Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce | Low-Cal Meatballs | Low-Fat Meatballs

Turkey meatballs in tomato sauce

A delicious low-fat / low-cal alternative to traditional meatballs in tomato sauce

Whilst I am a bit of a geek when it comes to preserving Italian traditional recipes and I have always considered meatballs in tomato sauce (as a sauce for pasta) to be a very American interpretation of Italian food, I do occasionally enjoy these little morsels (I just don’t pretend they’re Italian…a bit like when I eat pizza in the UK…but that’s for another blog post!).

Turkey is a fantastic ingredient when you want low-fat/low-cal alternatives to other meat in recipes.  It does require hefty seasoning as it’s not as strong-tasting as other meats, though, so do bear that in mind when you cook with turkey.

As I’m currently following the 5:2 Diet (2 non-consecutive very low-cal / “fasting” days per week and 5 ‘normal eating’ days per week), I’m always looking for different things to eat on the 2 low-cal days and these meatballs are a lovely dish to have.  For those in our house that aren’t on a diet, I serve them with pasta, while I just have them on their own with plenty of the tomato sauce, in a bowl.

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce | Spaghetti with Meatballs

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, served with Spaghetti

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 1 hr
Serves: 4
Approx. calories per serving: 320

Ingredients – for the tomato sauce

  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 stalks celery

    Turkey meatballs simmering in tomato sauce

    Turkey meatballs simmering in tomato sauce

  • 2 carrots
  • a few sprays of 1 Cal cooking spray oil (olive oil)
  • 2 cans/cartons of chopped tomatoes (ca. 400g each)
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • Optional: a few ground dried chilli flakes

Ingredients – for the meatballs

  • 500g minced turkey leg meat
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • Optional: a few ground dried chilli flakes

Method

Wash and trim the celery, scrape and trim the carrots, peel 1 onion and 2 cloves of garlic

Place celery, carrots and onion (chopped into chunks) and garlic into an electric chopper/blender or chop them very finely by hand

Spray a few sprays of the 1 Cal cooking oil spray into a non-stick sauté pan (it’s important to use a pan deep enough for the sauce but wide enough to accommodate the meatballs later), turn the heat on high and as soon as the pan is hot, add the chopped celery, carrots, onion and garlic

Dry-fry on a high heat for a few minutes, stirring regularly to avoid burning, then turn the heat down and simmer for approx. 5 mins

While this is happening, turn your attention to the meatballs: Peel the remaining onion and garlic cloves and chop very finely (ideally in a blender/electric chopper)

Place in a bowl and add the minced turkey leg meat (if you are mincing/grinding the meat yourself, grind the onion and garlic with it)

If you want to add some chilli flakes, add them at this stage

Add some salt, to taste

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce | Spaghetti with MeatballsMix (and squish!) well with your hands, ensuring all ingredients are amalgamated and the meat is almost like a paste.  I like to use vinyl gloves for this process so my hands don’t get caked in meat…it’s more hygienic, too!

Roll small individual meatballs (you should get approx. 36 meatballs) and keep them to one side

Pour the chopped tomatoes into the pan with the celery, carrots, onion and garlic (use a little bit of water to ‘wash out’ any tomato clinging to the sides of the carton/tin)

Season with salt (and if desired, chilli flakes) to taste

Turn up the heat, bring to the boil, then reduce back down to a simmer

Carefully place the meatballs on top of the simmering tomato sauce, leaving a small gap between each of them so they don’t stick to each other.  Do NOT stir at this point or they’ll fall apart!

Place a lid over the sauté pan and leave them.

After about 10 minutes, check on your meatballs, they should look cooked on the outside, having changed colour and retained their shape.  At this point, stir very, very gently and carefully, just enough to coax the meatballs further into the tomato sauce, place the lid back over the pan and leave.

You can repeat the very gentle stirring process 1-2 times during the rest of the cooking time, but don’t over-stir as the meatballs run the risk of falling apart otherwise.

Cook for about an hour on a low heat with the lid on, removing the lid for the last 5-10 minutes if you wish to thicken the sauce.

Serve with pasta, or crusty bread, or rice…or if, like me, you’re on a low-cal / low-fat day, eat on their own!

Deliciously simple, deliciously good, deliciously low-cal!

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