By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist
One of my favorite activities is taking classic comfort foods and spinning them into a new, fresh, plant-based dish that holds strong as a family favorite. Making over your traditional main course meals can be fun and lets you stay on track to your health goals without sacrificing flavor or visual appeal. Tried and true hearty meals like Stuffed Peppers, Lasagna, and Enchiladas are perfect platforms to play with your new “recipe make-over artist” ideas.
What better dinner dish to transform into a healthy plant-based meal than… spaghetti & meatballs. Spaghetti and meatballs as we know them, are truly an American classic, not staple Italian fare as commonly thought. According to an article in Smithsonian magazine, dish was essentially invented at the turn of the 1900s when Italian immigrants experienced a New World boost in income and were able to afford eating meat more often. The traditional polpette, aka mini-meatball, grew in size and proportion of meat to bread crumbs. The classic red sauce and tasty pasta, well, that’s 100% Italian, grazie!
In our home, cooking dinner can feel like being a restaurant chef catering to multiple needs, tastes and schedules. So I like to keep it simple, and of course healthy! With one son being vegetarian and the other with multiple food allergies, knowing they’re well nourished is paramount. This new classic can please your pickiest eaters, veggie-lovers and meat-lovers alike plus the meal reheats well for a busy weeknight dinner. Even when I make grass-fed meat balls for the carnivores in our family, I add plenty of veggies, herbs and spices–the same ones found in this recipe! This helps not only dilute the amount of red meat but also adds in loads of healthy nutrients. Mushrooms are an excellent source of immune supportive nutrients and 2 cups has almost 5% of your daily Vitamin D needs.
Since it’s summer in the US, I used zucchini to create my spaghetti-shaped “zoodles,” but in fall/winter months, spaghetti squash is perfect. I purchased an inexpensive spiralizer online for about $13, to turn summer squashes (and other veggies, like carrots) into noodle shapes.
Zucchini Noodles Ingredients:
For the zucchini noodles:
For the sauce:
For the vegan meatballs:
Zucchini: spaghetti squash, summer squash or carrots (with spiralizer)
Mushrooms: I like to use baby bella mushrooms but choose any variety you like
Black Beans: Lentils, chick peas
**Flax eggs: In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp ground flax seeds and 3 tbsp water. Let stand about 5 minutes before using.