Spaghetti squash and meatballs is such a wonderful low-carb comfort food. And although not quite the same, it closely mimics the experience of eating the original dish.
When I started a low-carb diet, I immediately began to look for ways to recreate old favorites while keeping them low-carb. I certainly knew I was going to have to find a replacement for pasta - one of my all-time favorite things to eat (and I know I'm not the only one!)
This tasty dish of spaghetti squash and meatballs is the ultimate keto and low-carb substitute for the beloved classic recipe. I make it often because my kids really enjoy it, and my husband and I don't exactly suffer when we eat it either. It's true comfort food, only better!
The ingredients you'll need
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this tasty meal. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Spaghetti squash: I use a small (2 lb.) spaghetti squash in this recipe.
Lean ground beef: I typically use an 85/15 mixture. I find that leaner than that is not as flavorful. Sometimes I use ground turkey and make turkey meatballs.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use.
Spices: Garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and dried oregano. Make sure they are fresh! A stale spice can easily ruin a dish.
Marinara sauce: Try to use a sugar-free brand such as Rao's.
Chopped parsley: Used mostly for garnish, although it does add a nice fresh layer of flavor.
Finely grated Parmesan: You can also use shredded parmesan if that's what you have on hand.
How to make spaghetti squash and meatballs
It's so easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
Microwave the squash. I start by cooking the spaghetti squash in the microwave, so it's ready in just ten minutes. I use a small, 2 lb. spaghetti squash. It yields about 1 lb. (3 cups) cooked strands. As an alternative to using the microwave, you can bake the spaghetti squash.
Bake the meatballs. I quickly mix the ground beef with the seasonings and bake the meatballs in the oven. There's no need to add breadcrumbs to them - they come out juicy and delicious.
Heat the sauce. To save time and effort, I use marinara sauce from a jar. But I make sure it's a sauce with no added sugar. I heat up the sauce on the stove and add the cooked meatballs to the sauce.
Finish the dish. I pour the sauce and the meatballs on top of the squash strands, garnish with parsley and parmesan, and serve!
Is it any good, though?
Yes! This dish is surprisingly similar in its mouthfeel to eating the real thing, although it's not exactly the same, obviously.
The spaghetti squash strands are wonderful in giving you the feeling of eating spaghetti, so you won't miss the starch. Especially if you're used to keto and low-carb substitutions.
The only caveat: it's best to mix the sauce into the squash strands at the very last minute, right before eating, to prevent sogginess.
How to serve this dish
It's a complete meal of meat and a vegetable so it doesn't really need any side dishes. But I often add a splash of color by serving it with a side of steamed broccoli.
How to keep leftovers
Keep the leftovers in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3-4 days. While it's best to keep the squash separate from the sauce, even if you already mixed them together, don't toss the leftovers! Soggy or not, they will still be delicious, gently heated in the microwave on 50% power.
Sometimes I intentionally make a little extra (keeping the squash and the meatballs separate in the fridge) and enjoy the leftovers the next day for lunch.
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Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
- 1 small spaghetti squash (2 lb.)
- 1 lb. lean ground beef (85/15)
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cups no-sugar-added marinara sauce
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Prepare the spaghetti squash: Pierce the spaghetti squash in a few spots with a sharp knife. Microwave 5 minutes; turn to the other side and microwave 5 more minutes, until soft to the touch. Let stand for 5 minutes to finish cooking. Using a sharp knife, cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Allow to cool 5 minutes, until easier to handle. Scoop out the pulp and seeds from the center, then rake a fork back and forth to remove strands of the flesh onto a serving bowl. Set aside.
- Prepare the meatballs: In a medium bowl, mix together the beef with the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika and oregano. Form into 24 small meatballs. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, until juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted in a meatball reads 160 degrees F.
- Heat the marinara sauce in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. When meatballs are ready, transfer them to the warm sauce and continue to simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Pour the meatballs and sauce on top of the spaghetti squash strands, garnish with parsley and (if using) parmesan, and serve.