gallery Meatballs and Spaghetti, the ultimate comfort food…especially when it’s grilled, not fried…

When you read the word “Spaghetti”, what comes to mind?

No doubt images of long strands of wheat based noodles intertwined with each other, topped with a tomato-based sauce.

You twirl your fork around in it, before jamming it into your mouth, slurping up the strands that have managed to hang out of your mouth.

And when you add meatballs to it, well after imagining that memorable scene from Lady and the Tramp, the images of yummy meaty flavoured deliciousness coupled with bolognaise sauce splattered around your mouth and a napkin tucked into your shirt protecting your clothes from the spraying sauce comes to mind…or at least my mind…:-).

I love meatballs. Perfect portion control. Plus it looks kinda artistic, perched atop a mound of wiggly spaghetti strands coated thickly in a rich tomato based sauce.

However I’m really not very keen on fried meatballs… or fried anything for that matter… If you don’t need to coat it in excess oil, then don’t do it. Excess empty calories = a widening waistline and increased blood lipid profile…!

So here’s my take on meatballs and spaghetti.

Be warned, even though my meatballs are grilled not fried, they’re jam packed with flavour.

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Excess meatballs store well frozen (par-cooked) in between sheets of greaseproof paper.

Or they can be used in middle-eastern inspired kebab wraps. My sister had a meatball wrap the next day for work – her co-workers kept dropping hints on the tangy aroma’s and the possiblity for a taste, maybe…?

My parents and I had lunch together the next day with the leftovers. Much to my brother’s disappointment, it all sold out and he didn’t have the chance and a 3rd helping… soooooo good :-).

What you will need:

Annie’s lemon-infused meatballs

1kg lean mince (beef or lamb)
1 whole large egg (or 2 egg whites), beaten
1 large onion, finely diced
5 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 x 3 cm long piece of fresh ginger, finely diced
2 slices dark wholegrain bread
125ml (1/2 cup) skim milk/reduced fat milk
1 large leek, finely sliced (should be ~ 1 cup sliced leek)
1 medium sized carrot, finely grated
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp Sri-lankan curry powder (Sri-lankan curry powder generally doesn’t have red chillies in it, is a fragrant spice mix without the heat. We make our own – I’ll put it in another post, or you should be able to buy it from any good Indian grocery store)
1 tsp cinnamon powder
3 tblsp dried herbs (coriander, parsley, mint, thyme – anyone or a mixture of each)
2 tblsp Worcestorshire sauce
Rind of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tblsp canola oil

1) In a separate bowl, soak bread in milk. Leave aside.
2) In a non-stick fry pan, heat oil on medium heat and add onions. Once slighlty softened, add cumin seeds, curry powder, leeks, ginger and garlic. Stir constantly over heat until fragrant (~2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool slighlty.
3) In a large bowl, place mince. Add Add leek-onion spice mixture. And mix through well with hands. I use disposable gloves to prevent my fingers from shrinking – plus I don’t like the feel of raw meat. However use your bare hand if you want, just make sure to remove all jewellery and wash hands thoroughly.
4) Add the remaining ingredents, and soggy bread. Mix all ingredients through mince well with hands.
5) Using a tablespoon, take spoonfuls of mixture and mould into balls. This is the perfect size balls for cocktails, entrees, spaghetti and wraps. You could go slightly smaller if you wanted, but decrease cooking time accordingly or else meatballs will be too dry. If you go larger, they are quite filling, so you wouldn’t be able to have too many…
6) Heat grill (or broiler if you’re in the USA) to medium heat. Because I really hate washing up, I line the base of my griller tray with sillicone sheeting. This collects the fat, and all I have to do is simply remove the sheet and hey presto! A clean tray :-). Place a cooling rack over the tray and place meatballs on rack. There is no need to grease the rack as there is minimal contact surface area between the meatballs and the cooling rack wires. Using the rack allows fat to drip away during the cooking = a lower fat meatball :-).
I made ~ 50 meatballs, so place them quite close together.
8) Place tray under grill (middle rack) and allow to cook for 25-30minutes, turning meatballs over at half-time.

Done! These are great with a toothpick and homemade chilli sauce at a cocktail party. This filling can even be used inside sausage rolls or rolled up in whole wheat lebanese bread with lettuce, low fat yoghurt, a drizzle of lemon juice and grated cucumber.IMG_1274

Easy peasy. However we were having spaghetti for dinner, and never one to eat from a jar, I made my own spaghetti sauce:

1 large onion
5 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tblsp canola oil
1 tblsp smokey paprika
1/2 tblsp NO-chilli curry powder
3 tblsp tomato paste
500g fresh tomato diced or 2x400g tinned salt reduced diced tomatoes
1 large red capsicum, diced
1 large zucchini, diced
2/3 cup finely diced pumpkin
2 cups mushrooms (I used buttons and portabello, but use whatever you have)
1/2 cup finely diced broccoli stem
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1) In a large heavy based saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened. Once softened, add garlic, paprika and curry powder. Stir until fragrant (~ 2-3 minutes).
2) Add pumpkin, broccoli stem and zucchini. Cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until just slightly starting to soften. Add capsicum and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.
3) Add tomato paste and diced tomatoes and bay leaf. Cook gently on low-medium heat, covered for ~15 minutes.
4) Remove lid and allow to gently simmer until liquid has evaporated slighlty (~ 15-20minutes), stirring periodically.
5) Once reduced, low temperature to low and add mushrooms, worcestorshire sauce, sugar and  salt and pepper to taste. The reason for the sugar is because it pacifies the acidic taste of the tomatoes somewhat, and in conjunction with the salt, not only adds depth to the flavour but also enhances the tomatoey-flavour.
6) Allow to cook for a further 10 minutes, uncovered. Switch off heat, add meatballs and stir through the sauce. Cover with lid and remove from heat. The reason for the heavy based saucepan is that even after removal from heat, the temperature is still maintained and gently cooking still occurs due to heat retention.

Serve with spaghetti and a tossed green salad.

Now for the spaghetti – I know you can get the standard wheat versions… they’re okay, somewhat like white bread, stripped of all the nutriton fromt the whole grain.

So for that reason I use a 1/2 for my family wholewheat pasta (a brown colour) + soy pasta (a light colour).

I personally don’t eat much pasta because of the wheat content, and hence use BUCKWHEAT noodles instead. I love it. It’s softer, silkier and lighter on the gut than wheat pasta. Plus buckwheat is jammed with protein too :-). Double bonus.
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But what’s pasta without a sprinkle of cheese??? Well whilst cheese is high fat, and I generally don’t eat dairy with meat based foods as this will decrease iron and calcium absorption, I do make a little concession with spaghetti bolognaise… but instead of cheddar cheese, sprinkle with a little freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese. It’s more intense in flavour (and smell) so you don’t need to sprinkle a lot for the same cheesy hit :-).

Nom nom nom… enjoy some soul food… this stuff is seriously good family gathering food, dark-stormy-read-a-book-in-an-armchair food or fun times with friends. Enjoy :-).

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