Healthy Spaghetti and Meatballs

turkey meatballs

Sunday night you’ll usually find me in the kitchen making some sort of more complicated than it needs to be dinner. And with that a pot of quinoa and sweet potatoes roasting in the oven for the week’s lunches. This Sunday I decided to keep things simple and make spaghetti and meatballs. Normally spaghetti and meatballs is an all day affair involving industrial-sized cans of San Marzanos, a couple of Italian ladies and a pork, beef, veal combination recipe so secret that you’ll probably have to pry it from your great aunt’s cold dead hands. But, I wanted to go for the “idea” of spaghetti and meatballs with something much healthier and faster. The verdict: use turkey and use lots of herbs and garlic. When you use turkey you won’t get that delicious salty fat from the beef and pork so you have to make up for it in your tomato sauce. What’s my secret? Anchovies! Anchovies are loaded with salt and flavor. If you don’t like them I sincerely urge you to try them in this sauce because they are just a flavor-booster: no fishy taste here.

A note about Quinoa pasta: As a pasta lover I have tried all the “healthy” alternatives like brown rice, whole wheat, and rye. None of those come close to the texture and subtle flavor of Quinoa pasta. I highly recommend that you give it a shot. You can of course use regular pasta instead.

Healthy “Spaghetti” and Meatballs

Serves 4

You will need:

1/2 box or 4 servings Quinoa pasta (I used penne)

1 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (chopped)

1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped + 1/2 small yellow onion, whole

3 anchovies (from a tin in oil)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1.3 lb. package of lean ground turkey meat

1 Tablespoon chopped thyme

1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley + more to garnish

1 Tablespoon rosemary, sage OR oregano (pick one)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 Tablespoon olive oil

2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan


1. To start the tomato sauce: mash the anchovies in a bowl with a fork in a splash of their oil.  In a large frying pan, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 chopped garlic cloves along with the anchovies and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, their juices and ½ an onion face-down in the pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat for 30-45 minutes.

2. To make the meatballs: preheat the oven to 350. Pulse 1 yellow onion, 2 garlic cloves and the herbs in a food processor until finely chopped. Add to the turkey meat in a large bowl and mix with the salt and pepper. Form into Ping-Pong-sized balls and set aside. Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add about 10 balls and cook without disturbing for 3 minutes. Give the pan a shake once they start to brown. Cook for 3 minutes on an additional side. Transfer to a baking dish. Repeat until all are browned. Place the baking dish in the oven for 10 minutes and then check to see that the meat is no longer pink.

3. Boil a pot of water and cook the quinoa pasta for 5-8 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water.

4. Transfer half of the tomato sauce to a blender and puree, then add it back to the pan with the chunky sauce. Add the reserved pasta water, pasta and meatballs and warm over medium heat. Add the Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with Italian parsley and a splash of olive oil.

healthy meatballs

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