Springtime Spaghetti & Meatballs, For Two!
New favorite dinner alert!!
There are LOTS of reasons to obsess over this meal, so let’s get right to it. Because not only does it involve homemade sauce (duh), pasta (clearly), and only a little bit of cheese (health!). The star of the dish is the half-meat, half-veggie meatballs!
Otherwise known as the best hybrid food ever.
Currently I’m lightening up my entire diet — hello, crop-top season! — so these meatballs needed to follow suit. At first I considered doing the obvious thing and using ground chicken, but ugh. Ground chicken is THE WORST. I mean, not actually the worst, but overall it’s pretty lame, boring, and blah. So to skinny these meatballs up without losing flavor, I made them with a combination of extra lean ground beef and a slew of minced veggies.
And wouldn’t you know, I no longer want to eat meatballs any other way.
The key to keeping these meatballs juicy is a rough breakdown of 2/3’s meat, 1/3 vegetables. I used extra lean ground beef for the meat — 96% lean / 4% fat is my go-to — while the veggies are carrot, celery, onion, and leek! It’s an awesome little mash-up, and it’s so much easier to achieve than you’d think.
You start by prepping the homemade sauce, which is the same schpeel I’m always yapping about — DON’T BUY JARRED SAUCE. It’s garbage, and making it yourself is too easy for excuses. Once your sauce is cooking (I’m bossy today, sorry) you can focus on the meatballs, which take just minutes to prepare. Mince up the vegetables in your food processor, then combine them with the beef, egg, and Italian-style breadcrumbs. To compensate for the veggies I used a little more breadcrumbs than normal to make sure these didn’t crumble, but otherwise these went off without a hitch! Roll ’em into rounds, plop them onto a greased baking sheet, then coat in olive oil before baking in the oven. In just 25 minutes they’ll be browned, crisp, and ready for plating. And best of all? No turning!
Not only is this meal delicious, but it’s crazy low maintenance.
What I love most about these meatballs is that they’re wonderfully sneaky. Dave had NO clue these weren’t all-meat, and when I finally told him, he was thrilled! He literally couldn’t believe how tasty they were. The veggies add a real herbaceousness to this dish, it’s fresh, crisp, and so freakin’ yummy. The leeks are particularly critical, as their robust flavor really rounds out the other veggies nicely. And when you get that one perfect bite of spaghetti, sauce, meatball, and cheese?
Basically, every twirl of your fork is a downright delight.
Springtime Spaghetti & Meatballs
- 28 oz can peeled or crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/4 tsps basil
- 1 1/4 tsps oregano
- 1 tsp crushed or minced garlic
- several dashes salt
- a few pinches black pepper
- a few pinches granulated sugar
- 3 tbsps diced carrot
- 3 tbsps diced celery
- 3 tbsps diced yellow onion
- 1/2 leek, thinly sliced
- 1/3 lb extra lean ground beef (I used 96%/4%)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tbsps Italian breadcrumbs
- a pinch of salt & pepper
- 1 – 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil to coat
- 8 oz spaghetti pasta
- 1/4 cup grated sharp cheese (pecorino, parmesan, or asiago!)
- fresh basil to garnish
- Begin by preparing the sauce. In a large saucepan combine all sauce ingredients over a medium-low flame, adjusting the seasonings as needed and mashing the tomatoes with a potato masher if using peeled tomatoes. Cover and simmer, occasionally stirring and mashing as appropriate.
- Pre-heat oven to 375F. Lightly coat a shallow baking sheet with olive oil.
- In a food processor blend the carrot, celery, onion, and leek until finely minced. Next, in a large mixing bowl combine these minced vegetables with extra lean ground beef, egg yolk, breadcrumbs, and salt & pepper. Using damp hands, roll this mixture into six golf ball-sized rounds, then transfer to the greased baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to coat each round in olive oil, then bake for 25 minutes until crisped and cooked through.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti as directed, then drain and set aside. (the timing should coincide almost exactly with the meatballs)
- When ready, remove the meatballs from the oven and transfer to the pot of sauce. Ladle the sauce + meatballs over the cooked spaghetti, dispersing three meatballs to each plate. Top with grated sharp cheese and fresh basil, then eat!