Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spaghetti with Basil-Turkey Meatballs in Fresh Tomato Sauce

Comfort food 101: simple spaghetti and meatballs. But you can lighten up classic recipes by making the meatballs with ground turkey or chicken instead of beef or pork—and by baking them instead of frying in oil.

When a pasta dish includes only two toppings, those two toppings need to be as fresh and flavorful as possible. Here, the turkey meatballs are tossed in Slow-Cooker Heirloom Tomato Sauce, a slowly simmered sauce made only with fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, and sea salt. 

Yes, the sauce takes awhile, but the cooking is hands-off and the result is well worth it. (You don't need to use heirloom tomatoes—any medium to large fresh tomaotes will be delicious.)

Slow-Cooker Heirloom Tomato Sauce
That said, if you don’t have time for a slow cooker, use good-quality canned crushed tomatoes cooked over low heat about 20 minutes.

Serves 5-6

  • 1 lb ground turkey thigh meat
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup fine, fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 12-14 oz dry spaghetti
  • 1 recipe Slow-Cooker Heirloom Tomato Sauce (or 3 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes)
  1. Place the ground turkey, 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the next 6 ingredients (through Worcestershire sauce) in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Gently combine the mixture, without over-working.
  2. Divide and shape the turkey mixture into 18-20 1-inch-diameter meatballs. (Dampen your fingers with water if the mixture becomes sticky.)
  3. Place the meatballs in a single layer on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Bring to room temperature before baking. (May also be made a day ahead.)
Meatball Mixture 
Meatballs Ready to Chill
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
  2. Line a shallow baking pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on it. Bake until tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes, turning once halfway through.
Meatballs Ready to Bake
Baked Meatballs
  1. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente, 8-9 minutes. Drain.
  2. Heat the sauce in a large pot. Remove the meatballs from the oven and stir into the sauce.
Meatballs in Sauce
Add the spaghetti to the pot and toss to combine. Divide the pasta mixture among shallow bowls, allowing 3 to 4 meatballs per serving. Pass Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating at the table.

Spaghetti with Basil-Turkey Meatballs in Fresh Tomato Sauce

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