Turkey and Hot Italian Sausage Meatballs

Looking for an appetizer and wanting to make something for the meat-lovers coming to visit, I decided meatballs were the perfect thing.  I thought about what I would love in a meatball, and decided to improve on what I’ve done in the past.  I combined some favourites that I thought would work well together – the spice of the hot Italian sausages, the lightness of the turkey, a punch of flavour from the sun-dried tomatoes, and then some pistachios for a twist.  I put it all into a homemade tomato sauce, which is so easy, and I cooked them for a long time to make the sauce really thick and to give the flavours time to mingle.

I served them on skewers for appetizers, and the leftovers made a great topping for spaghetti squash.  Of course you could always go with the standby comfort food, spaghetti and meatballs.

What you need for the meatballs:

400 grams ground turkey thigh

400 grams hot Italian sausage, removed from casings (or chorizo)

1 egg

1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (or oven-roasted)

1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted pistachios,  finely chopped

1/3 cup finely grated parmesan

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

What you need for the sauce:

1 small onion

1 large can pureed tomatoes

3 tablespoons butter

a little red wine (optional)

a rind from parmesan cheese (optional but amazing! save your rinds for this purpose!)

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil, optional

What you do:

The sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen until you need it.  The whole recipe can be made ahead of time and reheated.  I think it`s even better the second time around.

1. Start the sauce first by simply emptying the can of tomatoes into a pot, then adding the butter and the cheese rind.  Put the whole onion into the pot – it will simmer to add flavour, and you will remove it at the end.

2. Bring the sauce to a low boil, and simmer for 40 minutes to an hour.  Add a little red wine or water if it`s getting too thick.

3.  Remove the rind and the onion, and add salt, pepper, and the optional basil to taste.  If you think it needs it, you can add a little brown sugar to the tomato sauce.

4.  If you made the sauce ahead of time, heat it up in a large pot.

5.  Combine all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. I mix it with my hands because I’m going to use my hands to make the meatballs anyways.  Don’t mix the meatball mixture too much, just until it is combined.

6. Drop the meatballs directly into the sauce, on a low simmer.  Try not to stir them until they’ve had some cooking time, so they solidify and won’t break as easily.  Spoon some sauce over the tops of the meatballs, so they are all covered.  Cook for at least half an hour, but preferably longer, until the sauce is nice and thick.

Serve on pasta, spaghetti squash, or on toothpicks as an appetizer.

Turkey and Hot Italian Sausage Tomato Sauce

Here’s a tomato sauce you can use for spaghetti or lasagna – I made it up to go in my Mushroom, Turkey and Hot Italian Sausage Lasagna.  It’s pretty easy to make, and just requires a bit of cooking time.

What you need:

3 spicy italian sausages

400 to 500 grams ground turkey

1 -796 mL can crushed tomatoes

1 -796 mL can chopped tomatoes

1 onion

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup white wine

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons olive oil or butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar, or to taste

a few shakes of chili flakes

salt and pepper

What you do:

1.  Remove casings from the sausages, then cook them in a large pot until the meat is no longer pink, adding the turkey meat and chopped garlic part way through.  Break up large pieces of meat and remove excess fat.

2.  Add the canned tomatoes, the whole onion, garlic cloves, wine, bay leaf, olive oil or butter and chili flakes to the meat.  Cook on low heat for about an hour, or more if you’ve got the time.

3.  Remove the onion and bay leaf, and add the brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Feel free to make a big batch and freeze part of it.

Roasted Vegetables and Spaghetti Squash

This delicious recipe is great if you’re looking to increase your vegetable intake.  You could substitute pasta for the squash, but this is quite filling on its own.  If you want a bit of meat you could add a little hot italian sausage.

The sesame seeds are ground so they are easily digested and you can utilize their calcium and iron.

You need:

1 spaghetti squash

For the tomato sauce:

1 small onion, chopped

2-4 cloves, sliced

1 –  796 mL can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato paste

oregano – 1 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil – only fresh will do! *

1 tsp brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

For the roasted vegetables:

1 onion, chopped in large pieces

2 red, orange or yellow peppers, chopped in large pieces

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 zucchini, sliced about 2 cm

3-4 cloves garlic, cut in half

2 tablespoons olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons FRESH dill*

1/2 cup ground sesame seeds

salt and pepper

What you do:

1.  Start with the sauce.  While this cooks you will have lots of time to do the rest.  Chop onions, cook in a pot with a little olive oil, stirring occasionally for a few minutes.  Add garlic and cook until it has a hint of brown.  Add oregano, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.  Give this a stir every now and then while you work on the rest of the recipe.

2.  Preheat oven to 425F.

3.  Cut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place face down on a baking pan.

4.  Chop veggies and lay out evenly on another baking pan.

5.  Drizzle olive oil over veggies, then pour lemon juice all over them.  Sprinkle  sesame seeds over top.   Season with a little salt and pepper, and top with chopped dill.

6.  Pop the veggies and squash into the oven.  Take the veggies out about half way through and give them a little toss.  They are done when they get a little brown.  The squash is done when you can run a  fork through it and it makes those spaghetti-like strings.

7.  Just before serving, stir the basil, salt and pepper, and brown sugar into the sauce.  Adjust to taste.

8.  To serve, place some spaghetti squash on the plate, top with some sauce, then top with some veggies.  Yum!

*Some herbs taste completely different when they are dried.  Dill and basil are two of those.  When I find some great fresh basil or dill I put them in the freezer.  They are great to use in cooking – frozen basil not really great for using as a garnish or in something uncooked because it doesn’t look fresh any more, but great for sauces. Continue reading