Make meatballs with turkey for low-fat spaghetti |

Make meatballs with turkey for low-fat spaghetti

AP Food Writer

Meatballs have an image problem.

People assume they are necessarily fattening, and that to be flavorful they must cook in sauce at a slow simmer for hours. People assume these things because plenty of recipes seem to prove them right.

Except that they’re wrong. A great low-fat spaghetti and meatballs dinner can be on the table in about 30 minutes.

Part of the problem is the meat. Many meatball recipes call for combinations of pork and beef. The assumption is that the bulk of the flavor must come from the meat.

Switching to low-fat ground turkey allows the cook to fiddle with the flavors of the meatballs and draw more from the ingredients added to the meat and the sauce, such as herbs and garlic.

So in addition to the traditional meatball seasonings, such as basil and parsley, I added smoked paprika and four cloves of garlic. One egg and a slice of whole wheat bread was more than enough to hold it all together.

To speed the process along – as well as get some nice browning – I spritzed the meatballs with olive oil cooking spray, then baked them for 15 minutes before adding them to my sauce.

As for that sauce, I turned to my favorite near-instant blend of canned crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil and balsamic vinegar. There’s plenty of room here for innovation, but be sure to keep the vinegar, which lends superb savory notes.


For the meatballs:

Olive oil cooking spray

1 slice whole-wheat bread

1 small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley

1Ú2 teaspoon salt

1Ú2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1Ú2 teaspoon dried basil

1Ú2 teaspoon paprika

11Ú4 pounds lean ground turkey

1 large egg (or equivalent egg substitute)

For the sauce:

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1Ú2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 T. balsamic vinegar

Pinch salt

1 pound fresh or dried spaghetti or fettuccini

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with olive oil cooking spray.

In a food processor, combine the bread, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, basil and paprika. Pulse for several seconds, or until the bread and parsley are finely chopped and the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add the ground turkey and egg, then use your hands to mix until well combined.

Form the mixture 1-inch balls and arrange evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet. Spritz the meatballs with cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a large, deep skillet over very low heat, combine the crushed tomatoes, black pepper, basil, oregano, vinegar and salt. Cover and let heat while the meatballs bake.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.

Once the meatballs have finished, add them to the sauce, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

While the meatballs simmer, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Top with sauce and meatballs.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.