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“Spaghetti” w/ Kale & Garlic Meatballs

Everyone loves pasta. There are so many things you can do with it and it’s always so warm and comforting to eat. However, it is definitely not something I can eat every day, especially when I struggle with anxiety. Pasta is on the “Bad Foods” list for anxiety, so finding some alternatives to traditional flour based pasta is the trick! Now, that does not mean you can never eat pasta. That’s would be a pretty sad life to live, right? So save that traditional pasta for special occasions or treat yourself to it a couple of times per month. Maybe choose a whole wheat or whole grain pasta over white pasta. Whole grains are fantastic at controlling blood sugar and anxiety spikes. You can have your pasta and eat it too if you are smart about the decisions you are making! Controlling your anxiety and learning to live with it on a day-to-day basis is all about balance.

Now, that does not mean you can never eat pasta. That’s would be a pretty sad life to live, right? So save that traditional pasta for special occasions or treat yourself to it a couple of times per month. Maybe choose a whole wheat or whole grain pasta over white pasta. Whole grains are fantastic at controlling blood sugar and anxiety spikes. You can have your pasta and eat it too if you are smart about the decisions you are making! Controlling your anxiety and learning to live with it on a day-to-day basis is all about balance. Find a balance that works for you.

So, when it’s not one of those special doughy pasta eating days, we must look for satisfying pasta alternatives. You can enjoy making and eating so many amazing pasta sauces with spaghetti squash “pasta.” This tomato sauce is spicy, garlicky, and so rich. Paired with cheesy garlic and kale meatballs that will melt in your mouth, you will absolutely not miss the traditional pasta!

Spaghetti squash is a yellow squash that has stringy, spaghetti-like flesh. When it’s cooked you scrape out the insides and you’re left with spaghetti strands that act just like traditional spaghetti! Personally, I am in love with it and for my everyday pasta cravings, it works like a charm. It also has tons of health benefits and is a great anxiety-fighting food…but more about that at the end of this post 🙂

The Recipe

Prepare the spaghetti squash first. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out all of those squash guts. Take a large spoon and scrape the seeds and guts out and discard.

Place the halves on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place the halves cut-side down and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes. The best way to tell if the squash is cooked properly is to stick a knife in the skin and into the flesh. If the knife slides in and it feels tender, it is done. You can also take a fork and test a little spot on the inside of the squash. You want to strands to be cooked and tender, but to also have a little crunch left so it’s not too mushy.

Let the squash cool enough so you can handle it safely without burning your fingers. Take the fork and gently scrape the strands away from the skin and separate the strands a bit so you have nice “spaghetti” and no large clumps of squash stuck together. Set aside.

Now, it is time to make the meatballs! Yummm. In a medium sized bowl, add your bread crumbs, salt, pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves, water, parmesan cheese and mix well. Adding water to meatballs sounds really weird, I know. But trust me, this is the secret ingredients to making your meatballs super soft, moist, and tender. It’s my Italian grandma’s trick, and boy oh boy does it make the softest meatballs EVER.

Add in the ground beef and finely chopped kale and mix into bread crumb mixture. Make sure you mix until everything is just incorporated. If you mix too much you risk making the meatballs too tough, and we don’t want that. If you feel like the meat mixture is too dry, try adding another tablespoon or 2 of water.

Roll into 7 meatballs.

Heat a pan with a drizzle of olive oil on medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all side so you get a nice golden crust. Take off heat and set aside.

Sauce time is now beginning….

In a deep pan/pot, add a drizzle of olive oil and add remaining garlic (3 minced cloves), red pepper flake, and dried thyme. This will really develop all of those flavors and will perfume the sauce. Cook for about 1-2 minutes, but don’t let the garlic burn or the sauce will become bitter.

Add the can of tomato sauce, and salt and pepper to taste if your tomato sauce doesn’t already have seasoning. I used Earth Fare organic tomato sauce, which is already seasoned deliciously. If you find your tomato is too tangy, you can add a small drizzle of honey, or another kind sweetener, to take away some of that bite! It works perfectly.

Add your meatballs into the simmering tomato sauce, cover with a lid, and simmer for at least 25 minutes. All the flavors are going to cook together, intensify, and the meatballs will become super soft and tender.

***TIP: If you can let the sauce simmer for 30-45 minutes, even better! You’ll end up with a richer, more reduced sauce.

Serve sauce and meatballs over your roasted spaghetti squash and top with a generous sprinkle of parm!

For my boyfriend, Garrett, I made him regular spaghetti because he isn’t a fan of the squash. I took a small scoop of pasta and added it to my squash, so I was able to get a small amount of regular pasta to make me feel like I was treating myself a bit. This is a really awesome way to let yourself eat a little bit of regular pasta, but not too much. Trust me, you belly and anxiety will thank you.

Trust me, you belly and anxiety will thank you.

Anxiety-Fighting Ingredients

  • Spaghetti squash: This delicious squash is high in vitamin B6, which is great for anxiety. It has the ability to increase serotonin levels and reduce symptoms of anxiety. It also has vitamin C – which elevates mood. Read more about anxiety and vitamin C here.
  • Kale: Oh, kale. It shows up in so many of my recipes, as you can see. Again, leafy greens are rich in folate, which helps to regulate your body’s mood. It also has a lot of vitamin C as well.
  • Garlic: Helps reduce fatigue and stress within the body. Anxiety exhausts our bodies and garlic can give the body a much-needed boost to help fight feelings of anxiety.
Print Recipe
Serves: 2 Cooking Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

  • 1 small spaghetti squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • -------------------------------
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup kale
  • 2 tablespoons romano/parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • --------------------------------
  • I 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • Olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon thyme

Instructions

1

Prepare the spaghetti squash first. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2

Cut the squash in half, lengthwise.

3

Lay on a baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

4

Place halves cut-side down and roast in preheated oven for about 40 minutes. *

5

Let cool. Once cool, take a fork and gently scrape strands away from the skin.

6

Next prepare meatballs.

7

In a medium sized bowl, add your bread crumbs, salt, pepper, minced garlic cloves, water, parmesan cheese and mix well.

8

Add ground beef and finely chopped kale and mix together. **

9

Roll into 7 meatballs.

10

Heat a pan with a drizzle of olive oil on medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all side so you get a nice golden crust. Take off heat and set aside.

11

Now, prepare the tomato sauce.

12

Take the 3 leftover minced garlic cloves, and add to a pan with olive oil, dried thyme, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes.

13

Pour in the can of tomato sauce. Add salt and pepper if needed. ***

14

Simmer sauce with the browned meatballs for at least 25 minutes. But if you have time to simmer it for 30-45 minutes, the better the flavors will be.

Notes

* To test doneness, poke flesh/skin with a knife, and if it is tender it's done. ** Don't overwork the meat too much or you'll end up with a tougher meatball. We want these to be soft and "fluffy." *** If your tomato is too tangy, add a small drizzle of honey or other sweetener. This will take some of the edge off.