dinner · italian · pasta · Squash September

Pumpkin-Basil Spaghetti & Meatballs

Let’s talk spaghetti.

Spaghetti has invaded American kitchens for years. It’s cheap to make, feeds a whole family, and fills you up quick. There are a million different ways to make it, and a million different ways to eat it.

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When we make spaghetti, nine times out of ten we use pre-made, jarred sauce and a mixture of ground turkey & Italian sausage as the meat. When I’m feeling frisky, I’ll make my own sauce. Which is better? Probably my homemade version. It doesn’t take too much time to make and it taste phenomenal.

I read an article a few weeks ago about chefs’ favorite canned tomatoes to use for sauce. Everybody around America says San Marzano tomatoes are the best, but do you know what I found out? The San Marzano tomatoes you think you’re buying probably aren’t the real deal.

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San Marzano is a specific breed of plum tomato grown in a small section of Italy. They are grown in the volcanic soil near Mt. Vesuvius. The EU has special designations for protected region-specific heirloom produce called “DOP”. America, on the otherhand, does not. Any plain Jane tomato can be specified as “San Marzano” here! One good way to see if you’re getting the real deal is to see if the can says “grown in Italy”. If not…well, then it’s not real San Marzano tomatoes.

I used to use whatever can of diced or whole peeled tomatoes struck my fancy when it came to tomato sauce. After reading that article, I decided to buy the grocery-store brand most American chefs’ preferred: Muir Glen whole peeled tomatoes. They swore by the stuff.

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I thought the spaghetti sauce came out well. Was it all because of the type of tomatoes I used? Probably not. I have a certain technique to making all of my spaghetti sauces great. It has to have these ingredients, and in a specific order:

  • diced onion and garlic
  • quality olive oil
  • tomato paste
  • red
  • wine
  • basil

The best thing to do is get a good quality olive oil to start. I prefer Trader Joe’s 100% Kalamata Olive oil. It has a fruity and smooth taste. Then, I saute some onion and garlic.

The next most important step is adding a tablespoon of tomato paste, and stirring it. You’ve got to let it meld with the onion and garlic and let it cook for a minute or two. Then add about 1/2 cup red wine to deglaze the pan. Let that reduce down by half before adding whole peeled tomatoes (crushed) and dried spices (oregano, pepper, salt).

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I have to tell you a secret, though. I cheat. I cheat at making my spaghetti sauce.

Yes, I add brown sugar.

You can hang me out to dry if you wish. But—adding just a smidgen of brown sugar makes your sauce so much better. You bet your bottom dollar I cheat at it, then!

So, those are my secrets to making a good tomato sauce. You don’t even have to let it cook for a long time…I generally cover my pan and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Ultimate spaghetti sauce in less than 30 minutes!

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Since it’s Squash September, I had to integrate squash somehow into my spaghetti and meatballs. Canned, unsweetened pumpkin is usually flavorless to me, so I decided to throw it into the sauce itself. Hey, pumpkin is thick, so I thought it would thicken up the sauce more.

I was right! Success! The pumpkin didn’t impede on the tomato taste of the sauce, but it added just the right amount of thickness.

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Meatballs made with half ground turkey and half Italian sausage, plus a little bit of ground sage (to keep the fall-squash theme going) made the meal complete. I also have a secret to a good meatball: throw in a dash of milk or cream. This makes meatballs more soft and fluffy, even after a good sear.

Okay, I’m not going to give away all of my cooking secrets in one blog post. Try this delicious spaghetti! It’s packed with protein and busting at the seams with flavor.

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Pumpkin-Basil Spaghetti & Meatballs

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

Spaghetti and meatballs made with pumpkin puree in the sauce and fresh basil.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 lb. ground Italian sausage
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 tsp. dried sage
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBS. milk
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 TBS olive oil. divided
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBS. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 (15 oz) canned pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tsp. parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 lb. spaghetti

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine turkey, sausage, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, basil, sage, salt, pepper, egg and milk. Mix together with hands and form into 1-2 inch balls (makes about 24 balls).
  2. Heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown meatballs on both sides, a few at a time, until almost cooked through. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Heat remaining olive oil and add onion. Saute until slightly tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir, constantly, for 1-2 more minutes.
  4. Deglaze pan with red wine. Let mixture simmer until reduced by half, about 5-6 minutes. Add canned peeled tomatoes (undrained) and smoosh with the back of a spoon. Add pumpkin puree and stir. Let mixture come to a boil and then stir in parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Reduce heat and cover; let simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain.
  6. Add meatballs back to spaghetti sauce pan. Stir in with sauce and add basil, stirring. Cover and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  7. Serve sauce and balls over cooked spaghetti noodles. Top with fresh basil and parmesan.

Step-By-Step Instructions

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In a large bowl, combine turkey, sausage, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, basil, sage, salt, pepper, egg and milk.

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Mix together with hands and form into 1-2 inch balls (makes about 24 balls).

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Heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown meatballs on both sides, a few at a time, until almost cooked through. Transfer to a plate.

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Crispy, browned meatballs!

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Heat remaining olive oil and add onion. Saute until slightly tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

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Add tomato paste and stir, constantly, for 1-2 more minutes.

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Deglaze pan with red wine. Let mixture simmer until reduced by half, about 5-6 minutes. Add canned peeled tomatoes (undrained) and smoosh with the back of a spoon. Add pumpkin puree and stir.

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Let mixture come to a boil and then stir in parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Reduce heat and cover; let simmer for 15 minutes.

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Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain. Add meatballs back to spaghetti sauce pan. Stir in with sauce and add basil, stirring. Cover and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes.

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My antique spaghetti dish finally put to good use!

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Serve sauce and balls over cooked spaghetti noodles. Top with fresh basil and parmesan.

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signature

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Pumpkin-Basil Spaghetti & Meatballs

    1. I’ve made a few pumpkin chilis and they’ve always worked! Pumpkin is great, and it really doesn’t taste like anything (unless you spice it up with nutmeg & cinnamon).

  1. This sounds wonderful and the pumpkin adds good fiber. I found a pumpkin pasta sauce in some recipe book a few years ago but it did not have the traditional ingredients of sauce so was a bit sweet, like pumpkin pie on pasta! This one sounds fabulous and delicious. i will try it when I stock up on canned pumpkin now that fall is here.

    1. This one wasn’t sweet at all! Just like a thicker spaghetti sauce. I add a bit of brown sugar to my sauces to bring a little bit of sweetness to the tomatoes, though.

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