Spaghetti with Turkey & Zucchini Meatballs

Spaghetti with Marinara Suace & Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs


I must have been Italian in a past life.

I love cooking spaghetti and meatballs.  The actual process of cooking this meal is so enjoyable.  I think I enjoy the cooking as much as I enjoy the eating (and I DO enjoy the eating).  Preparing a homemade marinara sauce and rolling up delicate little meatballs is extremely therapeutic.  My perfect Sunday afternoon incorporates a sauce simmering away on the stove and a few glasses of full bodied red wine.  (Note, red wine consumption while making this dish is highly encouraged.) During all the chopping, stirring, mixing, rolling, simmering, and sipping, I can tune out the everyday stresses of life and just get in my own zone.

A classic meatball recipe uses a combination of beef, pork, and sometimes veal.  I indulge in these delicious classic meatballs a couple times a year.  In an effort to make this dish on a more regular basis, I lighten it up by using ground turkey.

By adding grated zucchini and onion, I was able to boost the flavor and moisture profile of the meatballs.  With the absence of fat in the turkey, the addition of the “zuk” and onion is key.  Soft and succulent meatballs are achieved by simmering them in the marinara sauce.  In this instance, I served the meatballs and marinara sauce over spaghetti, but they can also be served without noodles.  Just add grated parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and loads of fresh bread to sop up the sauce.

Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs


The next time you need a little kitchen therapy, whip up a batch of these healthier meatballs in marinara sauce.

Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, pulsed in a food processor or blender until a smooth puree has formed
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy, or leave it out if you do not like spice)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, leaves torn
  • 12 oz spaghetti
  • parmesan cheese and basil for serving

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 onion, grated
  • 1 cup zucchini, grated and squeezed to release some of the extra water
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated (fine)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I made my own by processing 3 slices of day old bread in a food processor)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tbsp milk (I used skim)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper


To prepare marinara sauce, heat a large pot over medium – medium high heat and add olive oil.  Add chopped onion and cook 3-5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant (be careful not to burn the garlic).  Add tomato paste and stir into onion and garlic mixture, cook 2 minutes.  Add tomato puree, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes (if using).  Bring sauce to a light boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook for 1 hour and add basil.  At this point, the marinara sauce is ready for the meatballs.

Meanwhile, prepare meatballs.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well incorporated.  Measure 2 tbsp of mixture and roll into a small meatball.  Place on baking sheet leaving space between each ball.  Repeat until all mixture is gone (makes 18 meatballs).  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove meatballs from the oven and add to marinara sauce.  Cook in marinara sauce for 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook noodles according to package directions and reserve.

Toss spaghetti with a liberal amount of marinara sauce (no meatballs yet) in a large bowl.  (Note, you will not use all of the marinara sauce, just add enough sauce to coat the noodles).  Divide spaghetti among 6 bowls, top each bowl with additional marinara, 3 meatballs, loads of parmesan cheese and torn basil leaves.  Serve with fresh bread.

Serves 6 (Serving Size: 1 cup cooked pasta (2 oz dry) with marinara sauce, and 3 meatballs)

Spaghetti with Marinara & Turkey and Zucchini Meatballs


One thought on “Spaghetti with Turkey & Zucchini Meatballs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: