Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Cover recipe- The Food You Crave , Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce: Copyright 2008

If there is only one new lower fat cookbook that you buy this year, this one should be it.  The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life is full of creative lowfat recipes for people who like to cook.  Food Network’s Ellie Krieger focuses on fresh tasting, good-for-you food with fantastic flavor.  I’ve had the pleasure of trying many of the recipes in the cookbook and have yet to find one that I don’t like.  The book contains ideas for every meal, and delicious, colorful pictures are present throughout.

I’ve made the cover recipe twice (something I don’t normally do), simply because my family requested it again:  Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce.  It’s a good one.  I like to think of it as guilt-free comfort food.

Check out my notes below to see the details on what I thought of this recipe…

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Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Yield: 6 servings (1 1/3 cups pasta and sauce, plus 2 meatballs)

Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 45 min


for the sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
One (28-ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, liquid included
1 teaspoon finely minced canned chipotle en adobo and sauce, or more to taste
2 teaspoons chopped oregano leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Cooking spray
1 pound ground turkey meat
1 slice fresh whole-wheat bread, crusts removed, pulsed into crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1/2 cup finely grated carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
One box (16 ounces) whole-wheat spaghetti


1.  Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil for pasta.
2.  Make the sauce:   In a 4-quart saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions until translucent, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, chipotles, oregano, rosemary, and salt. Bring all the ingredients to a low boil, reduce heat and cook for approximately 15 minutes, until liquid has evaporated slightly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. While sauce is cooking, make meatballs.
3.  Make the meatballs:   Preheat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine the turkey with all other ingredients in a large work bowl. Form into 2 1/2 -inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Broil for 10 minutes, or until browned and almost entirely cooked through.  Meanwhile, remove rosemary sprig from sauce and add fresh basil. Add the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and cook additional 10 minutes, or until sauce has slightly thickened and meatballs have absorbed some of the sauce. While the meatballs are cooking, cook the whole-wheat spaghetti according to package directions.
4.  Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and meatballs, toss and heat through over medium heat. Divide evenly among 4 pasta bowls and garnish with parsley and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan.


*If you're hesitant to try whole wheat spaghetti, don't be.  The sauce in this dish is so flavorful that you'll hardly notice a difference.  And if I can't convince you, then you can certainly substitute regular spaghetti.  Barilla brand pasta is a good choice if you want something in-between (in the photograph above, I used the Barilla).
*I don't see any reason why you need to remove the bread crusts- just tear the bread apart & pulse in the food processor.
*Make ahead tip:  prepare the meatballs, set them on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to bake them.  The sauce can be made ahead of time too.
*The sauce has quite a kick to it from the chipotle chiles.  I recommend adding just a little at a time until you are satisfied with the flavor.  I liked it spiced up pretty well, but my son thought it was much too spicy.

Nutritional Information per serving:
Serving size: 1 1/2 cups + 2 meatballs
Calories per serving: 330
Fat per serving: 10.5g
Saturated Fat per serving: 3g
Sodium per serving: ,span class="sodium">625g
Fiber per serving: 7.5g
Protein per serving: 23g
Cholesterol per serving: 60mg
Carbohydrates per serving: 38g

  The Food You Crave

The results:

Really, really good- a new family-favorite. The meatballs turn out tender as can be. I’m looking forward to getting her next cookbook, which just came out this year.

Did this recipe deserve the cover spotlight?

Yes!  I’m not sure it matters what Krieger chose for the cover.  All of her recipes are excellent!

Lori is the founder of She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at

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6 Responses to “Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce”

  1. 1

    maggie — January 18, 2010 @ 9:10 am

    This sounds delicious! I always just simmer meatballs in the sauce, and never fry them, but broiling is smart…

  2. 2

    LilSis — January 18, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

    I love turkey meatballs and whole wheat pasta. Glad to have a fresh new recipe! I think I’m going to have to get Ellie’s book. I’m making her White Turkey Chili recipe tonight.

  3. 3

    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — January 18, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

    Glad to see you like that cookbook. I have thought about picking it up, but have never gotten around to it. I think I have seen Ellie make the cover recipe on her show before… Looks fantastic!

  4. 4

    EdibleNutrition — January 21, 2010 @ 9:27 am

    Great review! I posted your blog on my FB to encourage some of my favorite moms and followers to try the recipe!

  5. 5

    Katrina — January 30, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

    I love Ellie’s recipes and this looks great. I really love all your reviews of these cover recipes, Lori.

  6. 6

    Sharon — April 23, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

    My husband is really picky when it comes to any kind of ground turkey and usually snubs his nose at this kind of healthier eating. (whole wheat pasta). He really liked this and said we could add this to our “winner” list.

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