We’re huge fans of meatballs here and I’ve posted quite a few variations. My latest post is going to be a version of zucchini meatballs, of course. I’ve been slipping zucchini into all kinds of foods and I wondered if the shredded zucchini would add a nice moisture to meatballs. It would add more vegetables to our diets, and that’s always worth the effort.
I mixed the ground turkey and pork with the zucchini, an egg, some panko and seasonings in a large bowl. I used my hands, it being fastest and the best way to get the spices fully mixed throughout the meat. You could use a pork sausage that is already seasoned in this but I prefer to add my own seasonings so I use freshly ground pork.
I usually use ricotta for that extra moistness and for a creamy cheesy burst of flavor in meatballs. Zucchini might be a lighter and definitely lower calorie way to moisten up some meatballs, I hoped. Zucchini wouldn’t add much to the flavor profile but that’s what seasonings are for!
I used a large cookie scoop to scoop meatballs out and onto a plate. It’s quick and gets them fairly uniform in size. It’s the OC in me.
Next I rolled them in my hands as I dipped the meatballs into the flour. They ended up nice and round and coated.
When I had all of the meat made into balls I dredged them in flour I’d seasoned with salt and pepper. The flour helps them to brown faster and helps to thicken the marinara sauce later.
In a large nonstick skillet I heated 1/2″ of canola oil and sautéed the meatballs in batches until they were caramelized and brown on two or three sides. I don’t worry if they’re not cooked through, they finish baking in the oven. As each batch was done I moved them into an ovenproof dish. I baked the meatballs for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F to cook them through.
While the meatballs baked I made my marinara sauce and started the water for my angel hair pasta.
When the meatballs were baked, I added half of them to the marinara sauce to marry the flavors as I waited for the pasta to finish cooking to al dente.
The pasta drained, reserving a cup of pasta water in case I needed to hydrate the pasta a little more, I tossed the pasta with the meatballs and marinara sauce. The pasta soaked up some of the marinara sauce and didn’t need any pasta water this time.
I served up the pasta and meatballs with a sprinkling of shredded Parmesan and dinner was served.
We loved the zucchini meatballs! They were lighter than the ones I usually make with ricotta but still had all of our favorite flavors. To make it an even lighter meal, I’d like to make it with spaghetti squash sometime. That would also be a good meal if you have family that needs to be gluten free.
Turkey and Pork Meatballs with Zucchini
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb ground pork
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup panko
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed (I use a ceramic mortar and pestle)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
28 ounces diced tomatoes
2 ounces tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 small box angel hair pasta (or spaghetti squash for a gf alternative)
Shredded Parmesan for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the meatball ingredients together well (with your hands works best). Scoop into meatballs with a spoon or a cookie scoop. My cookie scoop made about 28 meatballs.
Roll meatballs into flour to coat. Fry in a large nonstick skillet with 1/2″ of canola oil until browned on two sides. Roll over carefully, they are soft meatballs.
Place meatballs in an ovenproof dish and bake for 30 minutes.
In the same skillet, add 28 ounces of diced tomatoes and 1/2 small can of tomato paste. Stir in garlic, basil, oregano and sugar. Simmer on medium low heat for 30 minutes.
Remove meatballs from oven and place half of them into the marinara sauce.
Prepare 1/2 box angel hair pasta to al dente, then drain and reserve 2 cups of pasta water. Toss pasta with marinara and meatballs, adding pasta water if necessary.
Serve spaghetti garnished with shredded Parmesan
Freeze remaining meatballs in zippered bags.