Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs

To me, nothing says comfort food quite like a pasta dish - whether it be creamy macaroni and cheese with a crunchy topping or a hearty lasagna.  If you throw noodles in there then you've got a meal that warms and sticks with you throughout the rest of the evening.  My grandmother on my Mom's side used to make homemade noodles when I was a kid.  She then would make chicken and noodles.  The dish was legendary and it went with everything.  She served it more as a side dish than a main.  My brothers and I still talk about Grandma's homemade noodles and chicken.  One of my greatest regrets in life is never asking her to show me how the noodles were made.  As interested as I have always been in baking and cooking, I was still the too-busy teenager and then college student to ever think of that. 

I love spaghetti.  Thankfully, that's one dish my kids will readily eat up.  So it's a meal that I turn to often.  I started making my own pasta sauce last year.  Although, there are times, in a pinch, when I'll buy a jar.  I especially like the marinara that Trader Joe's sells.  It's ridiculous how much sugar is added to the typical commercial brands of pasta sauce.  The kind I make?  It has none!

My parents signed me up for a subscription to Food Network Magazine as a Christmas gift.  The day the first issue arrived in my mailbox, I could barely put it down.  Lots and lots of great recipes and beautiful, mouth-watering photographs fill page-after-page.  I had so may page corners turned down it was ridiculous!  It just so happens, the recipe here is featured on the cover of the January/February 2011 issue.

Let's face it; there's nothing new about spaghetti and meatballs.  It's not rocket science.  But, I wanted to try out this recipe, nonetheless.  Perhaps you'd like to give it a try as well.

Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs
Here's What You Need:
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic (mashed and minced)
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, divided
1 small piece Parmesan rind (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 pound 93% lean ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 slice stale whole-wheat bread, crust trimmed, bread shopped
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

Here's What You Do:
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook a minute.  Add the tomatoes with the juice.  I don't know about you, but I find canned plum tomatoes hard to find.  Again, Trader Joe's is one place I can always find them.  Really, though.  A can of regular whole tomatoes will do in a pinch.  The plum tomatoes taste a bit sweeter, in my opinion.  Throw in 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup basil and the Parmesan rind if you're using it.  I did not.  I'm not in the habit of having Parmesan rinds lying around my kitchen. No!  Really!  Sprinkle in some salt and pepper to meet your preferences and bring it to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer it until it begins to thicken.  It'll take about 8-10 minutes.  If you did happen to use the Parmesan rind, now is the time to remove it and tell it thank you and goodbye, forever!

Chop the remaining 1/4 cup basil, then mix it with the turkey, parsley, bread, ricotta, Parmesan, egg white and salt/pepper to taste.  Mix it up using your hands.  Form into either 4 large or 12 small meatballs.  I opted for the 12 small meatballs.  Doing so allowed for easy dispersal amongst my five family members and I knew if the meatballs were smaller they would cook up faster. 

Once formed, add the meatballs to the pasta sauce, and simmer, turning, until cooked through.  Should take approximately 6 minutes for the small meatballs or 12 minutes for the larger ones.

While all of this is going down... 

What?!  You never heard of multi-tasking?  Get out of my kitchen then!  Anyway, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water.  Drain and return to the pot.  Toss the noodles with some of the sauce and then divide among your serving plates.  Plop a couple uh meatballs on top of each place.  Add several healthy shakes of Parmesan cheese, a salad and some crusty bread and you've got a meal to warm you up on a cold winter night! 

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