Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pesto Meatballs with Spaghetti

This is  a completely Paleo meal.  No grains what so ever.  And totally delicious.

For this recipe, I took the ingredients for pesto and incorporated them into the meatballs.  Hence, almonds, basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil were added to ground turkey.  To make this work fresh basil HAS to be used.  Otherwise the meatball flavor gets lost in the sauce.  I also had a bit of trouble with the cheese.  I used finely grated which just melted out of the meatballs during the baking phase.  I think next time I'll switch to a coarse grate so that some of it stays in the balls.

You can use turkey, pork or beef for this recipe.  The trick is to get the meat the right consistency before making the meatballs.  If you buy fresh meat it isn't a problem but if you get frozen you can run into a minor but easily fixable problem.

When meat is frozen, the moisture in it turns to ice crystals.  When it defrosts, those ice crystals melt and the water doesn't get reintegrated into the meat.  Turkey has a high moisture content compared with pork or beef so if it has been frozen it is often soggy after defrosting making patty or ball formation difficult.  There are a couple of methods to fix this: use paper towels to suck up the extra water, actually squeezing the meat while it is wrapped in paper towels works well; or, add flour to the meat, such as wheat, coconut or GF baking flour mix.  The meat should be tacky but easily moldable.

One of the great things for chronic chicks about this recipe is that it can be made in stages.  The meatballs can be made way ahead of time and frozen for use later, or a day ahead, or in the morning.  The same goes for the squash.  It can be made several hours ahead and reheated.  This allows for a decent nap during cooking.

This particular recipe makes huge servings for two people but if you make salad and another veg for sides then this can easily be stretched out for four people.

Make sure you get sauce in a jar so that their aren't any BPAs to leach into it.  Also check for added sugar.  No sweetener is perfect since the squash is naturally sweet and if you are going hardcore Paleo sugar isn't allowed anyway.

serves 2-4

1lb ground turkey, pork of beef or combination
1/4-1/2c almond flour (or ground walnuts or pine nuts or combination)
large bunch of fresh basil (about 2c of leaves)
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 egg
1/4c coarse grate Parmesan
generous pinch sea salt
generous pinch pepper
If using ground turkey:
1T olive oil (since it has low fat content)
coconut flour as needed if using frozen turkey

Spaghetti and sauce:
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 jar Newman's Own organic Marinara sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Unpack meat and drain on papertowels if it was frozen (this even goes for beef and pork; turkey you may need to do additional drying).
  3. Finely dice the basil and run the garlic through a press.
  4. Put 1/4c nut flour and rest of meatball ingredients into a bowl and knead together with hands until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.  The easy way to tell is if you see the basil evenly distributed.  If meat is still too damp, add additional nut flour and mix to incorporate.  Add some coconut flour by tablespoonfuls, if the meat is still very wet and not moldable.  Meat should be tacky and easy to make into balls.
  5. Make superball to golfball sized meatballs by rolling the meat in between the palms of your hands.  Yes, this is a get your hands dirty activity.
  6. Grease a cookie tray and line the meatballs so they don't touch.
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes until they are slightly brown.
  8. Set aside or freeze.
  9. While meatballs are cooking or about an hour before you want to eat split the squash in half the long way, stem to stern, and scoop out all the seeds.  Enjoy the winter air aroma of the fresh squash.  Go ahead; sniff the squash.  Delightful!
  10. Place the two halves cut side down on a greased baking sheet.
  11. Bake for 45-60 minutes until a pointy object easily pierces the skin.
  12. During the last 15 minutes of the squash baking heat the meatballs and sauce in a pan.
  13. Take the cooked squash and shred the meat with a fork.  It looks just like spaghetti.  Pile on plate and top with meatballs and sauce.

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