Recipe Resuscitation: Spaghetti & Meatballs
This is my first "Recipe Resuscitation" post where I'll be creating a healthier spin on a classic dish. This recipe is my version of one of my favorite comfort dishes- spaghetti and meatballs. Traditionally, Italian meatballs are made using a combination of beef, pork, and veal and most often they're shallow fried before being simmered in tomato sauce. In my dish, I use ground turkey which is lower in calories and fat. I also bake my meatballs in the oven instead of frying them (thus using much less artery-clogging oil), and then finish them by simmering them in my quick homemade tomato sauce. The key to using ground turkey is to infuse it with ingredients that add a lot of flavor and moisture to the meat. I have two secrets to ensuring a delicate, moist meatball. First, using a box grater, I add grated onion to the meat. And second, I incorporate bread that's soaked in milk. Both add moisture to the meatballs, and the bread also acts as a binder to hold them together. Be careful not to overwork the meat when you're mixing all of the ingredients together otherwise the finished product will become tough. Instead of regular pasta I use quinoa pasta. Although it has a slightly different texture than traditional semolina pasta, it tastes good and my husband Pete and I really like all of its healthy qualities (you can read more about quinoa in my previous post "Ingredient 911: Quinoa- The New Super Food").
So the next time you're looking to make a hearty, comforting Sunday dinner without feeling guilty about the calories, try out this recipe.
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the quinoa spaghetti according to package directions. Do not overcook. Drain and set aside.
To make the meatballs, soak the bread in the milk in a small bowl. Set aside.
Combine the ground turkey, garlic, grated onion, parsley, egg, cheese, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Remove the bread from the milk and squeeze out any excess liquid. Break the bread up into small pieces and add it to the turkey mixture. Mix to combine being careful not to overmix the meat. Form the meat into approximately 16 meatballs, about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Place the meatballs on a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
While the meatballs are baking, make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, another 2-3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes, and oregano and stir to combine well. Simmer while the meatballs are baking.
When the meatballs are done, remove them from the oven and add them to the sauce. Cover the pan and simmer them in the sauce about 15 minutes, until they are completely cooked through. Stir in the fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
To serve, toss the cooked spaghetti with the tomato sauce and place in a large serving bowl. Arrange the turkey meatballs on top. Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil. Serve with crusty Italian bread and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the side. Mangia!