Ever found yourself whipping up a batch of mouth-watering Italian meatballs, only to get stumped on what to pair with them? Don’t worry, you’ve landed in the right place.
But before we dive into the delicious universe of Italian meatball companions, let’s quickly go over what makes these little globes of joy so special.
Buckle up, it’s going to be a tasty ride!
What is Italian Meatballs?
Imagine little spheres of flavorful ground meat, typically a mix of beef, pork, and sometimes veal. These are generously seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, rolled into perfect bite-sized balls, and simmered in a luscious tomato sauce until tender and juicy.
They’re a classic staple of Italian cuisine, but with regional variations in the ingredients and size, which make them an exciting culinary experience.
The beauty of Italian meatballs is their versatility; they can star in a main course, play a supporting role in a hearty sub, or even make a cameo at the cocktail party as an appetizer.
Now that we’re all meatball connoisseurs, let’s dive into the delectable world of dishes that can be served alongside these Italian gems! Let’s explore the list below and find your next favorite pairing.
I’ve grouped these recipes into handy categories to make your culinary journey smooth. Feel free to use the navigation to skip around!
Pasta provides a hearty and satisfying base that pairs excellently with the rich, savory flavor of Italian meatballs.
The traditional pasta used with meatballs is spaghetti, which is often served in a tomato-based marinara sauce. The sauce helps to blend the flavors of the pasta and meatballs, creating a well-rounded meal. To serve, you could toss the cooked spaghetti in the sauce, place the meatballs on top, and finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Other types of pasta such as penne or rigatoni work well in baked dishes like lasagna or pasta al forno. In these dishes, the pasta, meatballs, and sauce are layered with cheese and then baked until golden and bubbly.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
This classic dish is as straightforward as it gets. The long, thin strands of spaghetti intertwine perfectly with the savory meatballs and marinara sauce, making for a satisfying mouthful with every bite. The simplicity of this dish allows the flavors of the meatballs to shine, making it an ideal pairing.
(You can use that same marinara to top your Italian beef sandwich.)
Penne with Meatballs and Tomato Sauce
Penne’s tube shape makes it great for holding onto sauce, and its robust structure stands up well to hearty meatballs. The ridges on the penne also help to grab onto the sauce, making sure you get a flavorful bite every time.
This is still a relatively simple dish, but the penne provides a different texture and experience than spaghetti.
Alfredo Style Italian Meatballs
This recipe for Alfredo-style Italian meatballs is a great choice because it combines the classic Italian flavors of meatballs with a creamy and indulgent Alfredo sauce.
The lean ground beef is seasoned with traditional Italian herbs and spices, giving the meatballs a delicious savory taste. Baking the meatballs before simmering them in the Alfredo sauce helps to lock in the flavors and ensures that they are tender and juicy. Serving them over hot pasta adds a comforting and satisfying element to the dish.
Pasta alla Norma
This recipe for pasta alla norma pairs well with Italian meatballs because it offers a delicious and hearty base for the meatballs to shine.
The combination of the flavorful marinara sauce, roasted eggplant, and aromatic herbs creates a rich and savory sauce that complements the meatballs perfectly. The choice of rigatoni, ziti, or spaghetti provides a satisfying texture that holds up well to the meatballs. Plus, the addition of grated ricotta salata or Parmesan cheese adds a touch of creaminess and enhances the overall taste of the dish.
Spicy Vodka Pasta
This spicy vodka pasta recipe pairs well with Italian meatballs because it provides a flavorful and creamy sauce that complements the savory taste of the meatballs.
The combination of the spicy Calabrian chili paste, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes creates a rich and robust sauce that coats the pasta perfectly. The addition of vodka adds a subtle depth of flavor, while the heavy whipping cream adds a creamy and indulgent touch.
Tossed together with the meatballs, this pasta dish becomes a satisfying and delicious meal that will have your taste buds dancing.
This baked ziti recipe pairs well with Italian meatballs because the pasta provides a hearty and satisfying base that complements the rich and savory flavors of the meatballs. The ziti, or penne pasta, holds up well in the oven and absorbs the delicious tomato-based sauce, creating a comforting and flavorful dish. The addition of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese adds a creamy and cheesy element that enhances the overall taste.
When served together, the meatballs and ziti create a well-rounded and satisfying meal that is sure to please any pasta lover.
Meatball Pasta Bake
This recipe for meatball pasta bake is a match made in heaven for Italian meatballs. The pasta provides a delicious and filling base that complements the rich and savory flavor of the meatballs. Plus, the tomato-based sauce helps bring everything together, creating a well-rounded and satisfying meal.
The combination of spaghetti, meatballs, and sauce is a classic Italian dish that never fails to hit the spot. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with this comforting and flavorful recipe!
Bread, with its soft interior and crusty exterior, acts as a perfect vessel for meatballs. It soaks up the sauce, adding flavor and preventing it from spilling while providing a contrasting texture.
French Bread Meatball Sandwich
This recipe pairs well with Italian meatballs because the French bread acts as a sturdy base that can hold up to the juicy meatballs and rich sauce. The bread’s soft interior soaks up the flavors of the sauce, while the crusty exterior adds a nice crunch. The sliced provolone cheese adds a creamy and slightly tangy element that complements the savory meatballs perfectly. Overall, this sandwich is a delicious and satisfying way to enjoy classic Italian flavors in a convenient and handheld form.
Cheesy Texas Toast Meatball Sliders
This recipe for cheesy Texas toast meatball sliders pairs perfectly with Italian meatballs because it combines the comforting flavors of meatballs, marinara sauce, and melted cheese with the crispy and cheesy goodness of Texas toast.
The soft and savory meatballs are nestled on top of the partially baked Texas toast, allowing the bread to soak up the rich marinara sauce and become even more flavorful. The addition of shredded provolone cheese adds a gooey and melty element that perfectly complements the meatballs.
Together, these ingredients create a mouthwatering and satisfying dish that will leave you craving more.
This easy calzone recipe pairs perfectly with Italian meatballs because it combines all the delicious flavors and textures of a meatball sub or pizza in a convenient handheld form. The soft and chewy pizza dough acts as a sturdy vessel, holding together the flavorful filling of pizza sauce, ricotta cheese, meatballs (that replace the pepperoni and salami), and shredded mozzarella.
The calzones are then baked until golden brown, creating a crispy crust that complements the tender meatballs.
It’s a satisfying and convenient way to enjoy the comforting flavors of Italian meatballs in a portable and delicious package.
This stromboli recipe pairs well with Italian meatballs because it incorporates similar flavors and ingredients. Both dishes feature a delicious combination of melted cheese, savory meats, and a rich tomato sauce.
The stromboli’s soft and doughy crust provides a perfect base for the meatballs, allowing you to enjoy all the flavors in every bite. Plus, the marinara sauce served on the side adds an extra layer of tangy goodness that complements both dishes beautifully.
Making a full pizza from scratch can be quite involved, especially if you’re making your own pizza dough. Topping it with sliced or miniature meatballs, along with your choice of additional toppings, makes for a hearty, satisfying dish.
The slightly charred crust, the melted cheese, and the savory meatballs make for a wonderful combination, and despite the time and effort involved, a well-made pizza is hard to beat.
Grains and Starches
Dishes in this category use grains or other starchy foods as a base for the meatballs. They pair well with meatballs by providing a neutral backdrop that allows the flavors of the meatballs to shine.
For instance, polenta, a creamy cornmeal dish, can be served as a bed for the meatballs, allowing the sauce to mix in and flavor the polenta. Risotto, a creamy rice dish, also pairs well, as the creaminess of the rice complements the rich flavors of the meatballs.
To serve, simply spoon the cooked grain onto a plate or bowl, top with meatballs and sauce, and garnish with some fresh herbs or cheese.
(Grains and starches also pair great with lemon pepper chicken.)
This is the most straightforward pairing in this category. The neutral flavor and fluffy texture of white rice make it an excellent canvas for showcasing the rich taste of meatballs and their accompanying sauce.
The rice also helps to absorb some of the sauce, making each bite even more flavorful.
Couscous is a type of tiny pasta that’s even easier to cook than rice. Its small grains make it a perfect base for meatballs, allowing the sauce to thoroughly permeate the dish.
Couscous also adds a unique, slightly chewy texture that complements the softness of the meatballs.
Polenta, a cornmeal-based dish, offers a creamy, comforting base for Italian meatballs. Its mellow flavor doesn’t compete with the meatballs, instead letting them be the star of the dish.
Polenta does require some attention during cooking to prevent lumps, but the result is a hearty, satisfying meal.
A non-traditional but delicious pairing, mashed potatoes serve as a creamy, fluffy base for meatballs.
The potatoes can be flavored with garlic and herbs for extra depth, and the richness of the meatballs is a perfect match for the buttery potatoes.
Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that provides a slightly chewy texture that pairs well with meatballs. It can be cooked in broth for extra flavor, and the small size of the pasta allows the sauce from the meatballs to evenly coat each grain.
And if you’ve cooked too much orzo, you can always use the leftovers to make a salad. Here’s a list of great orzo salad sides.
Quinoa is a protein-packed grain that provides a slightly nutty flavor and unique texture. It’s a healthier alternative to traditional starches and offers a satisfying bite that pairs well with soft, juicy meatballs.
Cooking quinoa requires some attention to prevent it from becoming soggy, and its strong flavor may not be for everyone, but it’s a nutritious and flavorful pairing for those seeking healthier options.
Farro is an ancient grain with a nutty flavor and a firm, chewy texture that holds up well under hearty sauces.
Farro does require a longer cooking time and the grain needs to be soaked beforehand, which adds to the complexity of the dish. However, its robust texture and rich, nutty flavor make it a great companion for flavorful Italian meatballs.
Risotto is a creamy Italian rice dish that is inherently rich and comforting. The rice is cooked slowly with broth, resulting in a creamy, almost velvety texture that complements the savory meatballs perfectly.
This pairing is more time-consuming due to the constant attention required when cooking risotto, but the creamy, luxurious end result is worth it.
Roasted or Grilled Vegetables
Roasted or grilled veggies add a healthy, flavorful side that pairs well with meatballs.
The roasting or grilling process brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetables, offering a delightful contrast to the savory meatballs. Veggies like bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes can be tossed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then roasted or grilled until tender and slightly charred.
They can be served alongside the meatballs or even mixed in with them.
How to Roast Red Bell Peppers
This recipe for roasted red bell peppers pairs perfectly with Italian meatballs because it adds a burst of vibrant flavor and a touch of sweetness to the savory meatballs.
The roasting process brings out the natural sweetness of the peppers, creating a delightful contrast to the rich and savory flavors of the meatballs. The tender and slightly charred peppers can be served alongside the meatballs or even mixed in with them, adding a delicious and colorful element to the dish.
Grilled Zucchini and Squash Recipe
This grilled zucchini and squash recipe pairs perfectly with Italian meatballs because it provides a healthy and flavorful side dish that complements the savory meatballs.
The combination of the charred vegetables with the zesty flavors of the olive oil, garlic, and herbs adds a delightful contrast to the richness of the meatballs. The addition of the crumbled feta cheese and fresh herbs like parsley and chives brings a burst of freshness to the dish, enhancing the overall taste experience.
So, when you serve these grilled veggies alongside your Italian meatballs, you’ll have a well-rounded and satisfying meal that’s both delicious and nutritious.
Perfect Roasted Eggplant
This recipe for perfect roasted eggplant pairs wonderfully with Italian meatballs because it brings a delicious balance of flavors and textures to the meal. The eggplant is roasted to perfection, resulting in a tender and slightly caramelized exterior that adds a delightful sweetness to the dish.
The combination of the roasted eggplant with the savory meatballs creates a harmonious blend of tastes that is both satisfying and comforting. The addition of garlic, herbs, and olive oil enhances the overall flavor profile, making it a fantastic accompaniment to the meatballs.
Grilled Hawaiian Meatball Kabobs
Here’s a simple recipe for grilled Hawaiian Kabobs. It originally uses beef chunks, but you might as well sub in your meatballs and follow the rest of the recipe as usual.
The combination of the savory meatballs with the sweet and tangy flavors of the grilled pineapple, red pepper, and onion creates a delightful contrast of flavors. The grilled veggies also add a vibrant and colorful element to the plate, making it visually appealing.
Breakfast Stuffed Bell Peppers
Here’s another tasty idea to put those meatballs to good use.
Instead of using the pork sausage in this breakfast stuffed bell peppers recipe, try subbing in your delicious homemade (or store-bought) meatballs.
Just imagine the juicy, flavorful meatballs nestled inside those vibrant bell peppers, topped with gooey melted mozzarella and baked to perfection. It’s a delightful twist on the classic recipe that will surely impress your taste buds and anyone you serve it to.
So, why not give it a shot and let those meatballs shine in this fantastic breakfast dish?
A fresh, crisp salad provides a refreshing contrast to the rich, hearty meatballs. The raw crunch of the vegetables and the tanginess of a vinaigrette can balance the meaty and savory flavors.
To serve, simply prepare the salad in a large bowl, place the meatballs on top or on the side, and drizzle with your chosen dressing.
Simple Green Leaf Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette
This simple green leaf salad with shallot vinaigrette pairs perfectly with Italian meatballs because it provides a fresh and crisp contrast to the rich and hearty flavors of the meatballs. The raw crunch of the vegetables in the salad, along with the tangy vinaigrette, helps to balance out the savory and meaty taste of the meatballs.
Whether you choose to serve the salad on the side or on top of the meatballs, it adds a refreshing element to the dish that complements the Italian flavors beautifully.
This caprese salad recipe pairs perfectly with Italian meatballs because it offers a refreshing and light contrast to the rich and savory flavors of the meatballs. The combination of juicy tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and fragrant basil creates a vibrant and fresh taste that complements the hearty meatballs.
The tangy and slightly sweet balsamic dressing adds a delightful tanginess that cuts through the richness of the meatballs, making every bite a delicious balance of flavors.
This Greek salad is the perfect companion to Italian meatballs because it provides a fresh and tangy contrast to the rich and savory flavors of the meatballs. The combination of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic adds a zesty and refreshing element to the dish. The herbs like oregano and basil add a hint of Mediterranean flavor that complements the Italian meatballs beautifully.
So, when you drizzle this homemade dressing over your salad, it brings out the best in both the meatballs and the greens, creating a well-balanced and delicious meal.
(This Greek salad also pairs well with lamb meatballs.)
Hearty White Bean Caesar Salad Bowls
This recipe for hearty white bean Caesar salad bowls pairs well with Italian meatballs because it offers a fresh and crisp contrast to the rich and savory flavors of the meatballs.
The combination of the raw crunch of the vegetables, the creaminess of the white beans, and the tanginess of the Caesar dressing complements the meaty and savory flavors of the meatballs. The roasted root vegetables add a slight caramelized sweetness, further enhancing the overall flavor profile of the dish.
By serving the salad alongside the meatballs, you get a well-rounded and satisfying meal that satisfies both your cravings for something hearty and something refreshing.
Panzanella Salad Recipe
This Panzanella salad recipe pairs perfectly with Italian meatballs because it offers a refreshing and crisp contrast to the rich and savory flavors of the meatballs.
The combination of fresh vegetables like vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, and red onion adds a vibrant and crunchy element to the meal. The tangy vinaigrette made with red wine or champagne vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil complements the meatballs without overpowering them.
Antipasto Salad Recipe (10 Minutes!)
This antipasto salad recipe pairs perfectly with Italian meatballs because it offers a fresh and crisp contrast to the rich and hearty flavors of the meatballs. The combination of the chopped salami, prosciutto, and fresh mozzarella adds a savory and indulgent element to the salad, while the grape tomatoes, pepperoncini peppers, and artichoke hearts provide a refreshing crunch. The tangy vinaigrette made with olive oil and white wine vinegar enhances the overall flavor profile and ties everything together.
Adding the fresh basil right before serving adds a burst of herbaceousness that complements the meatballs beautifully.
Craving this? Check out the Antipasto Salad Recipe (10 Minutes!) recipe from Wholesome Yum | Easy healthy recipes. 10 ingredients or less..
This category is for creative and unique pairings with meatballs. If you’re looking for pairings that are much more interesting than the regular programming, here’s the place to find those nuggets.
Chicken and Mango Meatballs with a Spicy Mango Sauce
This recipe for chicken and mango meatballs with a spicy mango sauce is a great option if you’re looking for a unique twist on traditional Italian meatballs.
The combination of juicy mango and lean ground chicken adds a refreshing and tropical flavor to the meatballs, making them a delicious departure from the usual beef or pork. Plus, the spicy mango sauce adds a kick of heat and sweetness that perfectly complements the savory meatballs.
It’s a fun and flavorful way to switch things up and impress your taste buds!
Treat yourself to this amazing Chicken and Mango Meatballs with a Spicy Mango Sauce from Slimming Eats.
Giving Italian meatballs a Mexican twist is as easy as serving them in a soft taco shell with traditional toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. The spiciness of a hot sauce or jalapenos can complement the savory flavors of the meatballs.
Assemble the tacos by placing a few meatballs in a taco shell, then top with your chosen ingredients.
How to Make Basic Stuffed Mushrooms
This recipe for basic stuffed mushrooms pairs well with Italian meatballs because it incorporates similar flavors and ingredients commonly found in Italian cuisine. The combination of finely chopped onion, celery, Parmesan cheese, and seasoned bread crumbs adds a savory and aromatic element to the mushrooms, enhancing their natural, earthy taste.
To prepare, just slice the meatballs in halves or quarters and mix them with the filling.
Another fusion idea, replacing the chicken thighs with Italian meatballs in a ramen noodle soup could be an interesting variation. The meatballs would add a different texture and flavor to the ramen while still pairing well with the savory broth and noodles.
Preparing ramen can be a bit complex, especially if making the broth from scratch, but the results can be delicious.