StoryThyme: On Top of Spaghetti (The Meatballs are the Best Part)

StoryThyme is a celebration of Mother Goose poems, fairy tales, and children’s stories.  In true Hungry Bookworm tradition, I create a foods inspired by these magical texts.

Today’s poem is “On Top of Spaghetti,” made famous by Tom Glazer, who recorded this song on an album in 1963.

On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.

It rolled off the table
And onto the floor,
And then my poor meatball
Rolled right out the door!

It rolled in a garden
And under a bush
Now my poor meatball
Was nothing but mush

The mush was as tasty
As tasty could be
Early next summer
It grew into a tree

The tree was all covered
With beautiful moss
It grew lovely meatballs
In a tomato sauce

So if you like spaghetti
All covered with cheese
Hold on to your meatballs


Origin:  After doing some searching around on the internet, the main story that keeps coming up is that children at a camp in 1963 invented the lyrics, basing them off of the song, “On Top of Old Smokey.”

Thoughts:  I always thought that the concept of losing a meatball by sneezing was dangerous.  You see, I like my meatballs and I take them very seriously.  If sneezing would make a meatball roll away, well, gosh darn it, I was not going to sneeze at the dinner table.

At the same time, I was fascinated with the adventures of the meatball once it left it’s plate.  If Disney or Pixar wanted to come out with a movie about the adventures of a meatball, I would totally watch it.  In fact, I would wait in line with all of the 5-year-olds to see it in theaters.

Meatballs You Won’t Want to Lose

Now, these are not your traditional meatball, nor to I stick with this recipe every time I make meatballs.  At the same time, they are delicious.  Even the most beef-centric members of your household will like them. 


  • A big pot of tomato sauce
  • 1.5 lbs of ground turkey meat (I used 99% lean)
  • .5 lbs of italian style turkey sausage
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tbsp garlic
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh cut basil
  • 1 tbsp fresh cut thyme
  • 1/2 cup of chopped grilled vegetables (I had these on hand as leftovers and thought they would add more flavor and nutrition to the meatballs.  You do not have to add these in, but if you have leftovers, chop some up)


  • Get your sauce bubbling away on the stove.
  • Dump every other ingredient into a bowl.
  • Mix together (preferably with your hands).
  • Form in meatballs, however large you want them.
  • Place into sauce to cook.  Because the mixture is so lean, it does not release much fat into the sauce and the meat will practically melt in your mouth once cooked.
  • Place a cover on the pot and cook at medium-low heat for at least 1 hour.
  • Eat, on top of spaghetti, on a sandwich, or with your hands


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