I’m Back! And I Made Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs with Home-Made Sauce!

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Okay, I know. It’s been way too long since I’ve posted. I could bore you with many excuses about how I’ve been too busy or how being sick fol­lowed by the major hol­i­days really got the best of me and my time. But in real­ity, my heart just hasn’t been in it. I’m not sure why. Don’t get me wrong, I love cook­ing. But lately I just haven’t had the drive or inspi­ra­tion to come up with any­thing culi­nar­ily speak­ing, let along have it be any­thing good enough to post about. I’ve been in a rut. But I think this dish may have done a lot to pull me out of that rut. The sauce alone is by far the best I’ve made. Its bold and com­plex, yet not over­pow­er­ing and it per­fectly com­pli­ments the light­ness of any kind of pasta. But that’s not the rea­son I made this dish. It just so hap­pened that our most recent share from our CSA had fresh home­made whole wheat spaghetti in it and it made me  imme­di­ately start crav­ing meatballs.

Now I know that tra­di­tional meat­balls are at least beef and often a beef and pork mix­ture. Some even add lamb to the mix. While there’s no deny­ing the tasti­ness of those routes, we wanted some­thing a lit­tle on the lighter side. So we turned to turkey. But to keep them from dry­ing out, I braised them in the tomato sauce which kept them really moist and fla­vor­ful. Speaking of fla­vor, I did add some pork to up the ante a bit.

As for the sauce you can use your favorite sauce if you want, but I rec­om­mend try­ing mine. You can make it in a large batch and can or freeze it for later use. If you do end up mak­ing it, don’t skimp on the wine. I know that there is only 1/2 cup in it, but really good wine makes a big dif­fer­ence. I used the wine that we made last fall. It’s an Australian shi­raz and I’ve found that it’s per­fectly suited for cooking.

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Hopefully, I will now return to reg­u­lar post­ing. I’m sorry it’s been so dry here lately. I hate that I didn’t really do any good holiday-themed posts other than for Thanksgiving and that over the last two months I’ve really only had 3 posts. I promise to try to do bet­ter. For now, I hope you enjoy this recipe; we really did.

Spaghetti & Turkey Meatballs

3 slices pancetta or thick-cut bacon*, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 shal­lots, diced
2 cloves gar­lic, minced
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh pars­ley
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb ground turkey
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pep­per
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 quart tomato sauce (my recipe follows)

In a lightly greased non-stick sauté pan, over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crispy. Remove bacon with a slot­ted spoon to a paper towel to drain when done; leav­ing behind the grease for cook­ing. (*If you are going to use bacon, I rec­om­mend blanch­ing to remove some of the smokiness.)

In remain­ing bacon grease cook shal­lots until soft, about 5 min­utes. Add gar­lic and con­tinue cook­ing 2 min­utes. Remove onion and gar­lic with a slot­ted spoon to a paper towel to drain, leav­ing behind any remain­ing grease for cooking.

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In a large mix­ing bowl, com­bine bacon, cooked gar­lic and onion, and all remain­ing ingre­di­ents except for tomato sauce until mixed well. Form into 2″ balls. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium high heat. Sauté meat­balls until brown on all sides, about five minutes.

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Once all meat­balls have browned, remove them from the pan to a plate.

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Pour tomato sauce into sauté pan and bring to a sim­mer, stir­ring occa­sion­ally to com­bine fla­vors left in the pan. Add meat­balls to sauce and sim­mer cov­ered for 15 – 20 min­utes over medium-low heat to fin­ish cook­ing meat­balls. Serve over spaghetti, gar­nished with shaved Parmesan cheese.

And now, here’s my deli­cious pasta sauce recipe. It really is a great all-purpose sauce. You can fancy it up by adding more basil or gar­lic or even turn it into a vodka sauce. But, as it is, it’s pretty won­der­ful and would go per­fectly over any pasta with a gar­nish of Parmesan.

Ben’s Tasty Tomato Sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 car­rot, diced
3 cloves gar­lic, minced
2 quarts stewed toma­toes
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp. crushed red pep­per
2 bay leaves
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 Tbsp. but­ter
sea salt and freshly-ground black pep­per to taste

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In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, cook onion and car­rot in oil until soft, about 7 – 8 min­utes. Add gar­lic and cook for an addi­tional 2 min­utes. Add toma­toes, basil, wine, crushed red pep­per and bay leaves and stir well to com­bine. Bring to a fast boil and cook, stir­ring often, for 10 min­utes. Reduce heat to medium and sim­mer cov­ered for 20 min­utes, stir­ring occa­sion­ally. Remove lid and con­tinue to sim­mer for 2 hours, stir­ring every 30 minutes.

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Remove from heat and dis­card the bay leaves. Working in batches, process in a blender until desired con­sis­tency is reached.

Return to low heat and add but­ter and tomato paste. Stir in good sea salt and freshly-ground black pep­per to taste. Simmer for 30 min­utes. Serve hot or store in an air-tight con­tainer in refrig­er­a­tor for up to one week or freeze for up to six months. Makes roughly 5 cups.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Ben — wel­come back. Looks deli­cious — -who is your CSA? Supplying whole wheat pasta! that’s so great.
    Later this week I’m teach­ing a group of stu­dents to make Italian meat­balls — ours will be the tra­di­tional ground beef and Italian sausage, but I’ll have them take a look at your blog for your variation.

  2. Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Nancy! Our CSA is Avalon Acres. we decided to try their winter/early spring pro­gram since their summer/fall pro­gram was so won­der­ful. they planted some stuff specif­i­cally for this pro­gram such as turnips, rutaba­gas, parsnips, sweet pota­toes as well as can­ning a lot form the sum­mer like corn and green beans. there is usu­ally some sort of jam or pre­serve in the box also as well as some great fresh home-made whole wheat pasta. so far we’ve got­tne spaghetti a cou­ple times and some whole wheat egg noo­dles. i highly rec­om­mend them, can’t say enough great things about them!

    where do you teach? i’m hon­ored that you would show my blog in a class­room environment.

    • Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      We have a teach­ing kitchen/culinary arts cen­ter at Second Harvest Food Bank. This week, stu­dents on Winterim from Brentwood Academy will be hav­ing hands-on cook­ing classes.

      • Posted January 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        awe­some, i hope it goes well!

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