Meatballs with Zucchini are the perfect kid friendly addition to any pasta night. Packed with hidden veggies, no one will ever know the green goodness is tucked inside. These zucchini meatballs are tender, flavorful, and taste just like your favorite traditional version. 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.
Trial and Error for the Perfect Healthy 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 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 moms 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 also 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. Apparently, it’s actually not that bad for you!
FAQS for Zucchini 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.
That being said, I also like to drop them in a hot pot of tomato sauce and cook that way.
Time needed: 30 minutes.
How to make meatballs with zucchini
- Stir your breadcrumb mix.
Combine your breadcrumbs, milk, cheese, and eggs in a large bowl and set aside. I use seasoned breadcrumbs, but if using plain add 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. You can also use an equal amount of fresh bread, broken up. Just make sure to mush up the mixture well and reduce the milk by 1 tablespoon.
- Grate your zucchini.
Peel your zucchini. Using the smallest grate possible, grate 1 cup of zucchini. Then squeeze it to release as much liquid as possible.
I also like to use the grater on the onion and garlic for the sake of time.
- Combine your meat mixture.
Mix together the breadcrumb mix, veggies, and meat. Mix until fully incorporated, but try not to overmix.
- Form your meatballs.
Form your zucchini meatballs into tightly packed balls. I like to use a 1.5 ounce spring loaded cookie scoop to make them uniform and the process go quicker. You can also use a rounded tablespoon when scooping.
Place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Bake and enjoy!
Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through. I usually cut one in half to double check. Enjoy with hidden veggie spaghetti sauce for an extra vegetable punch!
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.
If you enjoy this recipe, please remember to vote 5 stars! It helps others find it, and makes my day!
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!
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