Pasta is ranked one of the ultimate comfort foods. Did you ever wonder why they call it comfort food? Turns out, this sense of comfort doesn’t necessarily come from eating the food itself, but the memory of the person who first made it for you. According to a study at the University of Buffalo, if you have a positive relationship with the cook (your mom, dad, grandma, etc.) you’re more likely to be drawn to that dish. “Because comfort food has a social function, it is especially appealing to us when we are feeling lonely or rejected,” the study’s leader Shira Gabriel said in a statement. So why not cheer up your troops with a plate of spaghetti and meatballs tonight? But instead of the same old recipe, whip up a new variation on this old time Italian classic and comfort them with your love and innovation.

1. Spaghetti and Sausage Meatballs
This quick and easy recipe requires snipping Italian sausages apart, then squeezing and pinching the meat out of the skins so that you get little meatball-like shapes. Put them into a pan and fry until brown.

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2. Spaghetti and Pesto Veggie Chicken Meatballs
Whether you’re cooking for little ones or grown-ups, this scrumptious meal requires ground chicken breast meat (ask your butcher to do it for you) red pepper, carrot, zucchini, pesto sauce and olive oil, rolled into balls and placed in the oven. Serve over whole wheat spaghetti.

3. Spaghetti and “Lighter” Meatballs
If you want to lighten the meat portion in your meatballs, this recipe combines green lentils, rosemary, Dijon mustard and pork into some of the lightest and tastiest meatballs around.

4. Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Tofu “Meat” Balls
For this vegetarian take on the Italian classic, puree tofu with parsley in a food processor until crumbly. Add bread crumbs, tahini, soy sauce, mustard, pepper, garlic and roll into balls, frying in pan until golden.


5. Springtime Spaghetti and Meatballs
In this warmer weather take on the Italian classic, beef is replaced with pork and tomato sauce is swapped with creamy garden greens. Heavy cream, parmesan, onion, garlic, parsley and peas take center stage.

6. Squash Spaghetti and Meatballs
Do your kids need more veggies in their lives? Spaghetti squash offers the same texture of spaghetti pasta and helps give this old time favorite dish a nutritional boost. 

7. Red Wine Spaghetti and Meatballs
For those with a penchant for the dramatic, this red wine-colored spaghetti is perfect for Valentine’s day or for seducing that special someone. One bottle of Chianti will do the trick, hiccup.


8. Spaghetti and Lamb Meatballs
Longing for an ever more robust meatball in your life? Try blending ground lamb and pork meat for this gourmet dish. Combine lamb, pork, Parmesan, parsley, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, salt and pepper, and roll away. 

9. Zucchini Spaghetti and Meatballs
If you are savvy enough in the kitchen to own a julienne peeler or a spiral slicer, turning zucchini into spaghetti is not only fun to make, it’s a delicious and nutritious alternative to surprise friends and family.

10. Creole Italian Meatballs and Spaghetti
This hot hot hot Louisiana version of this classic dish calls for everything that makes a creole sauce so memorable: paprika, dried oregano, ground black pepper, dried basil, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, granulated onion, dried thyme, and granulated garlic. On fire.


11. Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs
For those who prefer the healthier alternative to ground beef, turkey meat is leaner, but equally as good. Just add basil, parsley, bread, ricotta, parmesan, egg whites, minced garlic, salt and pepper to the ground turkey and roll ‘em up into balls.

12. Chinese Spaghetti and Meatballs
This Asian inspired dish is festival of veggies than includes ginger, bok choy, and scallions. Noodles are served in a chicken broth with a touch of soy sauce, topped with delectable ground pork meatballs with green peppers.

13. Celeriac Spaghetti with Meatballs
To achieve heavenly “celeriacetti at home,” a spaghetti made of turn up rooted celery, you’ll need a spiralizer to make them. Gluten-free and a revelation.


14. Spaghetti and Meatball “Stoup”
Stoup is thicker than a soup and thinner than a stew and is perfect for causal meals with the fam. The best part? You don’t have to precook the meatballs. Make sure to serve with a baguette for dipping.

15. Masala Meatball Curry
This fusion twist using curry and masala, calls for rolling up lamb and mint meatballs to serve with a flavorsome tomato sauce over spaghetti, basmati rice or naan bread.

Photos 11 & 14 courtesy of Food Network.com