Healthier Spaghetti & Turkey Meatballs

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It was a cold winter day and all I wanted to do was stay in and eat some comfort food. So, what did I come up with? Spaghetti and Meatballs!

This classic combo, while delicious, isn't always the healthiest. With a load of unrefined carbs and fatty ground beef, it really can make a killing on my "try to eat healthier" kick. For this reason, I decided to up the nutrition by using whole wheat thin spaghetti and ground turkey for the meatball. Since I can't take credit for this all on my own, I want to thank my lovely meatball-rollers and also Ellie Krieger of Food Network for the recipe.


Whole Wheat Pasta & Turkey Meatballs

Meatballs
1 pound ground turkey meat
1 egg
1 carrot, finely grated/pulsed
1/2 large onion, finely grated/pulsed
1 slice whole-wheat bread, pulsed into crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
pinches of salt & pepper

Tomato Sauce
3 cans of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, liquid included (14oz)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
pinches of salt & pepper to taste
1 box of whole wheat thin spaghetti

Just like any ol' pasta recipe, there's a few parts: pasta, sauce and for this recipe, meatballs. Now the multitasking begins!

Pasta

Start by boiling water. I always put a tablespoon or so of salt into my pasta water because this is the only time you get the flavor the pasta itself. Once the water is boiling, put the pasta in and cook till al dente (or however mushy you like your spaghetti). Before draining, remember to reserve a cup or so of the pasta water so that you can thin out your sauce later if you need to.

I chose whole wheat thin spaghetti because I've had normal whole wheat spaghetti, and it's kinda wheat-y. If you want the healthy part, but don't want to taste it entirely, the thin spaghetti has a great texture.

Meatballs


Using my trusty Cuisinart Immersion Blender chopping attachment (a blender or food processor will do just fine), I first pulsed my slice of whole wheat bread into tiny pieces. Put into mixing bowl. Peel carrot and roughly chop onions and pulse into tiny pieces & pulse into tiny pieces (you don't want huge clumps in your meatball). These 3 ingredients will give your meatball some moisture and make it more fork-tender. I've tried making a straight up meatball before - it's definitely really tough...woops!


Add the ground turkey, egg (this helps bind everything together), and seasoning and mix! If you don't have those specific spices, any "italian seasoning" mix will help you just fine. If not, plain salt & pepper will do just fine!

Turn on the broiler in your oven and start making your meatballs: Roll it into 1 in. balls, (or whatever size you want your meatballs, just keep in mind, the huge ones take longer to cook in the middle) and place on a oil-coated flat sheet for broiling.

Cook for 10 minutes (or if your oven was weak like mine, then perhaps until the meatballs have browned a bit) - Roll over your balls, and let it broil for about 3-4 minutes more. Once again, do this to your discretion, but be careful! I think I slightly overcooked my meatballs. =[ If I were to do this again, I would have stopped cooking it once a lot of the parmesan cheese was oozing out of the ball - you'll see what I mean.

Sauce


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan in medium high heat. Once hot, put in your onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, until slightly tender. Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Then put in your fire-roasted tomatoes, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 teaspoons dried oregano and 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (cause I like my food spicy!). Let the sauce cook as your meatballs are broiling. This should cook for about 10-15 minutes as well. Once your meatballs are done, toss it in the sauce and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Toss in your fresh basil leaves at the end, and voila, you're done!

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