Homemade SpaghettiOs are the ultimate comfort food! Make with just a handful of simple pantry ingredients, this recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes and can be a side or a full meal!

homemade spaghettiOs topped with shaved pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper

Comfort food to the max.

You know, homemade SpaghettiOs! Or spaghetti hoops or spaghetti loops as they’re known in various parts of the world. If you aren’t familiar with them, they’re round pasta in a tomato-based soup that typically comes in a campbell’s can. It doesn’t seem the most glorious of meals, if you haven’t grown up with them, I know. The soup is really a cross between soup and sauce, and it’s just meant to be a quick meal. And it’s a step up from the basic ramen packets; am I right?

Sometimes you just need a little comfort food to get you through the week. Growing up, it was rare that we allowed having anything like canned SpaghettiOs. But I know it’s a childhood favorite for a lot of people. With high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and all sorts of other mystery ingredients I didn’t know they weren’t great for you at that age. And at the time, I just wanted to be like all the other kids in school that ate normal American food. Years later did I realize that I was the one that was lucky to have a mom that made us delicious from-scratch meals. And if you think I’m kidding, I am not; my mom made us homemade SpaghettiOs!

And though I may not have SpaghettiOs very often at this age, it’s nostalgic food that works well as a side dish with any protein, like, grilled chicken or even better if you toss in cooked mini meatballs into the soup. It doubles up as a meal for kids. It’s also perfect for making if you’re looking to turn humble pantry staples into a meal when the fridge is bare.

prepared anellini pasta in tomato sauce

Ingredients for homemade SpaghettiOs recipe:

  • Olive oil: we’ll use the olive oil and infuse garlic into it.
  • Seasonings: you’ll need some minced garlic, red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp onion powder, and black pepper. The red pepper flakes are optional; you can certainly leave them out if you’re cooking for little ones. Towards the end, we’ll also add a pinch of sugar to help round out the flavors. If you want less of that garlic flavor, feel free to swap minced garlic for garlic powder.
  • Tomato paste: tomato paste packs the punch of tomato flavor to the soup/sauce base. You don’t want to use tomato puree, for this recipe as it’s just not as concentrated as the paste.
  • Apple cider vinegar: adds just a touch of tartness to the base
  • Chicken bouillon cubes: I like to use chicken bouillon cubes instead of chicken stock for this recipe as I find they pack a more flavorful punch.
  • Small shaped pasta: I like to use anellini pasta for this recipe, but ditalini would work well and is more easily available.
  • Grated pecorino cheese: freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese is added at the end to help flavor and thicken the soup base a little bit. Or you can stir in grated cheddar cheese into your bowl. I can’t imagine how that wouldn’t be delicious!
dry pasta in bag
saucepan with prepared spaghettiOs

How to make SpaghettiOs from scratch:

  1. Infuse with flavor. The first step in making homemade SpaghettiOs is to infuse the oil with minced garlic. I’ve done this for my Tuscan tomato soup as well, and it really mellows out the raw garlic flavor and carries it throughout the dish without being harsh. Start with a cold dutch oven or a nonstick saucepan. The nonstick saucepan makes like a little easier as the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot as easily! Once the oil has been infused, we’ll saute a pinch of red pepper flakes, tomato paste, onion powder, and black pepper and continue to let the tomato paste cook in the oil. Oil helps bloom the flavors of both the peppers and the tomato paste. When the tomato paste has deepened in color, you’re ready to move forward. We’re not adding any kosher salt, because we’re going to use bouillon cubes that will add plenty of sodium! 
  2. Let simmer. We’ll add a splash of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of sugar to add a bit of tartness and sweetness. These ingredients help round out the flavors a bit more. But you can certainly leave out the sugar if you wish. We’ll add 4 cups water and bouillon cubes and allow the sauce to come up to a boil. When boiling, lower the heat so that it just simmers, stir in the paste. We aren’t going to drain the pasta like we traditionally do. The starches from the pasta will release into the stock, thickening it in the process. Be sure to stir the mixture often to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the pasta is al dente (or fully cooked if you prefer that,) add in a handful of grated pecorino Romano. Taste and adjust with additional seasonings as desired to taste. Serve warm in bowls and top with additional cheese if you’d like. And you can always fancy it up with some chopped parsley!
casserole pan with prepared spaghetti hoops in tomato sauce

FAQs about homemade SpaghettiOs:

  1. What kind of pasta to use for SpaghettiOs? Though you can use any small shape of pasta that you like, I prefer to use anellini pasta as it’s the traditional shape of SpaghettiOs. If you can’t find anellini pasta in your grocery store, it’s also available online here. You could also use ditalini, mini farfalle, or orecchiette.
  2. How can you make SpaghettiOs a full meal? To make the SpaghettiOs more of a complete meal, sometimes I like to add cooked meatballs (I bake them in the oven) and add them in when I’m adding the cheese. Other times, I keep it simple and top the SpaghettiOs with a spoonful of homemade pesto! You could also toss in a handful of baby spinach to the spaghettiOs when you’re adding in the cheese at the end. Or serve with an egg on top!
  3. I prefer my SpaghettiOs soupier, any suggestions? If you prefer them to be more like soup, you can up the water by another ½ – 1 cup. Keep in mind that this will throw off the salt level a bit, so you might need to add in a pinch.
  4. How can I make this gluten-free? My best guess is that gluten-free pasta can be subbed out for regular pasta, however, I haven’t tested out this recipe with gluten-free pasta and am not sure how well it would hold up! I suggest trying a half batch of the recipe to see how it goes first!
bowl of spaghettiOs on white marble

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Yield: serves 2-4

Simple, Comforting Homemade SpaghettiOs

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 23 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Homemade SpaghettiOs are the ultimate comfort food! Make with just a handful of simple pantry ingredients, this recipe comes together in less than 30 minutes and can be a side, or a full meal!

Simple, Comforting Homemade SpaghettiOs


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or pressed)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 7 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes (or vegetable)
  • 2 cups dry anellini pasta (or ditalini will work too)
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese


    1. SAUTE: Add olive oil and minced garlic to a cold, large saucepan. Heat over low heat. The garlic will take 3-4 minutes to start sizzling, when it does, crank up the heat to medium, add the red pepper flakes, tomato paste, onion powder, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and allow the tomato paste to bloom and cook for 1-2 minutes or until it deepens in color and becomes a dark maroon. Stir often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
    2. BOIL: Add the apple cider vinegar, sugar, and stir to combine. Pour in the water and bouillon cubes, turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. When boiling, lower the heat to medium-low, add the pasta and stir to combine. The soup should be simmering but not too rapidly; cook the pasta for 12-16 minutes (typically, it takes 1-2 minutes over package instructions but start checking at the time the package indicates.) Stir often with a wooden spoon to make sure the pasta isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. Test the pasta for doneness. When it’s fully cooked, and the liquid thickens to a thicker consistency, stir in the cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve the SpaghettiOs in bowls, top with additional grated cheese before serving, if desired.

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