Baked Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash and Spinach Tomato Sauce

Meatballs are the perfect comfort food. Loaded up with lots of sauce and cheese over pasta…how could you not love that? I could probably eat Italian food every day for the rest of my life. But I do like to experiment with lightening it up, that way I can enjoy all the deliciousness without all the guilt. Introducing…turkey meatballs! Using ground turkey breast keeps these very low in fat, while adding chopped carrots and onion keeps them moist and tender. So they still taste just as delicious!

To keep calories even lower and add some nutrients, I used spaghetti squash instead of pasta. I usually love spaghetti squash in any traditional pasta dish, and it doesn’t disappoint here! However, I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t make pasta often because it’s “bad” or because carbs are “bad.” Because veggies have carbs too! However, 4 cups of spaghetti squash has the same amount of carbs and less calories than only 3/4 cup of whole wheat pasta! So as much as I love pasta, and do use it in a lot of dishes, in this case I used spaghetti squash because I like the taste, plus it allows me to have more calories to splurge on the meatballs and sauce 🙂

For the sauce, I kept it simple and just used a jar of sauce. I think people assume that because I’m Italian, I must make a fabulous homemade pasta sauce that I slave over for hours. But the truth is, I don’t have the time for that, and I also haven’t managed to make a sauce that tastes much better than the jar kind (but recipe recommendations are always welcomed!) My favorite is Newman’s Own Sockarooni – it’s a very flavorful blend of spices, onions and peppers, and chunks of tomato. I added a bag of spinach to it for an added nutritional punch. I topped it all off with some shaved parmesan cheese…perfecto! This is also a great freezer meal; I put two servings right into the freezer so I would have them for nights that I don’t feel like cooking!

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Baked Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash and Spinach Tomato Sauce

  • Servings: 4 servings
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Adapted from: Hello Healthy

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup matchstick carrots, chopped
  • 1/8 cup minced onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 4 cups raw spinach
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 4 cups baked spaghetti squash

1.) Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut spaghetti squash in half, length-wise. Scrape out seeds and pulp. Spray inside of each half with olive oil spray and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Bake on a cookie sheet, inside facing down, for about 45 minutes, or until the insides are easily scraped with a fork. Let cool, then scrape the “spaghetti” out into a strainer or large bowl lined with paper towel (to soak up excess liquid).

2.) While spaghetti squash is baking, prepare the meatballs. Chop the carrot and onion, then combine with the egg, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Add in the ground turkey breast and mix everything with your hands. Form into balls and place onto a well-greased cookie sheet. Once squash is done, lower oven to 350 F and bake meatballs for about 30 minutes, or until no longer pink inside. This recipe makes about 18 meatballs.

3.) While meatballs bake, heat olive oil over medium heat and add minced garlic. Add spinach, in bunches, until it is all wilted. Then add jar of sauce and let simmer. Feel free to add your own spices or other veggies to it!

4.) Once meatballs are done, add them to the simmering sauce and heat through for a few minutes. Serve 4.5 meatballs over 1 cup of spaghetti squash. Top with a hearty serving of sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 374
Fat 13 g (2 g saturated)
Fiber 8 g
Carbs 34 g
Sodium 831 mg
Protein 35 g

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Lightened-up Chicken Parm with Spaghetti Squash

I love chicken parm, and this recipe from Skinnytaste was perfect! Another win for the Skinnytaste Cookbook 🙂 The whole wheat bread crumbs add great flavor, as well as all the benefits of whole grains, and since it’s baked and not fried you save a ton of calories! I decided to serve it with spaghetti squash to keep the calories low. Enjoy!

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Lightened-up Chicken Parm with Spaghetti Squash

Adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 12 chicken tenderloins (about 27 oz)
  • 2/3 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 2 medium spaghetti squash
  • Shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1.) Cook squash (see oven instructions here). I like to cook the squash a day ahead, if I have time, and let it sit in a baking dish with paper towel overnight to soak up moisture. I didn’t have time to do that this time, so I just baked the squash before cooking the chicken!

2.) Preheat oven to 450 F and spray a baking sheet. Combine the breadcrumbs and parmesan in a small bowl. In another small bowl, melt the butter, then add olive oil.

3.) Brush butter and oil on both sides of chicken tenderloins, then dredge chicken in bread crumb mixture. Put tenderloins on greased baking sheet. Lightly spray top of chicken. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning over halfway through.

4.) Heat up marinara sauce on the stove or in the microwave.

5.) For each serving, top about 2 cups spaghetti squash with 2 tenderloins. Serve with marinara and mozzarella cheese!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 347
Fat 12 g
Fiber 6 g
Carbs 28 g
Sodium 910 mg
Protein 37 g

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sausage, Kale, and Red Pepper

I suppose I should start by saying, yes, I am alive…I haven’t posted in almost a month! Life has been crazy with work and school and all sorts of other things, so cooking new recipes has fallen on the backburner. I’ve been making lots of easy dishes that I’ve already posted on here, just because I haven’t had time to be adventurous. But this week I found time!

A few weeks ago I purchased the Skinnytaste Cookbook, which was written by Gina Homolka, the genius behind the Skinnytaste blog. I’ve always loved her recipes because she lightens up meals but still makes them taste amazing! She also makes a lot of Italian food lighter, which is a favorite of mine. You should definitely pick up her cookbook; everything looks mouth-wateringly good and there are appetizers, entrees, desserts, the whole 9 yards! I’ve been meaning to start making some of her recipes but hadn’t had time, so this week I found one that was quick and easy but looked delicious (and it was). Here it is!

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Whole Wheat Pasta with Sausage, Kale, and Red Pepper

Adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 20 oz (6 links) Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 6 cups baby kale**
  • 13.25 oz (1 box) whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (to taste)

Directions:

1.) Bring large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

2.) Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Heat olive oil, then add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook until soft, then add the sausage, breaking it into small pieces. Cook until sausage is lightly browned.

3.) Add in baby kale and cover the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook until kale is wilted.

**Use baby kale or cut the “stem” off regular kale! I had never cooked with kale before and I just used regular kale without cutting it, and the stem tastes bitter. So don’t make my mistake!

4.) Add cooked pasta to the skillet (or use a big pot if the skillet isn’t big enough). Turn to medium-high heat. Mix everything together and add 1/3 of the pasta water and stir. Add more water if it seems dry.

5.) Add parmesan, salt, pepper, and red paper, to taste, mixing everything together. Serve and top with a sprinkle of cheese!

Nutrition Info (Per serving, from My Fitness Pal):

Calories 418
Fat 8 g (1 g saturated)
Fiber 7 g
Carbs 59 g
Sodium 858 mg
Protein 30 g

Paleo Spaghetti and Meatballs

I decided to do a Paleo version of one of my favorites – spaghetti and meatballs! I had bought a spaghetti squash recently, had some fresh tomatoes, and decided I just needed to make some meatballs to go with it. I sort of made this recipe up, but it came out delicious and my boyfriend loved the meatballs (so they are man-approved as well). I also used the most phenomenal sauce I’ve ever tried: Newman’s Own “Sockarooni”. It has peppers, mushrooms, and tons of flavor. I know jar spaghetti sauces aren’t technically Paleo, but I tend to make things that are easy (because by the time I make dinner, I’m usually already hungry). I also baked the spaghetti squash the night before so that I only had to wait for the meatballs to cook. I’m too busy to sit around and make fancy dishes, but this one certainly tasted like I had slaved over it. Enjoy!

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Paleo Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Servings: 5-6 (makes about 2 dozen meatballs)
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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 spaghetti squash (I baked one new squash and had spaghetti from half of one frozen)
  • 2 lbs. ground meat (I used 1 lb. lean ground turkey and 1 lb. ground Italian sausage)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. almond meal/flour
  • 2-3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jar pasta sauce (about 24 oz.)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • Paprika (to taste)
  • Garlic powder (to taste)
  • Italian seasoning (to taste)
  • Cumin (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:

1.) Bake spaghetti squash (see step by step instructions here) and scrape “spaghetti” out of shells. Place onto paper towels on a colander/bowl and set aside.

2.) Combine ground meat, eggs, almond meal, and spices in a large bowl and mix by hand. Then roll into balls.

3.) Over medium heat, heat the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet. Then add the diced tomatoes and let simmer for a few minutes. My sauce came out a little watery (but thickened after standing), so maybe drain some of the tomato juices before cooking.

4.) Transfer the tomatoes to a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat, leaving some of the olive oil/juices in the skillet. Add the jar of sauce to the pan/dutch oven and cover.

5.) Start adding the meatballs to the skillet to brown them. Flip them over when they start to get brown. You don’t want to cook them all the way through, just enough so that they keep their shape. You may have to do this in batches! Once browned, add them to the sauce pan/dutch oven.

6.) Let meatballs simmer in sauce for about 20 minutes, or until fully cooked. Ladle sauce and meatballs over spaghetti squash and enjoy! If I wasn’t eating Paleo I would top with Parmesan or mozzarella 🙂

Lightened-up Italian: Spaghetti Squash Sausage Lasagna!

So we all know I love Italian food. I’ve been eating cheesy, saucy deliciousness probably since birth (when I was 2 my favorite food was spaghetti). Now that I am trying to make healthy versions of my Italian favorites, my go-to has been spaghetti squash. I had yet to try a “lasagna”, so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it (plus the picture was mouthwatering!) Last week I had picked up two hefty spaghetti squashes at the local farm, so last night I got to work and whipped this up! I tweaked the recipe a bit, because my squash were pretty big, and I made it as a casserole rather than in the little boats (which are much cuter, but the two squashes were too big).  I also added diced tomato because I had a bunch of fresh tomatoes! I am not a huge fan of ricotta, so I didn’t add a ton, but feel free to add more if you would like!

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Spaghetti Squash Sausage Lasagna

Adapted from: Skinnytaste

Ingredients:

  • 2 large spaghetti squash (I actually only used the “spaghetti” from 1.5 of the squashes and froze the last half – it made a ton!)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Italian seasoning, to taste
  • 1 tbsp basil (I used 3 of the Trader Joe’s frozen cubes)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used part skim)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 14 oz (4 links) Italian turkey sausage
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes (or any pasta/marinara sauce!)

Directions:


1.) Preheat oven to 400ºF. Poke a hole in the side of the squash and heat for 1 minute in the microwave (I find that this softens it a bit before cutting). Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and membrane. Season lightly with salt and black pepper; bake about 45 minutes (or longer if needed) on a baking sheet, cut side down.

2.) While the squash is cooking, 
heat oil and add onions and garlic in a large sauté pan on medium-low for about 3 to 4 minutes, until soft. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces until browned and cooked through.

3.) When sausage is cooked, add the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and basil, then cover, reducing heat to low. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes.

4.) 
When spaghetti squash is cooked (it will feel soft when you poke it with a knife/fork), let it cool for about 10 minutes, keeping the oven on.

5.) In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning.

6.) When the spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to remove flesh, which will come out in spaghetti looking strands. Drain the squash on paper towels to soak up any excess liquid (I line a colander with paper towels), then toss with half of the sauce in a 9 x 13 baking dish.

7.) Top with remaining sauce, ricotta cheese mixture, and  mozzarella cheese, then bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Then cut into 8 squares and enjoy!

I was recently given a large basket of fresh veggies (thanks to my friend Gary and Harvey’s Farm!) so I used some of the tomatoes in this sauce. I also had big ambitions to cook another Skinnytaste recipe (Eggplant Rollatini!) last night, since there was some eggplant in the basket and I had never cooked it before. However, I didn’t realize quite how long it would take me to make the eggplant dish, since I was already using the oven for the squash; basically I was just trying to be a beast in the kitchen and failed.

I had cut the eggplant into strips, salted it (to remove moisture/bitterness), and baked it, but that was as far as I got since the parchment paper under the eggplant tried to set itself on fire in the stove (while the lasagna was in there of course).  I pulled the eggplant out of the oven, fuming and running around trying to do 20 things at once, until my boyfriend convinced me to calm myself and just sit down and watch TV. He also helped me do dishes and finish the squash lasagna (bless his soul for dealing with me in the kitchen!) So in the end, I froze the cooked eggplant, hoping I can come back and finish the rollatini at another time, and successfully made the squash lasagna. Note to self: don’t try to make multiple complicated dishes at once! However, later this week I plan to try at least one zucchini/summer squash “spiralized noodle” recipe – stay tuned!