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Smart Spaghetti & Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

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I’ve been on a bit of a spaghetti and meatball kick lately – a craving my 7 year old has been particularly happy about. I came across this recipe for meatballs made with crunchy walnuts, which not only add a great texture, but provide a fiber and nutrient boost. To keep the meatballs moist look for ground turkey that is a mixture of both white and dark meat; if you’re short on time, swap in a jar of tomato sauce.

Smart Spaghetti & Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Recipe and photo courtesy of Walnuts.org

Meatballs:
1 cup fresh, whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped California walnuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
2 Tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
Scant 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb ground turkey
1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil, for brushing meatballs

Tomato Sauce:
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 32 oz can plum tomatoes, with their juices
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 lb spaghetti
1/4 cup tightly packed basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk; let sit for 10 minutes. Add the egg and mix well. Add the walnuts, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; mix well. Add turkey and using one hand, lightly mix and squeeze together, to combine well. Don’t over mix or the meatballs will be tough.

Form mixture, using clean hands rinsed with cold water to prevent sticking, into 18 walnut-size balls and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Brush the meatballs with the oil, or roll them in your oiled hands and set them back on the parchment.

Bake until firm when squeezed, but before they are overly browned, 15 to 20 minutes — they will continue cooking in the tomato sauce.

While the meatballs are cooking, heat the oil for the sauce in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice; bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking in the tomato sauce, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions.
Drain well and serve hot, topped with meatballs and sauce and garnish with the basil and parsley.

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