Pasta and meatballs – a classic comfort food. It was rainy and dreary this past weekend and I was in the need of some comfort…in the form of food. No surprise there 🙂 I love meaty tomato sauce with a bit of texture and a big serving of vegetables, and this dish is exactly that. I could even eat the sauce and the meatballs together without the pasta and still be a happy camper! Although there are only two of us at the dinner table and this dish could easily serve four, I love to make a big batch for leftovers to nosh on during the week.
If you are short on time or would prefer to use your favorite homemade or canned sauce, feel free! I like to make mine from scratch to avoid the added sugars and then I have the option to tweak the spices or herbs if I am in the mood for a change. Chris and I both like caraway seeds so I often add a teaspoon when I am sautéing the garlic for a flavor variation.
These meatballs are naturally low carb since they do not require breadcrumbs or another grain for the binding agent. Finely chopped mushrooms and parmesan along with an egg suffice in holding these meatballs together nicely! If you do not have ground turkey, you can substitute ground chicken (use dark thigh meat instead of breast meat for a higher fat content to maintain moisture) or a lean ground beef or bison with equally yummy results.
Turkey Meatballs with Spinach Sauce over Pasta
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms
½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 egg, well beaten
1 lb ground turkey (ground chicken or beef would work here too – do not use extra lean chicken/turkey or they will be dry)
For sauce (or use your own favorite pasta sauce)
2 tsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
3 cups baby spinach, torn
1 cup mushrooms, chopped (optional but I love mushrooms!)
28-oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, no salt added
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste (I like to use 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper in this sauce for a little kick)
Gluten-free pasta of choice (about 8-12 0z, depending on how much you want to eat)
Additional grated parmesan for serving, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. For the meatballs, add all ingredients except meat in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. Break up the ground meat and carefully incorporate/fold into the parmesan mixture. Do not over mix or the meatballs will become tough. Shape into balls (I use a tablespoon for ease) and place on baking sheet. Bake for about 10-13 minutes or until no longer pink in the center, then remove from oven.
2. While meatballs are cooking, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat oil in large saucepan on medium heat, then add onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms (if using) to pan, stir and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add spinach, canned tomatoes, tomato paste and basil, then stir. Add salt and pepper for taste and cook sauce for 5 – 10 minutes over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and let simmer.
3. Once meatballs are removed from oven, add to simmering sauce.
4. Cook pasta according to directions on the package and drain. Either add pasta to serving bowls, spoon sauce with meatballs over pasta and sprinkle with parmesan OR add pasta to sauce and toss to combine, then add to bowls and sprinkle with additional parmesan*. Enjoy!
*Depending on your preference, some people prefer to toss cooked pasta with sauce prior to serving while others like to spoon their sauce over the pasta. Italian chef and restaurateur Scott Conant and other professional chefs would say that it’s imperative to toss pasta with sauce before serving to incorporate the flavors…I’m not a pro chef so I say it’s completely up to you 🙂