Kid Food Adults Will Love Too: Spaghetti-Os Knockoff!

Did you eat Spaghetti-O's as a kid? I did, once in a while. My parents weren't keen on "junk food" like that, but every now and then my mother would indulge my needling and get a can or two. And I particularly liked the one with "meatballs." Now I look at them and think they're kinda gross - I mean, just look at the ingredients list for regular Spaghetti Os:

Water, Tomato purée (Water, Tomato Paste), Enriched Macaroni Product (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Contains Less than 2 % of: Salt, Enzyme Modified Cheddar Cheese (Cheddar Cheese [Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes], Water, Disodium phosphate), Vegetable Oil (Corn, Cottonseed, Canola and/or Soybean), Enzyme Modified Butter, Oleoresin Paprika, Spice Extract, Citric Acid and Nonfat Dry Milk.

Not to mention that the cans are lined w/BPA.  Wouldn't it be nice to recreate the fun of the Spaghetti-O sans BPA, "enzyme Modified Cheddar Cheese" "Oleoresin paprika" and high-fructose corn syrup?

This recipe, adapted from the America's Test Kitchen Healthy Cookbook does just that.  L., my veg-phobe daughter liked it.  Even better, you can make this into a kid/adult cooking project . . . you know, studies show that kids who participate in meal-prep tend to be more adventuresome eaters.

Give it a whirl - whether you're reliving a childhood memory (but better!) or looking for something easy and tasty to whip up for your family, you're sure to enjoy this one.

Pasta Soup With Meatballs (adapted from the America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook)

1 lb. ground chicken (use light and dark meat combined for better flavor)
4 T. prepared basil pesto
5 T. plain whole wheat breadcrumbs (or white, if that's all you have on hand)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 (28-oz.) box diced tomatoes, such as Pomi

1 c. small pasta, such as ditalini, stelline, alphabets, etc.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

Combine the chicken, pesto, breadcrumbs, 1/8 t. of Kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper in a bowl and mix with your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated into the chicken.  Use a heaping teaspoon to gently form the mixture into 3/4-inch meatballs.  Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until cooked through.  Remove from the oven and set aside.  Try not to eat these while you make the soup - they are DELICIOUS!

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until the onion is softened, about 7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the broth and the tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits.  Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the carrot is softened, 15-20 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender, or use an immersion blender to process until very smooth.  Return the soup to the pot, cover, and return to a simmer over medium heat.

Stir in the pasta and reserved meatballs and continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked through, about 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Serves 4.