Creamy Tomato Risotto with Meatballs and Parmesan

updated Apr 16, 2021
Tomato Risotto & Meatballs

This tomato-y risotto topped with oven-baked meatballs is inspired by a childhood favorite: Spaghetti-O's.

Serves4 to 6

Prep30 minutes

Cook30 minutes

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meatballs over tomato risotto in aw hite dish
Credit: Brittany Conerly

When I was a kid, my favorite weekend lunch was a can of SpaghettiOs cooked in the microwave. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed the ring-shaped pasta swimming in tomato sauce, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t still sound really good to me. Enter: this SpaghettiOs-inspired dinner.

I’m not saying I’m too cool for SpaghettiOs now (I’m definitely not), but I do have more culinary skills than I did when I was 6 — so I put them to use by creating a tomato-y version of classic Italian risotto. A whole can of tomato paste is toasted with garlic, onion, and dried oregano before being deglazed with white wine, and each bowl is topped with mini meatballs and Parmesan cheese. It’s everything I love about my childhood favorite, transformed into a grown-up meal that feels a little fancy.

Credit: Brittany Conerly

My #1 Tip for the Best Homemade Risotto

My favorite thing about risotto is how creamy it becomes as it cooks, especially considering you don’t add any actual cream. For super-smooth results every time, I always use a wooden spoon for stirring — it’s a tip I learned working in a prep kitchen. Because wood is more porous than other materials, it’s more abrasive on the surface of the rice, which removes the starchy outer coating of each grain and creates a creamier texture. If you’ve got a wooden spoon with a hole in the middle (I like this one), even better! It allows you to stir constantly without breaking as many grains.

Leftover risotto can easily be reheated, but because of the absorbent nature of rice it takes on a different, more dense texture the next day. My suggestion would be to turn any leftover risotto into arancini. (But if you’re anything like me, leftovers aren’t likely.) 

Tester’s Note

This really was a fun recipe that brought me back to my childhood eating tiny pasta Os drowned in tomato sauce that came out of a can. The meatballs are flavorful and tender and help stretch the risotto to feed more people (and leftover meatballs are always a favorite at my house!). Make sure to chop the onions really fine so they mix really well into the ground beef, and eat the tomato risotto while hot! No one likes gummy risotto. —Christine Gallery, Food Editor-at-Large

Tomato Risotto & Meatballs

This tomato-y risotto topped with oven-baked meatballs is inspired by a childhood favorite: Spaghetti-O's.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1/4 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1/2 cup

    fine, dry unseasoned breadcrumbs

  • 1

    small yellow onion

  • 4 cloves


  • 1 handful

    fresh parsley sprigs

  • 1 pound

    80% lean ground beef

  • 1/2 cup

    grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces), divided, plus more for serving

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 (32-ounce) box

    full-salt chicken broth or stock

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2 cups

    arborio rice

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1 (6-ounce) can

    tomato paste

  • 1/2 cup

    dry white wine


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Place 1/4 cup milk and 1 large egg in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and stir until evenly moistened. Finely chop 1 small onion (about 1 1/3 cups), mince 4 garlic cloves, and finely chop enough fresh parsley leaves to have 1 tablespoon, plus a little more for garnish.

  3. Add 1/2 cup of the chopped onion, half of the garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 pound ground beef, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the moistened breadcrumbs. Using your hands, gently squeeze and mix together until well combined.

  4. Divide the mixture into 24 portions (scant 2 tablespoons each) and place on the baking sheet. Roll each portion between damp hands to form meatballs. Arrange them evenly apart and brush with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast until cooked through and browned, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the risotto.

  5. Heat 1 box chicken broth in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and keep warm. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a Dutch oven or large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining onion and garlic, and season with 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is nearly translucent, about 3 minutes.

  6. Add 1 1/2 cups arborio rice and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute more. Add 1 can tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup dry white wine, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and simmer until the wine is mostly evaporated, about 1 minute.

  7. Add the chicken broth 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting the rice absorb the liquid after each addition before adding the next. It should take about 5 minutes between each addition, 20 to 25 minutes total. If you run out of broth, add water as needed. Once the rice is al dente (tender with a little bite in the center) and has the consistency of a creamy porridge, remove from the heat.

  8. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls, top with a few meatballs, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and more chopped parsley.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The meatballs can be formed and refrigerated up to a few hours ahead. The texture of the risotto is best when served immediately.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.