Friday, April 1, 2011

Spicy Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs

I love all things Italian: food, opera, language, art, beaches, people and did I mention the food? While I have always had an affinity for Italian food, my love affiar with Italian culture skyrocketed in college when I took two years of Italian and spent a summer studying abroad in Tuscany. As a result, a lot of my cooking tends to have an Italian influence.

While spaghetti and meatballs is really more of an American Italian meal, it's still pasta and that's Italian enough for me! The thing I love most about this meal is how flavorful it is. The chipotle peppers add a spicy kick and help stretch the flavors of the tomatoes, onion and garlic without fat or filler.

The meatballs are great too even with carrots inside! In fact, if you're trying to find a way to incorporate or sneak veggies into a meal for non veggie lovers, this is a great way to start! The carrots provide moisture that the lean ground turkey naturally lacks and a touch of sweetness which is great. And bonus, you can't even taste it!

One final note before the recipe, the sauce here is chunky not thin so if you're used to a thinner tomato sauce on your spaghetti you could use an imersion blender or standard blender to puree the mixture so that you have a smoother sauce. Really, it's a preference thing here. Also, it's important to have all your meatball ingredients prepped before you start the sauce or it will cook down too much making an already thick sauce too thick. Now, on to the food!

1 28 ounce can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 T tomato paste
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced seeds included*
1 t dried oregano
1 sprig fresh rosemary
salt to taste
handful basil leaves, hand torn in strips

1 pound ground turkey
3/4 cup bread crumbs (preferrably whole wheat)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 large carrot, finely grated
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 T minced fresh parsley leaves
2 t minced fresh thyme leaves
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 t salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
whole wheat spaghetti

1. In a 4-5 quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add the onions and saute until translucent.
3. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
4. Add the chipotle peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, oregano and rosemary sprig.
5. Bring sauce to a low boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, allowing some moisture to cook off.
6. While the sauce is reducing, preheat the broiler and combine all the meatball ingredients into a large bowl.
7. Using your hands, mix the meatball mixture until all ingredients are incorporated and form into 1.5 inch sized meat balls.
8. Place on a greased baking sheet evenly spaced and place in the oven.
9. Broil on high for 10 minutes or until meatballs are browned and cooked through. Remove from oven.
10. While the meatballs are cooking, cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.**
11. When the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, stir in the hand torn basil and remove the rosemary sprig.
12. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for a few minutes to allow the meatballs to absorb some of the sauce.
13. Serve over pasta. Typically, 1/2 cup of sauce and 3 meatballs per serving. Top with grated parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

Adapted from Ellie Kreger's The Food You Crave
* You can use 1 or 2 peppers depending on the level of spice desired. I use 2 and include the seeds. If a milder spice is desired you can omit the seeds altogether.
** I like to cook only the amount of spaghetti needed for the night's meal so that the pasta is always fresh rather than reheated. An individual portion is typically a small handful of dried pasta, about an 1/8th of the package.

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