Spaghetti and Meatballs with Marinara

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Brace yourself – this week I am going to encourage you to treat yourself to something really amazing, and to not get hung up on the number of ingredients or the length of the instructions. Sometimes, a really good meal requires a little effort. This week’s recipe is one of those special occasion meals that you DESERVE TO EAT, but taking a little time and putting forth a little effort is absolutely necessary.

If you have ever had demanding cravings for classic Italian food, this week’s recipe for a healthy take on spaghetti and meatballs will make you very, very happy.

If you have not already tried it, you must experiment with spaghetti squash as substitute for spaghetti noodles. I actually like them better, and knowing that they are a healthy option and included in the STEP™ food list makes them even more appealing.

This meal is perfect for showing off your culinary skills when company is over, and would be fun to prepare for a date night. I mean, there’s really no food more romantic than spaghetti and meatballs… hubba hubba.


Healthy Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe

  • 6 plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon light salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 20 ounces lean ground beef
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Preheat broiler on oven to high.

Place tomatoes cut side down onto a baking sheet and lightly coat with olive oil. Place under broiler and cook until skin is blackened and blistered, about 5 minutes. Remove tomatoes and set aside.

Adjust oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place squash halves cut side down into a baking dish. Add about 1/4 inch water. Bake in preheated oven until soft, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside, but leave oven on.

While squash is baking, remove skins from tomatoes and add tomatoes with any accumulated liquid to a food processor or blender. Process until pureed.

Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add olive oil and onion.  Cook, stirring, for 7-8 minutes, or until onion is softened and starting to brown on edges.  Add garlic, stir, and cook for one minute longer, until fragrant. Remove about half of onion mixture to a plate and set aside. To mixture remaining in saucepan, add Swiss chard and cook, stirring, until chard is wilted. Remove mixture to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool.

Return reserved onion mixture to saucepan. Add oregano, thyme, and garlic powder. Stir well to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar to pan to deglaze, scraping any stuck on bits from the bottom of the pan. Add 1 1/2 cups of pureed tomatoes. Reserve remaining tomato puree for another use. Add red pepper flakes and half of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add ground beef to onion and chard mixture in mixing bowl. Add egg, rosemary, and remaining salt and pepper. Use hands to mix gently.  When mixture is combined, create 16 meatballs, roughly 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Arrange on a baking sheet coated with olive oil and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.

Add cooked meatballs to sauce, and toss to coat.

Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash to create spaghetti strands. Add 1/4 cup to each of four plates. Season with a pinch of light salt and pepper and top with meatballs in sauce. Top with minced fresh basil and parsley.

Makes 4 servings.