The beauty of using spiralized veggies as a substitute for pasta is that they don't need to be cooked separately. Just throw them right into the pan and in just a few minutes, they're soft and ready to be twirled on a fork. Using spiralized zucchini and frozen, cooked meatballs means that you can make this twist on spaghetti and meatballs in just one pot and in less than 30 minutes.
Homemade or Store-Bought: It's Up to You
Versatility is the name of the game with this one-pot dinner. I grab my favorite jarred marinara sauce and doctor it up with some onion and garlic, but if you have some homemade sauce stashed in the freezer, by all means — use it!
The same goes with the meatballs. Grab a bag of frozen pre-cooked meatballs, or make your own to use here. This also means that you can choose to use chicken, gluten-free, vegetarian, or the meatballs your grandmother taught you to make. If you forgot to the thaw the meatballs, no worries — just cook them covered in the sauce for a few extra minutes to make sure they heat through.
Thicken the Marinara
When cooking spiralized zucchini directly in the marinara, you run the risk of the water from the zucchini diluting the sauce. (Spaghetti has the opposite effect because it soaks up the sauce.) To make sure you don't end up with a thin sauce, simmer the meatballs uncovered in the marinara and let it thicken up a bit. When you first add the zucchini, it might seem like the sauce is almost too thick, but as the zucchini softens, its liquid will dilute the sauce into the perfect consistency.
Because you cook a large amount of zucchini here, grab a large pot so that there's lots of room to toss the zoodles as they cook. Enjoy the fact that you only have one pot to wash as you feast on your plate of zoodles and meatballs!
One-Pot Zoodles and Meatballs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (24- to 26-ounce) jar marinara sauce (about 3 cups)
1 pound precooked meatballs (about 12 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs), thawed if frozen
6 medium zucchini (about 2 1/4 pounds total), ends trimmed
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the marinara sauce and meatballs and stir to combine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are heated through and the sauce is slightly thicker, 12 to 15 minutes. While the meatballs are simmering, spiralize the zucchini.
Add the spiralized zucchini and cook, tossing the noodles often in the sauce, until the zucchini just starts to soften, about 5 minutes. (The zoodles will look dry in the beginning, but will eventually release a lot of water that thins out the sauce.) Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan cheese.
- Frozen meatballs: Frozen meatballs can be used here straight from the freezer. After they're added to the pot, cover and cook 5 minutes extra before uncovering and continuing with the recipe.
- Make ahead: The zucchini can be spiralized and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before cooking.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, but the zucchini noodles will be much softer.