Spaghetti With Smart Walnut Meatballs & Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti With Smart Walnut Meatballs & Tomato Sauce

Lighter than traditional meatballs, these poultry versions are tasty and baked instead of fried.

If you make this in the summer or fall, fresh basil really makes a difference. To keep the meatballs moist look for ground turkey that is a mixture of both white and dark meat, and if you're short on time you can use a jar of organic tomato sauce.


For the Meatballs:

  • 1 cup fresh, whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped California walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced or pressed
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pound ground turkey, lean

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound dry spaghetti noodles
  • Snipped fresh basil and parsley leaves (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk; let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the egg and mix well.
  4. Add the walnuts, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; mix well.
  5. Add turkey and using one hand, lightly mix and squeeze together, to combine well. Don't over mix or the meatballs will be tough.
  6. Form mixture, using clean hands rinsed with cold water to prevent sticking, into 18 walnut-size balls and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Brush the meatballs with the oil, or roll them in your oiled hands and set them back on the parchment.
  7. Bake until firm when squeezed, but before they are overly browned, 15 to 20 minutes -- they will continue cooking in the tomato sauce.
  8. While the meatballs are cooking, heat the oil for the sauce in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes.
  9. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  10. Add the tomatoes and their juice; bring to a boil.
  11. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  12. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  13. While the meatballs are cooking in the tomato sauce, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions.
  14. Drain well and serve hot, topped with meatballs and sauce and garnish with the basil and parsley.


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