Lightened up Zoodles and Meatballs with Spicy Marinara Sauce. A healthy meal perfect for a weeknight meal the whole family will love.
Happy New Year! I am starting off the year with some comfort food favorites lightened up for a fresh healthy start to the year.
Spaghetti and Meatballs. One of the ultimate comfort food meals. Typically not a super unhealthy meal – it’s not deep fried or anything, but I prefer to make mine a little more lightened up with less fat in the meatballs and swapping zucchini noodles or “zoodles” for traditional pasta. I am not the biggest fan of traditional pasta, so I substitute spaghetti noodles for the increasingly popular zucchini noodles or “zoodles” as they are called now. My kids love both so I give them a mix of both traditional wheat pasta and zoodles.
I have been making zucchini noodles for years and years now but before the spiralizing appliances/gadgets became popular I would use the larger holes on a box grater to make zoodles. They were more flat lingine like noodles than round spaghetti like ones, and I risked grating some knuckles when making them but it still worked. Now I use my spiralizer which gets the job done a lot quicker. And it is fun to see how long of a noodle we can make with it.
I typically make meatballs with a mix of proteins such as ground pork and pork sausage, ground buffalo, ground chicken or ground turkey. When I make them with ground turkey breast I find that they tend to be a little on the drier side than a fattier protein such as sausage so I will add in some ground pork or dark meat turkey to keep them juicier. I sometimes use pork sausage but to keep these from being too dry and not as fatty I go with the combo of ground turkey and 80/20 ground pork. I also add in a few other ingredients to bind them together while keeping them on the lighter side. I also bake in the oven on a broiler pan so the fat drains out but they still stay nice and moist. No one likes a dry meatball.
I also have a few “Secret” ingredients to my spicy marinara sauce that keeps in all the flavor while keeping it in the healthier spectrum of recipes. This recipe really is very versatile. Want to just make the meatballs but use a favorite jarred sauce? Go for it. Sometimes I don’t feel like making sauce from scratch. This sauce does freeze well, so do the meatballs. You can make both ahead of time and reheat for a quicker meal. I just suggest making the zoodles right before serving. I have found those don’t freeze as well. They tend to be very mushy when thawed. No one likes a mushy noodle. Or zoodle.
For the Marinara Sauce:
- 2 containers Pomi chopped tomatoes, drained
- 1 C roasted red pepper and tomato soup
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 medium yellow onion (peel, slice off 1/2 of the onion and leave in rings)
- 1 tsp ground garlic
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp dried shallot
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 5-6 drops fish sauce
- 1 zucchini
For the Meatballs:
- 2 lb Ground Turkey Breast
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 C Panko breadcrumbs
- 2 Large Eggs
- 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black Pepper
- 1 tsp dried Parsley
For the Zoodles:
- 4-6 Zucchinis
- 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
- Freshly shredded parmesan
- Dried Parsley
Make the Marinara Sauce:
Combine all of the marinara sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan except for the zucchini. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and let simmer to blend the flavors for at least 30 minutes. Remove half of the sauce to a blender including the onion and blend until smooth. Return to the saucepan. Trim the ends off the zucchini and grate with a cheese grater using the smaller holes. Squeeze out the excess water and add too the marinara sauce. Stir well and keep on low heat until ready to use. This can stay on low heat while the meatballs are cooking. Taste and add more red pepper flakes if a spicier sauce is desired.
Make the Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 400 Deg. F. Prepare two broiler pans by lining the bottom with foul, spraying the top with high heat oil such as avocado or grape seed.
Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and mix gently so you combine the ingredients well but don’t over work the meat. I like to use my hands to mix this. Using a small cookie scoop, about two tablespoons worth, or a meatball scoop, and scoop out even sized meatballs and place on prepared broiler pan. Bake in oven 20-23 minutes or until done. I check at the 20 min mark to make sure one is no longer pink inside. Let cool on the tray on minute then transfer to a bowl and keep covered with foil until all the meatballs are made. If you only have one broiler pan work quickly to clean off the top so the next batches don’t stick. Re-oil and repeat until all the meatballs are cooked.
Make the zoodles:
Trim the ends off the zucchinis and cut in half width wise. Spirals one half at a time.
In a large saute pan heat the coconut oil then add the spiralized zucchini. Saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly but being careful not to break the zoodles, until they start to slightly soften. You want them to still have crunch to them. They will go down a little in volume as they cook. Transfer immediataly to bowls then top with some of the sauce, a serving of meatballs (5-8) and a little more sauce. Garnish with freshly shredded parmesan and more dried parsley.
This makes 4 dozen meatballs and about 6 cups of sauce, plenty of leftovers if not eating all at once, or feeding large family/crowd. The meatballs freeze well and so does the sauce. Make fresh zoodles every time you make the dish. The don’t freeze well once spiralized.
You can make the marinara sauce ahead of time to save time.