Hidden veggie meatballs are the perfect kid friendly addition to my favorite spaghetti sauce. Packed with sneaky vegetables, no one will ever know the difference. These zucchini meatballs are tender, flavorful, and taste just like your favorites. Remove the guilt from your spaghetti night with this toddler friendly hidden veggie recipe.
I grew up in an Italian American household where every week we had “Sunday Gravy.” Thick, flavorful tomato sauce simmering with meatballs and sometimes sausage all day before serving on a huge plate of pasta.
It’s something that I took with me and adore making for my kids.
Finding the Perfect Hidden Veggie Meatball
The problem is, while my boys adore spaghetti and meatballs, it’s not exactly
So, like all of my family favorites, I went on a mission to make a healthier, veggie packed version.
And I failed.
Oh, and I failed again.
I tried everything from leaner meats to flax eggs to whole wheat breadcrumbs to no breadcrumbs at all. I tried versions with lots of veggies chopped in and others with thick, grated strands of them.
None of them were good. Okay, that’s a lie – some were good, but none made me feel cozy and like I was eating comfort food.
Until I hit this recipe.
Zucchini Meatballs, done the right way
It turns out, I really just needed to go back to my childhood and stick with the classic with one small twist.
Below, I’m sharing my super secret way to get zucchini – yes! Zucchini! – into meatballs that your kids are going to love. No one will be the wiser. No, really – not a soul will realize there are veggies in these meatballs.
Tips for making hidden veggie meatballs with zucchini
If you’ve ever seen those “zucchini meatball” pictures on the internet with giant strands of green in them, you’re probably wary. This is not that. In fact, these look exactly like my mom’s meatballs growing up.
Here are my tips for making them amazing.
- Peel the zucchini. You might lose a bit of nutrition in the peel, but I’m okay with that. The benefit is there is less of a texture difference and there will be no glaring green in them. Alternatively, you can use yellow squash.
- Use the smallest grate you can. I use a box grater and use the same size grate I use for Parmesan cheese. This will help it mix in really well.
- Once you grate about a cup of zucchini, SQUEEZE it out to release all of the water. You can salt it, let it sit, and then squeeze but I didn’t find that necessary.
- Don’t forget to top it with REAL freshly grated Parm. Not only is it way more delicious, but you’ll sleep well knowing there is nothing weird in it.
FAQS for Hidden Veggie Meatballs
Yes. You can either shape and freeze uncooked, or bake and then freeze. Personally I like to have them precooked in the freezer.
Baking them! Baking ensures no edges get too hard and that everything cooks evenly. In addition, it helps keep the fat out of the final meal.
Hidden Veggie Meatballs with Zucchini
These meatballs are packed with zucchini but no one will ever know. Moist and tender, they taste like they came from your Italian grandmother’s kitchen.
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Hidden Veggie Meatballs with Zucchini
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup of milk
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1 cup of grated zucchini
- 1/4 cup of onion
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 400.
In a large bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients and set aside.
Grate your zucchini on the smallest setting. You should have about 1 cup of zucchini. Then, squeeze the excess liquid out well. This will leave you with about 1/2 cup compacted.
Grate the onion and garlic. You can chop but this is way easier.
Add everything in the bowl and mix until combined.
Portion into 1 tablespoon, 1 1/2 tablespoon sized balls and lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake for about 20 minutes.
So, tell me – what was one meal you ALWAYS ate growing up? Let me know in the comments!
This is brilliant! It’s a significant amount of zucchini, too, so I’m excited to give it a try!
Is there anyway to make this without egg? I have a little who is allergic to eggs… But his sister’s love meatballs.
Hey there Jorie! You can probably use an egg substitute like Just Egg (vegan egg) or a flax egg would work great! Let me know fi your try it!