Try this spaghetti with turkey meatballs, under 500 calories

April 8, 2015 at 8:32 AM ET

Pasta doesn't have to be an unhealthy cheat meal! It can be nutritious as well as satisfying. Here, Joe Bastianich shares a recipe from his new cookbook, "Healthy Pasta," which is full of pasta recipes under 500 calories.

Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs

Serves 6

Prep time: 45 minutes

Calories per serving: 496

Spaghetti with turkey meatballs
Steve Giralt Photography

The vegetable paste here does double duty—it adds moisture and flavor to the meatballs (without a lot of extra calories or fat) and it creates a base for the tomato sauce that the meatballs cook in. Baking the meatballs at a high temperature is similar to browning them in a skillet, but without using as much oil. Don’t worry if the sauce seems watery at first; the extra liquid will cook down and soak into the meatballs as they simmer.

  • 1 medium onion, cut into medium-size chunks
  • 1 small carrot, cut into medium-size chunks
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into medium-size chunks
  • ½ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ cup freshly grated Grana Padano
  • ⅓ cup unseasoned dried bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Sicilian oregano on the stalk
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 450˚F.

2. In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the onion, carrot, celery, parsley, and garlic and process to make a smooth paste. Scrape half of the vegetable paste into a large bowl and set the rest aside in a small bowl.

3. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. To the large bowl, add the tur­key, egg, ¼ cup of the grated Grana Padano, and the bread crumbs. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Mix with your hands until just combined. (If you like, you can fry a small patty to taste for seasoning.) Form into 18 meat­balls and put on the lined sheet pan. Bake until the meatballs are firm (but they don’t have to be cooked through), about 12 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for pasta. In a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the remaining vegetable paste and cook, stirring, until it dries out and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan (turn the heat down if it begins to burn toward the end). Add the tomatoes and 3 cups pasta water. Bring to a simmer and add the oregano. Season with salt and red pepper flakes. Add the meatballs to the sauce. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is thick and flavorful, about 30 minutes.

5. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water. When the pasta is almost al dente, remove the meatballs from the sauce to a warm bowl and add the basil to the sauce. When the pasta is al dente, remove with tongs and add directly to the sauce, reserving the pasta water. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding a splash of pasta water if the pasta seems dry. Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle with the remaining grated Grano Padano, and serve in warm pasta bowls, with meatballs on top.