What to Serve with Meatballs: 13 Classy Side Ideas
Meatballs are as classic a dish as it gets. While there are many varieties of meatballs that have come a long way from tomato sauce, as good as those are, you can’t beat the classic combination of rich balls of meat with Italian seasoning simmered in a tomato sauce.
We’ll be focusing on this Italian style of meatballs for this post, so if you’re wondering what to serve with meatballs when they’re made with tomato sauce, you’re in the right place!
Finding good pairings can sometimes be tricky because many people typically serve pasta alongside their meatballs.
We love a heaping plate full of spaghetti and meatballs, but we know not everyone wants to enjoy it with pasta every time.
If you read below our recipe suggestions, you’ll find what to serve with meatballs instead of pasta for whether you’re going low-carb or you’re just trying to find a new way of doing things at your dinner table to jazz things up.
What to Eat with Meatballs: Let’s Get to It
Other than pasta, serving meatballs with vegetables is a sure way to find a successful pairing.
But we’ll look at some recipes with some yummy twists to go with your meatballs, along with other tasty sides ideas that go so well with meatballs you’ll come back to this meal more often than you ever have before!
1. Sautéed Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes
With a dish that’s as hearty and filling as meatballs in tomato sauce, it makes sense that what to serve with meatballs should be something lighter to balance it out.
We love going on with the tomato theme for a zucchini and tomato sauté.
It’s simple and healthy too with just a few easy ingredients.
In just 15 minutes you will have the ideal side to go with meatballs.
The key to this dish is choosing fresh produce so before you make your meatballs tonight, run over to the farmer’s market or your local produce place and grab the freshest zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and onions you can find.
Jenn’s recipe over at Once Upon A Chef is so quick, easy, and absolutely delicious, you’ll want to make it to serve with meatballs and everything else you cook too!
2. Classic Caprese Salad
If you’d like to know what to serve with meatballs that’s on the cooler side of the spectrum, we suggest caprese salad!
Not only is it incredibly easy to make, but it’s utterly delicious.
Again, the key with a perfect caprese salad is to choose the best and freshest produce you can find.
That means if you can’t find big fresh tomatoes, make do with fresh cherry tomatoes and do it chopped-style.
Always get fresh basil…in fact, if you make enough Italian dishes, getting a basil plant to keep in your kitchen is a brilliant idea.
Nothing tastes better than fresh! Also, the quality of cheese comes into play here too. That fresh mozzarella ball pulls the whole thing together.
Heirloom tomatoes, if you can find them, make a caprese salad even more beautiful, tasty, and unique.
We just loved the recipe by Jeanine and Jack at Love & Lemons which has such a gorgeous presentation that it will be perfect to serve with meatballs when you have guests for dinner.
3. Caesar Salad
Caesar salad pretty much goes with any meal, though when you think of side dishes for meatballs, it makes even more sense.
Traditional Caesar dressing can feel a little heavy but if you want the meal to be indulgent, it really works so well with meatballs.
But if you want a lighter Caesar dressing, you can achieve it in other ways with lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce for example.
Caesar salad is something you can throw together in minutes with a bag of croutons, but making them yourself really gives it such a gourmet touch.
That’s why we’re huge fans of the Caesar salad recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen. Not only does she show you how to make croutons from scratch, which is easier than you think, but she also makes a tasty Caesar dressing that isn’t as heavy yet is fully flavorful!
4. Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks
Most people think of bread when they think of what to eat with meatballs.
We think if you love bread, go for it! But if you’re serving it with pasta, that’s a LOT of carbs.
Even for those of you that aren’t watching how many carbs you eat, the meal becomes really filling and less balanced.
So we propose to you that whether you’re serving meatballs with pasta or you just want to sneak more vegetables into unsuspecting children, do so with cheesy cauliflower breadsticks.
They taste like regular breadsticks and plus, there’s cheese.
You can watch this handy video to learn how to make them!
5. Easy Mini Eggplant Pizza
Another way to make sure you get more veggies in when you look for what to serve with meatballs is by making eggplant pizza.
This is an especially fun item to serve when you’re having a big gathering for dinner. It rounds out the Italian offerings and it tastes great.
The kids might be on the fence about eggplant, but fashioned into pizza, you just might be able to persuade them.
Make use of that tomato sauce you’re using for your meatballs and it will be even easier to churn out mini eggplant pizzas for a crowd.
They take just 30 minutes to make and only 6 ingredients.
Let Maya show you how it’s done at Wholesome Yum.
6. Roasted Asparagus Caesar Salad
If you love Caesar salad but you’re a little tired of it or want to do something a little more unique for a dinner party to make what to serve with meatballs more upscale, try a Caesar salad with roasted asparagus.
Roasted asparagus has such a fantastic flavor all on its own but when you couple that with the makings of a Caesar salad, it’s a side-dish game-changer!
Everyone will demand to know how you came up with something so clever.
We have Brandy to thank at Nutmeg Nanny who has a recipe that uses a Greek yogurt dressing with anchovy paste and it’s just brilliant!
7. Baked Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan
For those that really want to stuff their guests until they burst, baked stuffed eggplant parmesan is the way to go.
You’ve got your famous stuffed peppers, but do you have this twist? Maybe not…And you you should!
Of course, when you’re looking for what to serve with meatballs, this one is a heavier option but if you’re trying to make a big spread to please at a family gathering, eggplant makes the perfect vessel.
Plus, if you simply split the eggplants in half, it’s a lot less work than slicing it up.
Many recipes call for stuffing eggplant with ground beef and you can certainly do that too even when you pair it with your meatballs, but if you want to lighten it up or create a vegetarian version, there’s no harm done with omitting the beef.
Annemarie’s recipe at Just a Little Bit of Bacon is easy to make and easy to adapt if need be.
8. Roasted Broccolini with Lemon and Garlic
For something simple yet exquisite that goes with your meatballs, turn to broccolini.
Roasting it in the oven gives it an amazing flavor and gets it onto your table in less than 30 minutes.
How’s that for easy? Simple and delightful, roasting a head of garlic with it will add another layer of taste to this easy side dish, plus if you are serving bread, you can smear that roasted garlic onto it if you prefer, or enjoy it with the broccolini as a perfect complement.
What’s Gaby Cooking has a completely addictive recipe you’re going to devour!
9. Roasted Artichokes with Lemony Leek Dressing
One of our favorite vegetables on the planet, artichokes are what goes with meatballs, or any Italian dish.
They have a phenomenal taste even if you did nothing with them except roast them with olive oil, plus they’re incredibly nutritious.
When serving for a dinner party, artichokes just look elegant and classy.
Keeping them simple with a roasted recipe and a light lemony dressing brings out all its natural flavors without overpowering it.
Sylvia at Feasting At Home has a recipe we love for that lemony leek dressing of hers. It’s a different way to dress up artichokes that you’ll love.
10. Easy Antipasto Skewers
When you want to know what to serve with meatballs when you’re trying to plan courses or you’re having a party, antipasto is the way to go. But we love the idea of skewering the ingredients.
This is especially fabulous at parties because guests can grab a skewer and enjoy it without a knife and fork.
They’re fun to make too, and hey, who doesn’t love food on a stick?
Suzy at The Mediterranean Dish has a recipe for them that makes you want to bite right into your screen. Yum!
11. Balsamic Roasted Zucchini & Mushrooms
For us, thinking of Italian dishes with vegetables immediately conjures up balsamic vinegar.
It adds such a beautiful layer of flavor to any vegetables, but with mushrooms and zucchini, it’s amazing.
What’s more, it’s so simple yet delicious, and of course, it goes great with meatballs too.
No need to experiment as Carrie has done that with success over at Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen.
12. Spinach and White Beans
We love spinach, perhaps even more than Popeye. Spinach is a wonderful complement in Italian cuisine.
It lightens up all those heavy meals. Add white beans with it and you’ll have the perfect side to go with your meatballs.
We wanted to make sure to give you something all-vegan for any guests that come for dinner who don’t eat meat.
Also, if you are making non-meat meatballs and tomato sauce, this will be a superb pairing.
Lindsay at The Live-In Kitchen has a wonderful vegan recipe for spinach and white beans that even meat-eaters will adore.
13. Creamy Baked Brussels Sprouts
If you aren’t a fan of Brussels sprouts, you will be when you try them in a creamy baked style.
It’s easy and full of great flavor, plus it’s a nice low-carb choice that can make the meal feel more filling without filling you out.
And because they’re creamy and cheesy, everyone will gobble them up.
Jessica at The Novice Chef has a recipe so good even her little ones will eat it!
What to Serve with Meatballs Instead of Pasta
As we mentioned, you don’t have to serve meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta. You can do that any day of the week -- or just make some lasagna!
If you’re tired of pasta this week since you’ve served it for other meals, or you’re trying to keep your carb intake to a minimum, there are other options.
For one, you can simply roast some tomatoes, make your meatballs and serve them on a bed of those tomatoes for a lighter take on this classic dish.
You can also just go heavy on the sauce, and serve your meatballs in a small bowl laden with thick tomatoey sauce.
You can also use a veggie spiralizer to make zucchini noodles (or zoodles as they’re known).
Not a fan of zucchini?
Try another vegetable and you’ll find it makes for a wonderful noodle texture without all the carbs.
Just keep in mind not to overcook your zoodles or it will be a bed of mush for your meatballs.
You can also use whole-wheat options for a healthier way to enjoy meatballs with a carb.
And if you’re just completely over pasta, why not get whole wheat pitas, sliders, or subs to serve your meatballs in? (Here’s some sides for your meatball subs!)
These work especially well when you’re having a party of any kind.
If you did make spaghetti and have some leftover, definitely consider some twists when eating the next day. We have some ideas for leftover spaghetti to get you going!
Make your favorite meatballs in your slow cooker or even Instant Pot and let guests serve themselves, filling it into awaiting slider rolls or other items.
Set out some shredded mozzarella cheese nearby too and everyone will be thrilled.
Meatballs with tomato sauce are really versatile. When it comes to what to serve with meatballs though, many of us forget we don’t need to serve pasta and that there are so many ways to make a special meal of this ultimate Italian classic!