we share recipes that will help you to enjoy your day. If you're a blogger interested in joining us, just visit our Facebook group and request to join.

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Food Lust People Love: With tiny Italian sausage meatballs and anelli pasta in a rich tomato sauce, these scratch Spaghetti Os are so much better than what you can buy in the can!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Porcupine Balls

I open the deep freezer with a big sucking whoosh.  I peer into its disorganized shelves and start rooting around for something that looks like it might want to be dinner.  Ah, ground beef.  We haven’t had Salisbury steaks in a while.  “Come with me, my minced friend,” I say.  Now for a starch and a veg.  The veg is easy because I have salad fixings.  But starch-wise, we just had potatoes last night and pasta the night before, so that leaves couscous – a possibility but, nah – or rice.  But rice would require gravy.  And if you are making Salisbury steak with gravy, you gotta have mushrooms in it.  Hey, I don’t make these rules up.  They just are.  And I have no mushrooms.  So.  So.  Let’s think.  And then suddenly, it pops into my head.  A meal I haven’t made or eaten or even thought of for a very long time.  Where it came from, I do not know.  Porcupine balls!   They are relatively quick and certainly easy.  They are a great weeknight meal and I almost always have all the ingredients on hand.  And kids love them.  More’s the pity, I have no kids left at home.  But never mind.  You might.  Porcupine balls, it is!

Disclaimer:  No actual porcupines were harmed in the making of this dish.  

Photo credit: Michael Richert 

Yay for all you organized types who plan ahead, but this is often how the dinner menu gets decided at our house.  Raise your hand if you do the same.  Ha!  I knew I liked you!

For the porcupine balls:
About 1 lb or 500g ground beef
1/2 small purple onion – about 1 1/4 oz or 35g
1 egg
1 beef stock cube
A few good grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup or 180g white Basmati or other long grained rice

For the cooking sauce:
1 14 oz or 400g can chopped tomatoes in juice
2 generous tablespoons or 60g tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 -1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (depending on your taste)
1 large clove garlic

For optional garnish:  chopped parsley or cilantro

Using a hand blender, purée the onion and beef cube with the egg.  Add in the black pepper.

Pour the puréed mixture into the ground beef and mix well.  Then tip in the rice and mix thoroughly.

Roll the meat/rice mixture into small balls.  I divide these using my cookie dough scoop and then roll them smooth.   Set aside.

Put the first five sauce ingredients into a heavy pan with a tight fitting lid, along with some water.  If you use the tomato can to measure the water, about half a can will do.  Grate the garlic into the pan.

With the pan over a medium flame, bring the sauce to a boil.  Stir occasionally.  This should take just a few minutes.

Carefully immerse the meatballs in the sauce.  Do not burn yourself!  Give the pan a little shake so the meatballs will work their way to the bottom.

Top up with more water, until meatballs are almost covered.

Bring to a boil once more and then simmer, covered tightly for 30 minutes.  Set a timer.  During the first 10-15 minutes of the cooking time, pick the pot up with oven mitts occasionally and give it a gentle shimmy.  Do NOT open the lid.

When the timer goes off, turn off the stove and leave the lid on until you are ready to serve but another 15-20 minutes would be good.  NO peeking.

When you finally open the lid, the rice will have cooked and swollen out of the meatballs, turning them into, voilà, porcupine balls.  Your starch and meat all in one neat package.  Serve with salad or the vegetable of your choice.


Note:  My backdrop material was created by my talented younger daughter.  It can be seen in its almost entirety here.