A spaghetti and meatball entree is bold, leaving little ability for a side dish to stand out. This leaves two routes to go: complement or contrast. Equally important is what you want to avoid serving -- a competing meat, another pasta, a tomato-based dish, potatoes and sauce-heavy food.
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Traditional bread choices complement spaghetti dishes: garlic bread with olive oil dip, Texas toast, crusty French bread and cheese breadsticks. On the other hand, fried polenta sticks, sweet cornbread crackers and crescent rolls dipped in honey provide an intriguing contrast to your main dish. Bread can be served before or with the meal. In a casual atmosphere, food lovers may use soft-interior bread to sop up extra sauce -- and this is a consideration when serving spaghetti as comfort food.
Veggies pair well with spaghetti dishes. For a complement, consider French-style green beans, sauteed mixed vegetables, grilled zucchini wheels or corn cobettes. A simple salad with lots of crunch makes an interesting contrast -- go deep green with the base and add carrots, celery, baby mushrooms, radishes, red bell peppers, black olives or snow peas. Offer salad prior to the meal, but serve other vegetables along with the main dish.
Fruits and Desserts
Simple fruits such as broiled apricots, fresh cherries and black grapes all serve to complement spaghetti and meatballs, while chilled, freshly sliced sweet apples contrast the consistency and temperature of your main dish. Tiramisu and pound cake with lemon drizzle are excellent complements. If you're seeking a contrast, consider cinnamon ice cream or large, crunchy chocolate chunk cookies. Fresh fruits, as with dessert, should be served after the main course, but cooked fruits can be served alongside the spaghetti.
Drinks served during the meal should only complement, not contrast. Milk is a healthful option for both children and adults. Sweet tea and nonalcoholic wine are other solid choices. Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible, suggests on Health.com you find an acidic red or white wine to mirror the acidity found in tomatoes. A strong dish such as spaghetti and meatballs doesn't call for experimentation with drinks; this isn't the time to play with fruity teas or milk alternatives you haven't tried before.
Dinner Party Extras
When serving guests, you want to please as many palates as possible. Adding accompaniments that can be tossed into a basic spaghetti sauce makes for a welcome surprise. Grill or saute baby bella mushrooms, thick red onion slices and green bell peppers individually and place on a platter so each guest can choose their favorites. Similarly, have a sampling of cheeses such as a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a brick of extra sharp cheddar with a small shredder for individual use.