Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti

**This post has been updated since it’s original posting date in December 2009**

My husband and I love pasta.  We could, and do, eat it several times a week, every week.  Usually we just make some pasta to toss with veggies and some chicken, but every once in a while we need to dress pasta up for company.  And that’s where this recipe comes in.  It is a combination of recipes from 2 of my favorite Food Network chefs – Ellie Krieger, who makes healthier versions of traditional dishes, and Rachael Ray, who has great ideas for making quick meals.

The dish includes turkey meatballs, quick homemade tomato sauce, and whole wheat spaghetti – incredibly healthy, simple, and impressive and tasty enough for company, especially when served with a salad (e.g., caesar, or simple arugula) and some bread.  The sauce is also versatile – you can use it whenever you need a basic tomato sauce, since it comes together so quickly!

 

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Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti
adapted from Food Network (here and here)

Meatballs
Cooking spray
1 pound ground turkey meat
1 slice fresh whole-wheat bread
1/2 cup carrot
1/2 small onion
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 cup chicken stock (or beef stock if using sauce with traditional meatballs or meatsauce)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
10 leaves fresh basil leaves, torn or thinly sliced
Splash of red wine (optional)

Other
1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
Additional parmesan/romano cheese for passing at the table
Crusty bread

Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Preheat the broiler on high.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with a non-stick spray (olive or canola oil).

Place the ground turkey in a large bowl.  Remove the crust from a slice of wheat bread, pulse to crumbs in a food processor, and add to turkey.  Finely chop onion, garlic, and carrots in the food processor and add to turkey.  Add remaining ingredients (parmesan, egg, thyme, salt, and pepper) and mix well with clean hands.  Divide mixture into 12 lightly rolled balls and place on prepared baking sheet.

Place a saucepan over medium heat.  Wipe out the bowl of the food processor and add chop onion and garlic for sauce.  Add oil, onion, garlic and red pepper to pan and sautee.  (Note that this is half the red pepper from the original recipe, which I think is enough to add subtle heat – feel free to add more if you prefer).  Once onions are soft, add crushed tomatoes and stock and simmer.

At this point, place the meatballs under the broiler for approximately 8-10 minutes, until tops are brown and meatballs are almost entirely cooked through.  Take the meatballs out of the broiler, and add to the sauce along with the basil and wine (if using)*.  At this point, salt the boiling water and add spaghetti.  The meatballs will keep cooking in the sauce while the pasta cooks.

When the pasta is ready, drain and toss with a few ladles of sauce, and pour the rest of the sauce and meatballs on top.  Serve with salad, bread, and additional parmesan or romano cheese.

Serves 4 hungry adults

*This sauce is somewhat chunky, with obvious pieces of tomato and onion.  If you prefer a smoother sauce, feel free to use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the sauce before adding the meatballs, basil, and wine.

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