Monday, October 18, 2010

everyday comfort

It's getting dark earlier, cool enough for sweaters, and it occasionally rains.  Perfect for salted caramel hot chocolate from Starbucks and good, hearty comfort food for dinner.  But let's face it, most people aren't really interested in eating a heavy, rich, (DELICIOUS, but unfortunately rich) meal on a normal week night.  So we all come up with ways to cut calorie corners and sacrifice flavor.  Not my style.  But I don't want to pack back on all of those baby pounds I've finally lost.  Which is why I bought this book.  I trust them to make delicious food.  And why not healthy delicious food, right?

Well, this isn't a recipe from their book, but I wanted to follow their philosophy of delicious healthy food.  But not as a wannabe version of something else.  I'm kind of a purist about ingredients and their purposes.  I don't think of tofu as a meat replacement.  I don't think pureed cauliflower can be a substitute for mashed potatoes.  Olive oil isn't a healthy alternative to butter.  Tofu, cauliflower, and olive oil each have their own gorgeous place in our palates.  Don't cheat them by using them as "healthy alternatives".  No, no.  Food is meant to be enjoyed and celebrated for what they are.

So let's not kid ourselves and think of this as a spaghetti and meatballs recipe.  Because it's not.  It's a turkey and vegetable "meatball" pasta recipe.  it's just a new thing.  But a nice hearty dinner without the guilt.  And I love it.  And it's pretty good for you.  But if you want real spaghetti and meatballs, please use lots of good meat and make it rich and hearty.  But for our Monday night, this worked out great as a new dish.

Turkey and Vegetable Meatballs with Spaghetti
1 lb spaghetti

for the sauce:
2 cans whole tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
1/2 onion, minced (reserve the other half for the "meatballs")
1 carrot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

for the "meatballs":
1 lb lean ground turkey (go for the 93/7, not the "extra lean" 99% fat free kind. you need that teeny little bit of fat to make it a juicy meatball)
1 carrot, minced
1/2 onion, minced (the leftovers from making the sauce)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C loosley packed flat peal parsley, minced
8 oz mushrooms (I used cremini, lots of good meaty flavor and makes the meatballs nice and moist), minced
1/4 C frozen spinach, thawed, and chopped small
2 T toasted walnuts (I know, weird. But it's an amazing texture and flavor), processed fine in the food processor
1/2 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 C panko
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt, though.  The cheese is plenty salty)
  1. In a large, heavy bottom pot, heat about 1~2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, and carrots, salt, and stir together occassionally until completely softened and browned, about 15 minutes.  Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the color changes to a reddish-brown.  Add the 2 can of whole tomatoes, breaking them up as you cook (or, if you prefer, pour them into a large bowl and crush them with your hands before adding to the pot).  Add salt and pepper to taste, bring the sauce down to a low simmer, and let cook until meatballs are done.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.  In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs and make each meatball with about 3~4 T of the veggie/turkey mixture.  Evenly space the meatballs on a baking sheet and place under the broiler until nice and browned and crunchy on top.  Add them to the pot of sauce and continue to simmer until meatballs soak in all the flavor and cook all the way through.
  3. Cook the pasta to al dente.  Right before tossing the pasta into the sauce, take out the meaballs (they're pretty fragile because they're mostly vegetable), and set aside.  Toss the al dente pasta right into the sauce pot, adding some pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary.  Serve sauced pasta with meatballs op top, and a little extra sauce on top of that.  Parsley and cheese, if you want:)  Oh, and a slice of good, crusty bread.  Yum!