Spaghetti Ring & Meatball Soup

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Growing up my mom was a huge advocate of healthy, balanced meals. Foods like SpaghettiOs were considered junk and names like Chef Boyardee were taboo. My sister and I loved eating at our friends’ houses where we could feel like normal kids and eat things like frozen fish sticks and boxed mac and cheese. Looking back I appreciate my mom making sure we ate healthy, and when I’m a mother I absolutely plan on ensuring that my kids eat right too.


My sister has trained my niece well…ever since she was on solid food she was fed things like oatmeal, yogurt, and veggies of all kinds (including things like spinach and squash). And my niece loves them all. I’ve actually never seen a 6-year old kid who voluntarily orders steamed fish, green beans, and baked potato at a restaurant (which I have seen her do). That’s not to say she doesn’t enjoy eating regular kid foods as well (like chicken nuggets, another of her favorites), but she has a real love for healthy foods at a very young age which I think is pretty amazing.

The last time my niece was at my house I wanted to make something special for her. A kiddy favorite with a healthy, homemade twist, I knew I wanted to make my own version of SpaghettiOs. Even my mom would approve.


Spaghetti Ring & Meatball Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8 servings
  • 1½ lbs (.7 kg) lean ground beef
  • ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • ¾ cup (80 g) bread crumbs
  • ½ oz (15 g) fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, divided
  • 8 oz (225 g) pasta (see Note below)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium-large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 large stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium-large onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups (1.2 liters) water
  • 1 (28 oz/795 g) can diced tomato (with juices)
  • 6 oz (170 g) tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb spice mix (see Note below)
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Combine the beef, Worcestershire sauce, egg, egg white, breadcrumbs, ½ oz Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons parsley, and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix everything together, being careful not to overmix. Form the meat mixture into small balls, about ½ tablespoon each, and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions; drain and set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a lidded 5-quart pot over medium heat; add the carrots, celery, and onion and sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Add the water, diced tomato, tomato paste, bay leaves, dried Italian herb spice mix, bouillon cubes, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cover the pot, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring up to a boil; turn down to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes (covered), stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the meatballs, bring the soup back up to a simmer, and then simmer for 10 minutes (with the lid slightly ajar). Turn off the heat and stir in the noodles and the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley. Taste and season with additional salt and black pepper if desired.
  5. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Pasta: I used O-shaped pasta (called rings at my grocery store), but you can use any kind of small pasta you like. When I make pasta for soup, I typically cook the pasta in a separate pot and then add it to the soup once it’s cooked and drained; otherwise, I find that the pasta’s starch can make the soup much too thick.

Italian Herb Spice Mix: The mix I use has dried parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

To Reheat: I took the pictures of the soup right after I made it; if the soup is left to sit for a couple hours before serving or if you have leftovers, it will thicken quite a bit. To reheat, you can thin it out a bit by adding more water or tomato sauce as necessary.

Update (September 25, 2013)I made this dish again and snapped a few pictures, so I decided to update the photos in this post. As a point of comparison to show how much my photography has evolved, I kept one of my original photos (below).


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  1. says

    You are such a lovely aunt to make this for your niece! :-) My Mum was like yours. :-) I remember loving going to friends’ houses for fruit snacks and mac and cheese, but now I love the legacy she passed down to me. :-)

  2. says

    What a beautiful sentiment to begin your post! My daughter has always appreciated my home cooking and all her friends loved coming to eat at our house – esp. for my spaghetti pizza. Like you, she liked going over to her friends’ houses for mac & cheese and candy. Now I try to promote cooking at home in SoCal where most parents rely on take-out. I’ve used those pasta rings in soup – they’re so cute, and yes, look like spaghetti-O’s. Your spaghetti ring meatball soup looks delicious and comforting!

  3. says

    That is one fantastic looking soup! Healthy and delicious!

    I am guilty of having the Chef Boy R Dee and Spaghettio’s at my friends houses :)

  4. says

    I am like your mother – I won’t let Maya eat too much junk at home. I figure she’ll get her fill elsewhere but I just physically can’t give her Kraft Mac n Cheese and Cheetos!

    Love the take on Spaghetti-O’s! I’d serve this to Maya any day.

  5. Lazaro says


    Anyone would be happy with that plate. That looks amazing. The topic of obesity in children is a growing epidemic. Parents are passing along their poor eating habits and young kids are fatter and fatter these days. I find that very sad. I try to educate all the kids in my family about proper eating habits.

    You were very lucky with your Mom…

  6. says

    That is very cool that your niece enjoys healthy foods–a rarity, it seems! I was raised on the good stuff too and loved it until I started going to school and saw that other kids didn’t eat like me. Then I revolted and hated health food for the next twenty years. It wasn’t until the last five that I’ve actually enjoyed healthy foods again. This healthier adult version of spaghettios is the first time I ever thought anything with “o” pasta looked appealing and this not only looks appealing but absolutely mouth watering! I bet your niece was pleased as punch!

  7. says

    I too was raised with a lot of “Good Food” & school friends and their eating treats temp. swayed my eating habits, but its hard for those light and airey sugary treats to hold a gal huh…., good thing we returned to our roots Faith :)

  8. says

    What a magnificent soup, Faith! The photo is making me want to run right out and gather ingredients!
    I have a guilty confession: I had three kids in three years and convenience came first. Even though I tried my best to give everyone healthy meals, it just didn’t always happen. Of course, this was years ago and we weren’t as aware of healthy choices as we are now. Nonetheless, two of my three grew into health-conscious adults. The third…not so much, but his wife is doing her best! :)

  9. says

    I am on the same page as you and your sister as far as what my kids will eat. My kids are going to have a healthy diet. My sister fed my nephew healthy foods when he could eat solids, at at 12 years of age, he LOVES things like salmon, soft shelled crab, anchovies on pizza… things your average 12 year old doesn’t go crazy over. I grew up in a home where my mom cooked us delicious, healthy dinners, but we also had cans of spaghettios in the pantry. I want to avoid those processed foods as much as I can!

  10. says

    What a delicious soup, Faith! Especially the meatballs, I love meatballs! The weather is finally fall-ish down here – wish I had a bowl for my dinner tonight!

  11. says

    Oh, man, your sister must be happy your niece is so willingly into healthy food! It just goes to show that kids can like healthy food and enjoy it, so long as you introduce it to them the right way!

    That being said… say what you want about Chef Boyardee, but that stuff is delicious. o.O I know, gross, but deliiiiiiiiicious.

    But obviously your soup is far superior! :D I would love to cuddle up with a bowl of this stuff, especially since it’s getting rather cold now…

    PS – As for the meatball ice cream question (got any meatballs leftover? :P) I thiiink it would probably be slightly sweetened but definitely more savory. I’m actually considering making it now. Haha. XD

  12. says

    Your recreation of spaghetti-o’s looks crazy good! 1000 times better than the real thing. So hearty and the perfect comfort meal. I bet your niece loved it.

  13. says

    That first paragraph sounded like it came out of my own mouth. We had the same childhood food experience, it sounds like! When I left for college I bought a LOT of SpaghettiO’s. But that only lasted a few years. Ultimately, the values my mom taught me shaped how I eat.

  14. says

    Nummy looking soup, Faith! I just made meatballs last week.. it must be something in the air.. fall!!! Putting them in soup is a great idea… it looked so warm and inviting and the worcestershire is a great addition to the meatballs, love it!

  15. says

    This soup truly does look fantastic. Gotta make up a pot of this for my kids. I too always cook the pasta separate-otherwise it gets too mushy. I agree with your sis-when we are out my kids can have at what all the other kids are eating. Life is all about shared experiences with others, right. xo

  16. admin says

    Sanjeeta KK — You’re right, I think soya granules may work. If you try it, let me know how it turns out! :)

    Mo — Lol, I’d love to send you some meatballs for your ice cream experiement! ;) Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  17. says

    What a good auntie you are, Faith, and what a great soup for kids of all ages (including this 58 year old)! I love spaghetti, but I’m not always up for the all-day approach to cooking meat sauce we use in my family. This is such a good alternative!

  18. Lauren says

    So you don’t brown the meatballs at all before putting it into the pot to simmer? Just making sure; I will be preparing this soon! :)

    • admin says

      Lauren, I add the meatballs raw and let them cook fully by simmering in the soup (similar to homemade tomato sauce with meatballs). My meatballs were pretty small (about 1/2 tablespoon), so if you make yours bigger make sure to cook them a bit longer. (You can check one to see if they’re done before serving by removing one from the soup, cutting it in half, and making sure there is no pink in the center.) I’m excited you’re planning to make this, let me know how you like it! :)

  19. says

    Hi Faith! It’s three years after you wrote this, but I just found this recipe the other day searching for “meatball soup” and I’m making it today!! Every year I have a “Fall Soup Party” and try a few new recipes – yours is among them this year! I’ve got the link to your site on my blog and I’ll be chatting more about the Fall Soup Party after it happens on Thursday! Thanks for the recipe! It looks delish! – Theresa @ OrdinaryLovely

  20. Sahar says

    I just made this tonight. It was SO incredibly delicious :) I added red pepper and a little turmeric to the soup. I also always add a 1/2 cup of milk to my meatballs. Anyway, stellar recipe. Loved it. Will keep coming back to it!

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