My Sicilian friend Katia first introduced me to this easy method of cooking meatballs. I stood in her kitchen watching her form and drop meatballs into simmering sauce, and wondered if perhaps it was an Italian secret. But after interrogating the wait staff at a variety of North End Italian restaurants, I found that the majority go for frying, touting the browned edges as flavor boosters. But I must admit, these meatballs, simmered in wonderfully flavorful sauce, impart their flavor and become meltingly tender, unlike their fried counterparts. I then thought that maybe this simmer method was specifically Sicilian, but in chatting with a colleague at work, discovered that his Sicilian wife bakes her meatballs. A mystery.
When it’s so cold outside that my eyes tear up as soon as I leave house, all I want is warm comforting food. Hearty food. But given the abundance of holiday treats and frequency of holiday parties this month, I’m trying my best to eat lightly in between the festivities. So healthy comfort food is the name of the game in December. And of course, with all those parties to attend, and cookies to bake, this is not the time of year for lengthy dinner recipes.
Which brings me back to these meatballs. Is there anything better than a steaming plate of spaghetti and meatballs? But ground lean turkey and egg whites make these lighter. And if you choose, whole wheat spaghetti is a great alternative for a bit more fiber. But what I love most about these meatballs is how they are cooked. Simply form the meatballs and drop them into the simmering sauce, no need for added fat.
How do you cook meatballs? Bake? Fry? Simmer?
If you have never tried the simmer method, I urge you to give it a shot. Tender meatballs, extra flavorful sauce, and no added fat from frying. I found this particular recipe in an old issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. I love the use of pesto to flavor the meatballs. You can use store-bought pesto or homemade, whichever you prefer. And good quality store-bought chunky tomato pasta sauce is just fine here. The meatballs will flavor the sauce itself anyway. But I like my quick-fix tomato sauce, so I have included that recipe for you below as well.
Turkey Pesto Meatballs
adapted from Bon Appetit
4 cups chunky tomato pasta sauce (store-bought or ee recipe below)
1 pound ground turkey
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/3 cup pesto (store-bought or homemade)
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound spaghetti
Bring the sauce to a simmer in a large pot. Mix together the turkey, breadcrumbs, pesto, egg whites, and salt. Form into 11/2 inch meatballs. Drop the meatballs gently into the sauce. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Serve the meatballs and sauce over the spaghetti.
Quick Fix Chunky Tomato Pasta Sauce
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 26 oz package of Pomi brand chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper
In a large pot, saute the garlic and onion in oil over medium low until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, and water along with the herbs, and simmer on low 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.