Turkey Meatballs: Part 4 – Marinara Turkey Meatballs over Quinoa

We’ve finally made it to the last installment of my turkey meatball series. As you’ve read, most of my turkey meatball recipes are healthy spins on old favorites. First and foremost, the turkey meatball itself is a healthy spin on a traditional Italian meatball, using brown rice instead of bread crumbs and extra lean ground turkey instead of pork or veal. Then we had the turkey meatball lettuce wrap take the place of a traditional meatball sub, and the turkey meatball soup is a healthy version of a matzoh ball soup.

Part 4 is the  pièce de résistance in my healthy swaps. Instead of serving a traditional meatball over a pile of pasta, I’m serving the already-healthier version of meatballs over quinoa with a big scoop of marinara. It absolutely satisfies my craving for Italian food (which I crave often), while being much more figure friendly. I bring this to work for lunch all the time, and my coworkers always ask, “What smells so good?” The quinoa soaks up the garlicky marinara, and the herbs in the sauce bring out the oregano in the meatballs. It’s a perfect, delicious, guilt-free weekday meal that takes virtually no time to make.

Already packed in a Tupperware for lunch. Yum.

What you’ll need (makes 1 serving):
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup marinara sauce (whatever is in your cupboard)
4 turkey meatballs

What you’ll need to do:

This recipe is less about cooking, and more about assembling already cooked ingredients. I usually have quinoa already cooked and packed in Tupperware in my fridge, the turkey meatballs have already been cooked on the weekend, and I just use a store-bought jar of sauce.

If you don’t already have the quinoa cooked, simply follow my Quick and Easy Quinoa recipe. You need one part quinoa to two parts water. Like I mentioned, I usually make a big batch and store it in my fridge for up to a week. If you haven’t already made your quinoa, bring your quinoa and water up to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as the water starts to bubble, cover and turn the heat down to low. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Assemble your dish by putting down 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, top with the turkey meatballs, and slather with the marinara. If you’re bringing this to work for lunch, just reheat for 1 minute on high in the microwave. Delish!

Angel Hair Pasta with Lemon, Garlic, and Parmesan

While a more traditional red sauce is always good with pasta, a lemony-butter sauce is my no-contest favorite. This pasta is refreshing and light, while still tasting totally decadent. It’s made with all kitchen staples and only takes about 15 minutes to make, so it’s super easy to whip up any night of the week.

It's tart, creamy, garlicky, and extremely delicious. After this easy treat, you'll never want to order in pizza again.

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):

4 cups angel hair pasta
3 tbsp margarine
2 tbsp garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
10 frozen precooked shrimp (optional)

What you’ll need to do:

First, get water boiling in your very large pot.

While you wait, start defrosting your frozen shrimp. It’s super easy. Just put the shrimp in a bowl and run cold water over it, changing out the water every couple minutes. You can do this while everything else is cooking on the stove. Before you know it, the shrimp will be done. I think shrimp makes this dish feel extra special, but you can just as easily use chicken if shrimp isn’t handy.

Side note on shrimp: Although I didn’t include frozen shrimp in my kitchen staples, you’ll often find a bag of precooked shrimp in my freezer to jazz up pasta, a salad, or an omelette.

After the water is boiling, dump in your angel hair pasta. It only takes a few minutes to cook because it’s such a thin pasta, so keep a close eye on it. Once it’s done cooking, drain in a strainer and then return to the pot.

Pasta tip: Toss the pasta with a couple tablespoons of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking.

While you’re keeping a close eye on your pasta cooking, it’s easy enough to make this simple sauce on the next burner over. What you’ll need to do is put a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add the margarine to your pan, and once it starts to melt add the garlic. Let the garlic saute in the pan for a couple minutes.

Be careful to not put your heat up too high or you'll burn the garlic.

After the garlic is a nice golden-brown, add the lemon juice, olive oil, and lemon pepper. Let the sauce simmer over medium-high heat for just a minute to let the flavors blend together.

Tip: I use my palm as a measuring spoon when I cook. When I cup my palm, half a palm-full is about 1 tsp. A full palm-full is about 1 tbsp. The best part about cooking (in my opinion) is that you don't have to be too exact, so have fun with it! And using your palm saves a dish, so it's a double-win.

By now, the shrimp should be defrosted and the pasta should be ready to go. All that’s left to do is combine all the ingredients together. Toss the pasta with the sauce simmering on the stove. Then, add the Parmesan to your pasta, saving a little to sprinkle on the top.

Scoop a giant mound of pasta on your plate, top with the shrimp, and then sprinkle the little bit of extra Parm on top. And buon appetite! A molto delizioso, 5-star Italian feast.

Loaded Pasta Sauce

Pasta sauce is one of the best ways to load up on extra veggies, use up what needs to be eaten in your fridge, and to fool other people into thinking you’re a gourmet chef … all in less than 20 minutes.

So delicious and packed full of nutritious veggies.

The basic premise is this: Take all the veggies you need to eat in your fridge (or whatever is on sale at the market) – onions, zucchini, carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, peas, whatever – and combine them with a jar of store-bought pasta sauce, some extra garlic and dried basil. What you’re left with is a delicious semi-homemade sauce full of healthy veggies, all done in one pot while your water is boiling and pasta is cooking (hooray less dishes!).

What you’ll need:

  • 1 jar of pasta sauce – I prefer tomato basil because it’s easier to add to, but any jar will do
  • Tofu – you can also use chicken, but you’ll have to cook it in a separate pan
  • Veggies – all the veggies and amounts can be changed or modified, but this is what I used in this dinner
    • 1 small-medium onion
    • 1 zucchini
    • 3 carrots
    • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp garlic
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • Pasta – your choice! I went for tortellini, my favorite

    Tips for finding the right veggies: Look for a hard, waxy bell pepper; tight onions are the freshest; look for a zucchini and carrots with the least amount of blemishes, they'll be peeled anyway.

What you’ll need to do:

Start by filling one pot with water and get it boiling on the stove for your pasta. Then, spray another large pot with cooking spray and set it over high heat.

Slice your tofu into cubes – it takes the longest to cook so you want to get this in the pot first. After the whole block is sliced, put it in your pot.

Slice twice through the middle, then in a grid pattern on top to make cubes.

The onion goes into the pot next so it can caramelize and cook until it’s clear and sweet. After the onion is added to the tofu, dump on a couple spoonfuls of garlic and stir.

Keep in mind, the amounts are not exact. I say 2 tbsp in my recipe list, but you can add however much you like. I use the spoon I'm going to stir the sauce with and drop in two spoonfuls to save a dish.

By now, the water for the pasta is probably up to a boil. Make sure to get that pasta in the pot before you chop your veggies. Then, while the tofu, onions, garlic, and pasta are cooking, peel and chop all the veggies you’ll want in your sauce.

After all your veggies are chopped, dump them into the pot with the tofu, onion, and garlic and stir – the tofu should be slightly golden-brown and the onion should be clear. I like to cook the veggies without the sauce for just a minute before I add the tomato sauce.

Try to chop your veggies about the same size as the tofu - the more similar in size the more uniformly they'll cook. But don't worry about it being exact; the less perfect, the more rustic.

Meanwhile, it’s probably time to drain your pasta. Check to see if it’s cooked all the way through (taste test is the best), and drain in your strainer. Add the pasta back into the pot, and drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking.

It’s time to add your jar of sauce and dried basil to your veggies. Cook for another couple of minutes to let the flavors marry, and then it’s go time.

Tip: Adding your veggies at the end leaves them a little crunchy, adding texture to your meal.

Buon appetito! You successfully sneaked in loads of vitamins and nutrients into a weekday meal, fooled your family with a deceivingly rustic homemade pasta sauce, and made enough leftovers to pack as a lunch or have another night for dinner – all in less than 20 minutes. It’s the perfect hearty, healthy meal for any cold night or comfort food craving.