Zucchini Noodles & Turkey Meatballs

Toss the zucchini with some sauce before plating, then top with two meatballs. Add a little extra sauce and some Parmesan cheese if you want.

This post contains an affiliate link. Learn more

This post is a culmination of a couple of things that happened over the holidays:

  1. Some new kitchen toys I received for Christmas, including a lovely set of stainless steel cookware (thanks Mom!) and a very useful yet very terrifying slicer called a mandoline (thanks Aunt Cindy & Uncle Mike!):

    There was way too much shine going on in this picture. Trying to show off the new Oneida mandoline and some of the Calphalon cookware.
    There was way too much shine going on in this picture. Trying to show off the new Oneida mandoline and some of the Calphalon cookware.
  2. A discussion about zucchini noodles, also known as “zoodles,” during our family Christmas Eve celebration. I’ve cooked lots of spaghetti squash, and made zucchini lasagna…but until now, had never ventured into zoodle territory. However, the nifty thing about the mandoline is that it has julienne blades–which are perfect for making long, thin pieces of vegetables like zucchini. The mandoline is kind of scary to use (seriously, be careful and use the hand guard) but I haven’t hurt myself yet and its time-saving capacity cannot be denied.

The process for making the noodles is incredibly simple. I just sliced the zucchini with the mandoline and then microwaved the noodles in a covered casserole dish until tender. (You can also steam or saute them, but I haven’t tried yet.) So, I’m also including two other recipes that pair well with the noodles: turkey meatballs and tomato sauce, both from The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger. (In the cookbook, Ellie serves her meatballs with a spicy sauce, but I went with her basic one here.)

Combined, the recipes below make enough food for four, but you will have some extra meatballs and sauce (assuming you stick to 2 meatballs per serving). I’ve arranged them chronologically according to how I made them.

Easy Tomato Sauce

Serves 3-4

Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Easy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (save the other half for the meatballs)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of sugar, optional

Steps

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

    Saute the onion until softened and then add the garlic. I'm using my chef's pan here (which I love!) but a big saucepan or a skillet would work just as well.
    Saute the onion until softened and then add the garlic. I’m using my chef’s pan here (which I love!) but a big saucepan or a skillet would work just as well.
  3. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, for about a minute until it reduces.

    This is an extra step I added--the balsamic adds a bit of sweetness and umami that you can't quite place in the final product, but I think it really makes a difference.
    This is an extra step I added to the recipe–the balsamic adds a bit of sweetness and umami that you can’t quite place in the final product, but I think it really makes a difference.
  4. Stir in the rest of the ingredients except salt and pepper and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened. (Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs and noodles.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the sugar if it seems bitter.
    Add the remaining ingredients plus a little salt and pepper. Taste again and season before adding the meatballs.
    Add the remaining ingredients plus a little salt and pepper. Taste again and season before adding the meatballs.

    After cooking for 30 minutes, the sauce will have thickened a bit. Taste it and add salt, pepper or sugar as needed before adding the meatballs.
    After cooking for 30 minutes, the sauce will have thickened a bit. Taste it and add salt, pepper or sugar as needed before adding the meatballs.

Turkey Meatballs

Serves 6 (2 meatballs per serving)

Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Turkey Meatballs with Quick And Spicy Tomato Sauce and Whole-Wheat Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound ground turkey meat
  • 1 slice whole-wheat bread, pulsed into crumbs (I used my Magic Bullet)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup finely grated or chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (use the other half of the onion you chopped up for the sauce)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper

Steps

  1. Spray a baking sheet with the cooking spray and turn on the broiler to preheat.
  2. Combine all remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well with clean hands. Divide the mixture into four equal quarters, and then divide each quarter into three meatballs. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet.

    Divide the meat mixture into even portions before rolling the meatballs to help keep them all about the same size.
    Divide the meat mixture into even portions before rolling the meatballs to help keep them all about the same size.
  3. Broil the meatballs for about 10 minutes until browned and almost cooked through.

    Broiling the meatballs is a fast and easy way to brown them and start the cooking process.
    Broiling the meatballs is a fast and easy way to brown them and start the cooking process. Keep an eye on them so the tops don’t burn, though!
  4. Add the meatballs to the sauce. Cover the pan and cook another 10 minutes until the meatballs have cooked through and absorbed some of the sauce. Keep it all warm on the stove until ready to serve.

Zucchini Noodles

Serves 3-4

Cooking method from EatingWell

Ingredients

4-5 small zucchini, washed and ends removed

Steps

  1. Slice the zucchini into noodles using a mandoline with a julienne blade, a julienne vegetable peeler or a spiralizer. (If using a mandoline, be especially careful and grip the zucchini with the hand guard–not your actual hand!) You can chop up any scraps by hand and mix them in with the noodles, or toss in the sauce if you want.
  2. Place the zucchini noodles in a microwave-safe casserole dish with a lid. Microwave 1.5 to 2.5 minutes, checking and stirring the noodles every 30 seconds. They should still be a little al dente–don’t overcook them or they’ll become mush. Drain any water accumulated in the dish.

    "Zoodles" before going into the microwave.
    “Zoodles” before going into the microwave.
  3. Toss the zucchini noodles with tomato sauce and top with meatballs. Or, use them in a different recipe!
Toss the zucchini with some sauce before plating, then top with two meatballs. Add a little extra sauce and some Parmesan cheese if you want.
Toss the zucchini with some sauce before plating, then top with two meatballs. Add a little extra sauce and some Parmesan cheese if you want.

Ok, so it’s not the same as actual spaghetti with meatballs, but as far as pasta substitutes go, zucchini is definitely my favorite. The noodles were soft and tender with a little bit of bite left, but none of the crunchy quality that spaghetti squash often has. They didn’t have a strong taste either, which really let the sauce and meatballs shine. And the calorie count can’t be beat–one zucchini is about 35 calories, a far cry from the 200+ in the recommended 1-cup serving of pasta. Paul and I each ate a huge plate and probably would have gone back for seconds…if we weren’t so full already. Give it a try!

0 thoughts on “Zucchini Noodles & Turkey Meatballs

Leave a comment below!