Spaghetti and Meatballs

My spaghetti and meatballs recipe may be meat-free, but it's still delicious, thanks to hearty, smoky veggie balls and homemade marinara sauce.

Spaghetti and meatballs

What’s more homey than spaghetti and meatballs? Twists of pasta doused in herb-flecked marinara sauce, with tender, spicy meatballs balanced on top… On a cold night, there’s not much that sounds better.

Meatless spaghetti and meatballs might seem like an oxymoron, but trust me, there’s no shortage of ways to make them meat-free. In fact, I’ve been hooked on two veggie meatball recipes lately. I couldn’t pick a favorite if I tried, so instead of choosing one to share here, I’m sharing both! Each one has a hearty texture and a rich savory flavor that’s irresistible with al dente pasta and tangy tomato sauce. Even Jack, my meatball-loving husband, devoured both. If you’re craving a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, either of these recipes is sure to satisfy. Let’s cook!

Noodles and marinara sauce

Plant-Based Spaghetti and Meatballs

This spaghetti recipe takes inspiration from the classic combination of pasta, meatballs, and sauce, but it has a few fresh twists. First, I replace half of the regular pasta with spiralized zucchini noodles to make it a bit lighter. Feel free to use all pasta if you want a heartier dish, or use all zucchini noodles to lighten it up even more. Spaghetti squash would be a great choice here too.

Second, I top it with my favorite homemade marinara sauce recipe. Fresh ingredients like crushed tomatoes, shallot, garlic, and oregano give it a delicious aromatic base. Then, I finish it with balsamic, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of sugar for sweet, tangy depth of flavor.

Meatballs on a baking sheet

And of course, my meatballs are totally meat-free. I offer two different plant-based meatball options below, and you can’t go wrong with either. If you’re someone who likes to make veggie balls with, well, veggies, you’ll love the first option: my go-to mushroom meatballs. I cook the mushrooms with balsamic vinegar and tamari to highlight their umami flavor. Then, I pulse them together with sticky brown rice, black beans, walnuts, bread crumbs, and chili powder. The resulting balls have a hearty texture and lightly spicy, savory flavor.

The other option is a bit more traditional. Instead of using ground beef or ground pork, I use a plant-based ground meat substitute. I mix it with smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, and bread crumbs to make meatless meatballs that taste just like the real thing, with a meaty texture and smoky flavor. Whichever way you go, you won’t be disappointed!

Spaghetti and meatballs recipe

What to Serve with Spaghetti and Meatballs

Garnish this spaghetti recipe with lots of fresh basil and/or parsley, and top it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese or vegan Parmesan for an umami kick. On the side, serve good crusty bread or homemade focaccia and a salad like my Caesar salad, Caprese salad, or Greek salad. If you’re not in the mood for salad, serve it with one of these simple veggie side dishes instead:

This spaghetti recipe is quick enough to make on a weeknight, but it’s also a great recipe to make in advance. Cook the meatballs and sauce ahead of time, and store them in airtight containers in the fridge for up to five days. These components also freeze well. Check out this post for my best tips on freezing sauces and balls!

Spaghetti and meatballs on a plate with fork

More Favorite Pasta Recipes

If you love this recipe, check out this post for 25 more easy pastas, or try one of these delicious recipes next:

And if you prefer meat sauce to meatballs, check out my vegetarian spaghetti Bolognese!

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spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

rate this recipe:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4
Who says you need meat to make spaghetti and meatballs? You'll find two plant-based meatball recipes below - one made with mushrooms and the other with a ground meat substitute. Both are delicious!



  • Mix the spaghetti and zucchini noodles and portion into 4 bowls. Top with 2 to 3 meatballs per bowl, generous scoops of marinara, basil, and drizzles of olive oil. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, garnish with parsley, and serve.


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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. ND

    Hi JD, Your blog is a breath of fresh air. Its spring n summer all in one. I got some store bought veggie balls, how do I ensure the sauce also gets absorbed in the balls and taste homogeneous instead of two different items.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Thank you! With pasta, I just scoop the sauce on top. You could also simmer the meatballs over low heat in a skillet with the sauce for just a few minutes, until warmed through.

  2. Alma

    Just curious, I’d like to try the meatball recipe but I’m not one for mushrooms… will the other ingredients hide the flavor of the mushrooms? lol!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I don’t think the mushroom flavor is very strong here. Let me know if you give them a go!

  3. Justine Thomas

    I’m a big fan of your vegetarian pastas. I absolutely love the addition of zucchini to this. The plant-based meatballs add a bit of contrast to the zucchini, which enhances the flavor. I’m ecstatic to try this sometime soon!

  4. Francoise

    Hi. The link for the “Plant-based Meatballs” leads to an instagram photo, not the recipe

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      It’s actually listed in the caption of that post.

  5. KareninStLouis

    What can I use instead of mushrooms in that recipe? Any suggestions?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Karen, I don’t have a substitute tested for the mushrooms in the mushroom meatballs. The second option here uses plant based ground meat and no mushrooms. Hope that helps!

  6. mary

    Ohh they look so good – I’m just beginning to experiment with plantbased meatballs so this is great 🙂

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.