Heart Healthy Parmesan Meatballs with Red Pepper Marinara Sauce

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Heart Healthy Parmesan Meatballs with Red Pepper Marinara Sauce
Spaghetti and meatballs can be part of a heart healthy, low sodium diet! As a frequent craver of spaghetti and meatballs, hells yeah, says I. Skip the pasta sauces in jars – the vast majority of them are very high in sodium – and make your own sauce from fresh tomatoes, or take a shortcut like I’ve done here and use canned salt-free tomatoes. You can also save a ton of fat and calories by making your meatballs from super-lean turkey instead of ground beef. Questo è fantastico!

Parmesan Meatballs
makes about 10 big meatballs

1 lb lean ground turkey (I use Jennie-O® Extra-Lean, 99% fat free)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese blend (or use Asiago or regular Parmesan)
1 egg
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I made mine from 1 slice of Nickles® 35 Calorie Wheat)
2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped (optional but nice)
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Mrs Dash®, any neutral or Italian-flavored variety (I used Garlic and Herb, but Onion and Herb, Table Blend, Original, Basil and Tomato, etc. will work)
1/2 tsp onion powder
a few grinds black pepper
about 1/8 tsp smoked paprika

Heart Healthy Parmesan Meatballs with Red Pepper Marinara Sauce1. Heat the oven to 375&#176. Give a cookie sheet a good squirt of nonstick spray. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands until well blended.

2. Shape your meatballs. I have a hard time getting them roughly the same size freehand, so I use a smallish ice cream scoop. Your finished balls should be about a 1/4 cup of turkey mixture. Arrange the balls on the cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 15 minutes.

A heads-up about low-fat meatballs: they do tend to stick to the pan/surface. It’s kind of a pain, but in the long run not really a big deal. When you go to flip them over, take your time with the spatula. If you lose a bit of meatball to the pan gods, no worries; you’ll be covering them in sauce anyway and no one will know.

When the meatballs are done, loosen them but leave them on the pan and set it aside.

Red Pepper Marinara Sauce
makes about 4 cups of sauce

2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Mrs Dash®, any neutral or Italian-flavored variety (I used Garlic and Herb, but Onion and Herb, Table Blend, Original, Basil and Tomato, etc. will work)
dash black pepper
half a medium carrot, grated
1-2 cups red/orange/yellow sweet pepper, roughly chopped (as a pepper fiend, I use about 2 cups)
1 medium yellow or white onion, roughly chopped

4 14.5 oz cans diced salt-free tomatoes
2 packets sodium-free chicken bouillon (I use Herb Ox® brand)
1 tsp sugar
water as needed

1. Combine the first group of ingredients in a large non-stick pot. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add one of the cans of tomatoes, as-is if you like tomato chunks in your sauce. If you prefer smooth sauce, run the tomatoes through a food processor or blender before adding to the pot. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently.

2. Take the pot off the heat and scrape the cooked veggie mixture into a large bowl to cool. Run the remaining tomatoes through a food processor or blender until they’re a consistency you like, then put them in the pot. Stir in the bouillon and sugar. Cook over low heat for about 5-8 minutes.

3. When the veggies are cool enough, run them through a food processor or blender until they’re a consistency you like. Stir them back into the sauce. If the sauce looks dry, add water a little at a time until it looks like a good, juicy marinara sauce. Add the meatballs and any pan scrapings to the sauce and gently fold them in.

4. Put a lid on the pot and simmer on low for 10-15 mins, carefully stirring now and then. Add a bit of water if it gets dry.

Cook up some whole wheat or multigrain pasta. I like to use this guide to help me make the right amount of servings. I made four servings to go with the pasta and meatballs, which was plenty.

PASTA TIP: After your pasta is drained, spray it lightly with nonstick spray! This will keep it from getting sticky and clumpy, even after it cools. I tried this in order to keep my pasta looking nice while I took some pics. When I ate the pasta afterwards, I couldn’t taste the spray at all. This is definitely a trick I’m keeping up my sleeve.

Nutrition info doesn’t reflect substitutions.
MEATBALLS NUTRITION
Per large meatball, approx. 57g: 82 calories; 2.7g fat (1.2g sat, 0g trans); 45mg cholesterol; 111mg sodium (5%); 1.3g carbohydrates; 13.0g protein

SAUCE NUTRITION
Per approx. cup of sauce: 101 calories; 4.4g fat (0.6g sat, 0g trans); 1mg cholesterol; 7mg sodium (0%); 14.7g carbohydrates; 2.7g fiber; 2.4g protein; vitamin A 32%; vitamin C 78%; iron 23%

Check your pasta package for nutrition info.

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