Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Better For You" Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs

Everyone has their own version of the classic spaghetti and meatballs dish.  Most moms make it often because nearly every kid will eat it.  My three year old daughter is no exception, thankfully.  That is a miracle too since she is so picky about most things.  I'm so glad that I now found a "better for you" way of making this meal.  In this version printed below, I have pureed broccoli and carrots hidden inside.  There is also cottage cheese that adds extra protein to the dish.  I'll never make spaghetti and meatballs any other way again! 

How did I come up with this recipe you may be wondering?  Well, last year right around this time after Christmas, I became committed to changing my eating habits and cooking healthier.  One of things I did was research online how to input more vegetables into my diet.  Several friends recommended I purchase the book "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld.  So I did.

Seinfeld's methods of pureeing helped me jumpstart my own meal plan for sneaking vegetables in my family's foods.  Why didn't I ever think of putting pureed broccoli into meatballs?  Why hadn't I ever used pureed carrots in my spaghetti sauces, ketchup and other red gravies?  Her ideas gave me inspiration and courage to try more of this type of prepping and cooking for my family.  One of my favorite recipes from her book is the spaghetti pie she makes.  However, I wanted my dish to be more like tradtional spaghetti and meatballs, with more sauce than she had.  So I changed up her recipe to make it work better for my family.  Here is the very tasty end result:

"Better For You" Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs
(Serves 10 to 12)

Adapted from Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious Spaghetti Pie

For the meatballs:

1 pound of lean ground turkey
1 cup of pureed broccoli
2 large egg whites OR 1/3 cup of egg whites or egg alternative
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp of onion powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1/8 tsp of pepper
dash of Cajun seasoning

For the spaghetti noodles and sauce:
7 oz (or half of your traditional size box) of whole wheat spaghetti noodles
36 oz (or 1 and 1/2 jars) of all natural tomato sauce, any variety you like best
16 oz (2 cups) of fat-free or reduced fat cottage cheese
1 cup of carrot pureed or finely shredded carrots
2 tbsp of Parmesan cheese
1 cup of reduced fat shredded cheese, mozzarella or cheddar or any variety you like
1/2 tsp of oregano
1/4 tsp of salt
1/8 tsp of pepper
dash of Cajun seasoning

For the topping:

1/2 cup of reduced fat shredded cheese, mozzarella or cheddar or any variety you like
Additional Parmesan cheese, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Generously grease a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Cook the whole wheat spaghetti noodles according to the package (boiling them with a bit of salt). 

While the noodles are cooking, prepare your meatballs.  In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, pureed broccoli, egg whites, Parmesan cheese, garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper and seasonings.  Form 1 inch size meatballs with the mixture.  I made about 30 meatballs with mine.  Stack the meatballs in the mixing bowl and set aside while you make the sauce.

Don't worry about the green tint in the meatballs or your kids/husband finding out.  Soon they will be covered in cheese and the family won't know the difference!

Check to see if the noodles are done boiling.  When they are, drain in a collander. Set aside for just a moment.

Now you can prepare the sauce.  In a separate large bowl, pour in the drained noodles.  Mix in the 36 oz of tomato sauce or pasta sauce.  Note: I will often look for grocery store deals on the all-natural red spaghetti sauce, such as buy one, get one free.  I stock up when I can like I did with the Prego bottles recently.

Use 1 and 1/2 jars of tomato sauce for this recipe.  Or make your own tomato blend sauce if you're nifty like that and have the time to do so!

Pour in the cottage cheese, pureed or shredded carrots, Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of shredded cheese, oregano, salt, pepper and seasonings.  Blend well.  You should not even be able to tell the carrots are in there!  :-) 

Now place the spaghetti noodle and sauce mixture at the bottom of the greased 13x19 inch baking pan.  Top with the meatballs, spreading each one out in rows.  I made about six rows of five meatballs each.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and more Parmesan cheese if desired.

Everything looks better with cheese on top, am I right?!   (Sing with me - "On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese....")

Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.  Edges of pasta will be bubbly and tops of meatballs will be browned.  Let cool for about ten minutes before serving.  Enjoy! 

Note: You could prepare just half of this recipe if you have a smaller family.  This makes a lot.  However, I will often make the full amout and freeze half of it.  Freeze any leftovers in plastic containers that are freezer-safe.  Spaghetti will be good for up to four months.  Reheat in the microwave. 

In my cookbook - Learn, Laugh, Cook, I offer more recipes that are similar to this "better for you" spaghetti and meatballs.  I discuss my culinary journey - how I went from packaged foods to cooking from scratch.  In addition, I reveal how I added in vegetables or lightened up ingredients to strengthen traditional family meals.  Plus I keep you laughing at my sense of humor over food and several of my cooking disasters too.  Check it out or purchase a copy today!

Next week on my blog I'll show you how I buy in bulk and have puree vegetable parties.  A little bit of prep work on a Sunday afternoon can go a long way to create less headaches in the future!  Stay tuned for more tips.  Thanks for joining me today!


  1. I love jessica's book as well, wish I would have had those recipes when the boys were little, but I still seem to sneek in vegetables and noone is the wiser! Happy New Year, girl, anne

  2. Looks yummy! I made Jessica's version and thought it was super-dry as well. I'll have to try yours!!

  3. We had this last night and it was excellent!!! I used some pureed broccoli and some pureed zucchini, b/c that's all I had (need to have a puree party!) and it turned out perfectly! Jon helped me make the sauce and we pretty proud of his creation! Thanks, Mandy!