Mona’s Family Favorites: It’s so great when you can bring a fantastic vacation memory home with you by preparing a traditional weeknight meal. And even better, this meal is delicious, simple to make, and has a healthy twist! We combine my spinach-packed Tuscan Tomato Sauce with the meatballs for a great blend of protein and greens. By using leaner meat and baking the meatballs, you save on calories without any compromise on flavor. The trick is in the simmering, which makes the meatballs nice and tender. Thanks, Chef Luca! Serve over spaghetti (100 calories per ½ cup cooked).
- 1 batch Tuscan Tomato Sauce
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 ½ pounds (93%) lean ground beef
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 large egg white, beaten
- ¼ cup minced yellow onion
- ¼ cup Italian bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Prepare the Tuscan Tomato Sauce according to the recipe’s directions. Cover, and let sit over warm heat.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F, and spray a large sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl, use your hands to combine all of the remaining ingredients to make the meatball mixture.
- Form the meatball mixture into 36 meatballs that are 1 inch tall (about the size of a ping-pong ball). Place on the prepared sheet pan.
- Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes.
- Raise the heat on the tomato sauce to a simmer, and add the baked meatballs into the sauce.
- Cover, and let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 10 minutes before serving.
HELPFUL TIP: Using extra lean (98%) ground turkey in place of the ground beef will lower the calories in this recipe to only 85 calories per 2 meatballs with sauce.
Mona’s Family Favorites: This past spring, my family and I took a once-in-a-lifetime cooking class in Montepulciano, in the Tuscan region of Italy. Our chefs and hosts, Luca and Stefania of Villa Poggiano, taught us that the simpler the ingredients, the better the tomato sauce. While we only used a handful of ingredients, including fresh basil and spinach, to make this amazing sauce, the flavors melded into something far more than the sum of its parts. Isn’t that what great cooking is all about? Today, I use this as my go-to sauce for all of my Italian dishes. Delicioso!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28-ounce) can puréed tomatoes
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- Heat the olive oil and garlic in a stockpot over medium heat. Sauté for 2 minutes, just until garlic is fragrant.
- Add the puréed tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the fresh spinach to the sauce, and let cook for 5 additional minutes before serving.
HELPFUL TIP: Puréed or crushed San Marzano tomatoes are traditionally used in Italy. You can often find these in cardboard cartons near the canned tomato products in the grocery store. Puréed makes a thick and smooth sauce, while crushed makes a thin and chunky sauce.