Ah, the iconic spaghetti and meatballs. Everyone has a recipe and everyone’s recipes are a little bit different. The primary difference between all of theirs and mine is that mine is better. Just kidding! Well, sort of, I mean I think it’s better, but that’s probably just because it’s what I’m familiar with and therefore it has grown to be comfort food for me.
The real difference is that I use ground turkey meat for my meatballs instead of ground beef. The primary reason that I do this is because, the way I prepare them, the taste difference is not significant and, more importantly, they have half the calories and roughly 1/3 the fat of beef meatballs. (727 calories for 1.3 lbs of ground turkey versus 1,498 calories for 1.3 lbs of ground beef; 40.7 grams of fat in the same amount of turkey versus 117.9 grams of fat for the same amount of ground beef*.) As I said, the way I make them they don’t really taste different enough for me to justify using the beef but I do use the ground turkey that’s 93% lean and 7% fat (there’s not much you can do to doctor the 99% lean 1% fat to make it not taste like cardboard).
Years ago, I tried making meatballs that were just plain old meat and guess what! Yep, you guessed it, they weren’t very good. Meatballs need the filler from the breadcrumb, the cheese, the egg, the milk and the spices to make them moist and flavorful, otherwise they are just a greasy meaty mess. Par-cooking them in the oil and then finishing them off in the sauce also adds flavor from the olive oil and from the sauce because the outside gets crisp and caramelized and then the inside soaks up the sauce. Gosh, my mouth is watering already!
Oh, one more thing… this is a great work night meal. You can prep the sauce and cook the meatballs as far as the par-cooking in the olive oil and then stick it in the fridge. Then on the morning of the day you want to serve it for dinner just put the two together in a crock pot set on low and when you get home from work all you’ll have to do is boil up the pasta and throw together a salad and the meal is done. Also, you’ll come home to a house that smells divine.
Pasta with Meatballs
1 batch basic tomato sauce (enhanced with 1 extra can of crushed tomatoes and an extra 1/4 tsp of the spices)
1 package ground turkey, 93/7 (20.8 oz usually)
1/2 cup 2% milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
5 grinds fresh black pepper
Olive oil for frying
In a large bowl combine the ground turkey, eggs, and milk. Stir until the egg and milk is thoroughly incorporated into the meat. Mix in the minced garlic. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix together thoroughly.
In a large fry pan pour about 1/4 inch of olive oil and heat over a burner set to medium. When the oil is hot start rolling your meatballs and place them directly into the hot pan. (You can make them any size you want and it won’t impact the cooking time because they are going to do their real cooking in the sauce.) Brown them in the oil and then using a slotted spoon transfer them one at a time to the sauce pot.
Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for anywhere from 2 hours to all day in a Crock pot. Serve with cooked pasta and a simple salad for a quick and easy meal.
* The calories and fat information on the turkey and beef is from www.fitday.com and is based on a 20.8 oz quantity, which is the standard amount in a package of ground turkey