Smart Spaghetti and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce


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.


1 cup fresh, whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped California walnuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
2 tablespoons minced flat-leafed 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, mixture of both white and dark meat
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, for brushing meatballs

Tomato Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 can tomatoes, 32-ounce whole plum tomatoes including juice
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup tightly packed basil leaves, cut into chiffonade, for garnish
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk; let sit for 10 minutes.

Add the egg and mix well.

Add the walnuts, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; mix well.

Add turkey and using one hand, lightly mix and squeeze together, to combine well. Don’t over mix or the meatballs will be tough.

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.

Bake until firm when squeezed, but before they are overly browned, 15 to 20 minutes — they will continue cooking in the tomato sauce.

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.

Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juice; bring to a boil.


Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking in the tomato sauce, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions.

Drain well and serve hot, topped with meatballs and sauce and garnish with the basil and parsley.

Nutrition Information: Calories: 460, Total Fat: 16 g, Saturated Fat: 2.5 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 65 mg, Sodium: 750 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 50 g, Dietary Fiber: 6 g, Protein: 32 g

Serves 6.

Recipe and image courtesy of the California Walnut Commission. For more recipe ideas and information about the health benefits of walnuts, visit

More nutty recipe ideas:

Roasted Walnut Butter
Walnut Panzanella Salad
Walnut Eggplant Parmesan
California Walnut-Encrusted Salmon Fillets
Maple Walnut Rice Cakes

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