Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash

Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Lean Ground Turkey (1)
  • 1/3 c Breadcrumbs (2)
  • 1/4 c Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 1 Egg
  • 3 tbsp Milk
  • 1 tbsp Granulated Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tbsp Dry Basil
  • 1 tbsp Dry Oregano
  • 1 tbsp Dry Parsley
  • 1 can Tomato Sauce
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Spaghetti Squash

Turkey Meatballs:

  1. Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a bowl, letting the milk fully soak and moisten the bread. Add a beaten egg and cheese.
  2. Add ground turkey, 1 tsp each of granulated garlic, onion powder, basil, oregano, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  3. Mix the ingredients together until combined, trying not to over-mix if possible. Create ~6 meatballs with the mix and set aside. (3)
  4. In your crock pot, pour half of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the cooker, enough to form a layer and base for the meatballs. Add remainder of dry spices, salt, and pepper, and mix to combine.
  5. Place the meatballs carefully into the crock pot, trying to space them out as evenly as possible. Cover with remaining tomato sauce. (4)
  6. Cook on high for 2:30-3:00, checking at 2:30 for an internal temp of 165*.
  7. When meatballs are done, remove them from the dish, and cover to keep warm.

Sauce:

  1. When meatballs are done, sauté minced garlic and a couple shakes of red pepper flakes in 1 tbsp oil.
  2. Once garlic is turning brown and very fragrant, add remaining sauce from the crock pot. (5)
  3. Simmer until sauce reduces and is no longer watery. (6)

Spaghetti Squash:

  1. Preheat oven to 400*.
  2. Slice Squash in half lengthwise. Lightly oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (7)
  3. Cook for 45-50 minutes for al dente noodles, and 1:00-1:15 for soft noodles.
  4. Using a fork, fluff and pull at the squash to release the strands and obtain noodles. Season with salt, pepper, and a touch of good quality olive oil.
  5. There are two ways to finish the dish. You can put the un-sauced noodles into a bowl, add meatballs, and top with sauce.
  6. The other way is the more traditional finishing method, where you add the noodles back to the sauce and mix to combine. In this instance, save a little of the sauce separate to top the meatballs with.
  7. Finish with grated cheese, fresh basil, and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, if desired.

Notes:

  1. You can use any and all types of ground meat here. We do this as a healthy dish so we prefer the 99% lean ground white turkey meat. One meal-specific advantage is that they won’t produce too much excess liquid in the crock pot while cooking, which is typically the downside to crock pot cooking. The slower cooking method, grated cheese, and added milk will help to keep them as tender as possible.
  2. In this dish I use unseasoned Panko breadcrumbs. I like controlling the dry seasonings, and the texture of the Panko goes well with the meatballs once the milk wets it.
  3. Meatballs can be made any size but I’ve found this quantity to be the sweet spot.
  4. In the past I’ve quickly browned the outside to “set” the meatballs before this step. I didn’t do it this time and they turned out great. My old rationale was twofold: First, to create a little color and extra flavor. Second, and more importantly, I used to have a small crock pot, and was afraid of stacking the raw meatballs and having them form together during the cooking process. I now use an InstaPot and they are spaced out evenly in one layer. I think you’d be OK stacking them.
  5. Typically crock pot meals get a little too much liquid because it can’t ever escape. Reducing the sauce and bringing out some of the natural tomato sugars in the reducing process will yield a much tastier end product.
  6. This stage is up to you. I tend to like very thick red sauces, and have just enough to coat the noodles without overpowering them. I’ve always thought a thicker sauce clings to the noodle better, creating a nice marriage of pasta and sauce.
  7. Parchment paper is used here just to ease cleanup down the road. Toss the paper and your baking sheet stays clean and dry.

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