Spaghetti with Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce

This week I had a killer craving for some classic spaghetti and meat sauce. But, as you may know, I like to add vegetables whenever and wherever I can to recipes. So I shredded a couple of handfuls of vegetables, tossed them into the sauce, and added some extra herbs and spices to make this […]

The post Spaghetti with Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This week I had a killer craving for some classic spaghetti and meat sauce. But, as you may know, I like to add vegetables whenever and wherever I can to recipes. So I shredded a couple of handfuls of vegetables, tossed them into the sauce, and added some extra herbs and spices to make this absolutely incredible “hidden vegetable” pasta sauce. It has more flavor, more color, and more texture (read: fiber). It’s a win-win-win!

 Originally posted 11-21-2015, updated 4-17-2021.

Overhead view of a bowl of spaghetti with hidden vegetable pasta sauce and garlic bread on the side

Shown with Homemade Garlic Bread

Balance Your Costs with Vegetables

My favorite trick for stretching ground meat in recipes is to use vegetables or beans to replace half of the ground meat. This time I shredded vegetables, which mimicked the texture of the ground meat, but added a subtle sweetness and a whole lot of extra flavor, texture, and nutrition to the sauce. This sauce is so delicious that I couldn’t stop sneaking spoonfuls while I took photos!

Can I Make This Sauce Vegetarian?

If you want to make a vegetarian version of this hidden vegetable pasta sauce, I suggest mincing an 8oz. container of mushrooms and sautéing them with the onions and garlic. The minced texture will mimic the ground meat and mushrooms have that umami flavor that is similar to ground meat.

Is Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce Freezer Friendly?

This sauce freezes great if you want to make a double batch and have it on hand in your freezer for busy nights. Just make sure to cool the sauce completely in the refrigerator first, then transfer to the freezer. The sauce will stay good in the freezer for months. To reheat, empty the freezer container into a sauce pot and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Side view of hidden vegetable pasta sauce in a skillet with a spatula

Overhead view of a bowl of spaghetti with hidden vegetable pasta sauce

Spaghetti with Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce

Give your spaghetti an upgrade with this hidden vegetable pasta sauce that contains a medley of vegetables plus extra herbs and spices for maximum flavor.
Total Cost $6.21 recipe / $1.55 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 366.78kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 small zucchini $0.57
  • 2 carrots $0.16
  • 1 yellow onion $0.25
  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.16
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef $2.50
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil $0.05
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano $0.05
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp Freshly cracked black pepper $0.03
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper (optional) $0.02
  • 1 24oz. jar pasta sauce* $1.49
  • 12 oz. spaghetti $0.75

Instructions

  • Use a cheese grater to grate the zucchini and carrots. You'll want about 1.5 cups of each, but the amount is flexible. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
  • Add the olive oil and ground beef to a large, deep skillet. Cook the ground beef over medium heat until it is fully browned. Add the diced onion and garlic and continue to sauté a few minutes more, or until the onions are soft and translucent.
  • Add the shredded zucchini and carrots to the skillet along with the basil, oregano, salt, freshly cracked pepper, and a pinch of red pepper. Continue to sauté until the vegetables are wilted (about five minutes).
  • Add the pasta sauce to the skillet and stir to combine. Allow the contents of the skillet to come up to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and simmer the sauce as you prepare the spaghetti. Stir the sauce occasionally as it simmers.
  • Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain in a colander. Return the drained spaghetti to the pot with the heat turned off. Add one cup of the prepared sauce to the pasta and stir to coat. Divide the pasta into serving bowls and top with additional sauce.

Notes

*Use your favorite brand or flavor of red pasta sauce.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Serving | Calories: 366.78kcal | Carbohydrates: 46.73g | Protein: 25.98g | Fat: 13.53g | Sodium: 979.83mg | Fiber: 7.78g

Close up of a fork twirling spaghetti with hidden vegetable pasta sauce

How to Make Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce – Step by Step Photos

Shredded zucchini and carrot on a cutting board

Start by preparing your vegetables. Use a cheese grater to grate one small zucchini and two carrots. You’ll want about 1.5 cups each, but this is flexible so don’t sweat it if you have a little more or less. Also dice one yellow onion and mince two cloves of garlic.

Browned ground beef with onions and garlic

Add 1/2 lb. ground beef in a large deep skillet with 1 Tbsp olive oil and cook over medium heat until the beef has browned. Once browned, add the diced onion and minced garlic. Sauté for a few minutes more, or until the onions are soft and translucent.

Shredded vegetables added to the skillet with the meat

Add the shredded zucchini and carrots to the skillet along with 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp salt, about ¼ tsp freshly cracked pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional). Continue to sauté the vegetables until they soften, or about five minutes. 

Pasta sauce being poured into the skillet with the meat and vegetables

Finally, add one 24oz. jar of your favorite pasta sauce and stir to combine. Allow the sauce to come back up to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and continue to let the contents of the skillet simmer as you begin to prepare your spaghetti.

Simmered hidden vegetable pasta sauce in the skillet

Stir the sauce occasionally as it simmers. The vegetables will continue to soften as the sauce simmers, further “hiding” them in the sauce.

Spaghetti and sauce in the stock pot

Cook 12oz. of spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain in a colander. Return the pasta to the cooking pot with the heat turned off and add about 1 cup of the sauce. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Overhead view of a bowl of spaghetti with hidden vegetable pasta sauce

Divide the pasta into serving bowls, then top each bowl with additional sauce. This stuff is seriously so good, my mouth is watering just looking at that bowl!

Pasta sauce in a freezer bag

And don’t forget, this sauce is freezer-friendly! Just make sure to cool it completely in the refrigerator first, then place in a freezer-safe container (I used freezer bags), label, date, and freeze for later! It can be thawed in a saucepot over low, stirring occasionally.

The post Spaghetti with Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

Y’all know I’m obsessed with meatballs, right? They’re just so easy, delicious, and something that I’m always in the mood for. So, when I got an unexpected pound of ground chicken in my Instacart order a couple of weeks ago, I knew exactly what to do with it—Chicken Parmesan Meatballs! While ground chicken isn’t my […]

The post Chicken Parmesan Meatballs appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Y’all know I’m obsessed with meatballs, right? They’re just so easy, delicious, and something that I’m always in the mood for. So, when I got an unexpected pound of ground chicken in my Instacart order a couple of weeks ago, I knew exactly what to do with it—Chicken Parmesan Meatballs! While ground chicken isn’t my favorite, you can never go wrong with a meatball. Plenty of Parmesan and a few simple herbs and spices turned that lack luster ground chicken into something totally crave-worthy. Meatballs for the win!

And don’t worry, even though I did not actually order the ground chicken, I still paid for it. ;)

Simple Chicken Parmesan Meatballs and Pasta

A bowl of spaghetti with sauce and chicken parmesan meatballs, a black fork twirled in the pasta on the side.

The recipe for these Chicken Parmesan Meatballs is one that you’ll want to memorize. It’s just a really good, simple, basic meatball that you can use with any ground meat that you have on hand. 

Can I Bake the Meatballs?

Yes, if you prefer to make the meatballs in the oven instead of a skillet, simply line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake in a preheated 400ºF oven for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meatballs reaches 165ºF. Do keep in mind that baked meatballs will not achieve the nice browning on the outside that you get with cooking in a skillet. The browned surface does provide additional flavor.

Can I Freeze the Chicken Meatballs?

Yes, you can freeze the meatballs either cooked or uncooked. Either way, freeze the meatballs on a lined baking sheet first to prevent them from sticking together. Then, once frozen solid, transfer to a zip top freezer bag for long term storage (about 3 months).

To cook meatballs that were frozen raw, let the meatballs thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then cook in a skillet just as directed below.

To cook meatballs that are frozen after cooking, simply drop them into a pot of hot pasta sauce directly from the freezer, and allow them to heat through in the sauce.

Can I Use a Different Kind of Ground Meat?

Yes. This mixture of Parmesan and herbs is so versatile that it goes great with just about any type of ground meat. Try it with pork, turkey, or even beef.

Two chicken Parmesan meatballs on a wooden spoon held above the pot of sauce.

 
Close up side view of chicken Parmesan meatballs on a pile of spaghetti with sauce
Print

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

This simple recipe for Chicken Parmesan Meatballs is an easy weeknight dinner win! Swap out any ground meat you have for a quick and delicious dinner.
Total Cost $7.57 recipe / $1.89 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 5 meatballs each
Calories 728.83kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

  • ½ cup breadcrumbs $0.13
  • cup ground Parmesan $0.59
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder $0.02
  • ½ tsp dried basil $0.05
  • ½ tsp dried oregano $0.05
  • ¼ tsp salt $0.02
  • ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper $0.02
  • 1 lb. ground chicken $3.29
  • 1 large egg $0.23
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil $0.08

For Serving

  • 12 oz. pasta $1.00
  • 1 24oz. jar pasta sauce $2.09

Instructions

  • Combine the breadcrumbs and seasoning first. In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan, garlic powder, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  • Add the ground chicken to a large bowl, then add the seasoned breadcrumb mixture and the egg. Use your hands to combine the ingredients until evenly mixed.
  • Shape the meat mixture into meatballs, about 1-1.5 Tbsp each. You should get around 20 meatballs.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot and the oil is shimmering, add half of the meatballs. Cook the meatballs about one minute on each side, until all six sides are browned and the meatballs are cooked through. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a clean plate. Add the second tablespoon of cooking oil to the skillet and cook the second batch of meatballs in the same manner.
  • While the meatballs are cooking, begin the pasta and sauce. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until tender (7-10 minutes). Drain the pasta in a colander. Add the sauce to a medium sauce pot and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
  • Once all the meatballs are finished cooking, add them to the pot of heated pasta sauce and stir to coat. If needed, allow them to heat for a few minutes in the sauce.
  • Serve the cooked and drained pasta topped with sauce and meatballs.

Notes

If you prefer to make your own pasta sauce, try my 5-Ingredient Butter Tomato Sauce.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 728.83kcal | Carbohydrates: 88.25g | Protein: 38.75g | Fat: 23.63g | Sodium: 1259.88mg | Fiber: 6.48g

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

More Meatball Recipes

Do you love meatballs as much as me? Try these other meatball recipes:

Close up side view of chicken Parmesan meatballs on a pile of spaghetti with sauce

How to Make Chicken Parmesan Meatballs – Step by Step Photos

Breadcrumbs Parmesan and herbs in a bowl

First mix the dry ingredients for the meatballs. In a bowl, stir together ½ cup breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp dried basil, ½ tsp dried oregano, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper.

Ground chicken, egg, and seasoned breadcrumbs in a bowl

Next, add 1 lb. ground chicken, 1 large egg, and the seasoned breadcrumb mixture to a bowl.

Mixed chicken meatball mixture

Use your hands to combine the ingredients until they are evenly mixed.

Shaped chicken meatballs on an orange plastic cutting board

Shape the chicken mixture into meatballs, about 1 to 1.5 Tbsp each, or about 20 meatballs.

Cooked meatballs in a skillet

Add 1 Tbsp cooking oil to a large skillet and heat over medium. Once the skillet is hot and the oil is shimmering, add half of the meatballs. Cook the meatballs for about one minute on each side, until all six sides are well browned and the meatballs are cooked through. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a clean plate, add another tablespoon of oil, and cook the second batch of meatballs in the same manner.

Cooked meatballs in a bowl

While the meatballs are cooking, begin the pasta and sauce. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and continue to boil until tender. Drain the pasta in a colander. Add the sauce to a medium sauce pot and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Cooked meatballs added to pot of pasta sauce

Add the cooked meatballs to the heated sauce and stir to combine. If needed, let the meatballs heat for a few minutes in the sauce.

A bowl full of spaghetti with sauce and Chicken Parmesan Meatballs, with a fork in the side.

Serve the cooked and drained pasta with sauce and meatballs. Enjoy!

The post Chicken Parmesan Meatballs appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Classic Bolognese Sauce

This classic Italian sauce simmers for hours to develop maximum flavor. Made with a blend of ground beef, pork, and Italian sausage, it’s great with fresh tagliatelle or fettuccine, pappardelle, or other pasta. Continue reading “Classic Bol…

This classic Italian sauce simmers for hours to develop maximum flavor. Made with a blend of ground beef, pork, and Italian sausage, it's great with fresh tagliatelle or fettuccine, pappardelle, or other pasta.

Continue reading "Classic Bolognese Sauce" »

Quick and Easy Bolognese Sauce

Rich, meaty Bolognese Sauce is easy to make and can be on the table in 35 minutes. Use it to top pasta noodles, or layer in lasagna. It’s freezer-friendly too. Make a double or triple batch to enjoy all winter long! Continue reading “Quick…

Rich, meaty Bolognese Sauce is easy to make and can be on the table in 35 minutes. Use it to top pasta noodles, or layer in lasagna. It’s freezer-friendly too. Make a double or triple batch to enjoy all winter long!

Continue reading "Quick and Easy Bolognese Sauce" »

Chunky Veggie Pasta Sauce

If you follow me on Instagram stories, you may have noticed that I have been on a pasta kick the past month. My go-to dinner being pasta – all fluffy and tender with rich yummy tomato sauce coating every pasta-y crevice – vegan Parm on top and served in my fave cozy bowl. And on the side, some sort of veggie or giant salad. I will sometimes add veggie meatballs or sausage to my pasta too.

Homemade Sauce. And on those super busy nights, a bottle of pre-made marinara sauce is easy and great. But when I have the time, like anything, I much prefer to make my sauce from scratch. And today’s Chunky Summer Veggie Pasta Sauce is my go-to tomato sauce when I want a chunky texture and a few veggies in every bite.

For this recipe, I am using in-season zucchini as my veggie, but you could…

This is a summary, images and full post available on HHL website!

If you follow me on Instagram stories, you may have noticed that I have been on a pasta kick the past month. My go-to dinner being pasta - all fluffy and tender with rich yummy tomato sauce coating every pasta-y crevice - vegan Parm on top and served in my fave cozy bowl. And on the side, some sort of veggie or giant salad. I will sometimes add veggie meatballs or sausage to my pasta too. Homemade Sauce. And on those super busy nights, a bottle of pre-made marinara sauce is easy and great. But when I have the time, like anything, I much prefer to make my sauce from scratch. And today's Chunky Summer Veggie Pasta Sauce is my go-to tomato sauce when I want a chunky texture and a few veggies in every bite. For this recipe, I am using in-season zucchini as my veggie, but you could...

This is a summary, images and full post available on HHL website!