More Clean Comfort Food! Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs with Pesto

casserole For virtually everyone across the country right now, you are snowed in, iced over, or just downright cold… it’s been a rough couple of days with the weather. NORMALLY, I would have just womaned up and gotten out my shovel calling it an excuse for more cardio and strength training, but 8 – 10 inches of fresh powder and drifts up to 3 feet facing me on my massive driveway made that a pipe dream.  So, last night I sat warm and cozy in my kitchen sipping hot tea with lemon watching the snow flew past my windows (a friend of mine was snow blowing my driveway and walkways)  I contemplated what every person must in a moment like this… carb loading.  And I digressed rapidly into a spiral of carb fantasies from which I won’t quickly or easily recover.

My running partner doesn’t know it yet, but we are running a half marathon distance for our long run this week and so I let my mind wander about all the possibilities of the carbs I’d get to eat in preparation.  It’s not an out-an-out glut fest, mind you, but I do get to increase my carbs in my later meals a couple days before the long run and it could, quite possibly, be one of my favorite parts of racing season; well outside the racing part.  Let me put it in perspective.  I love to cook and what Playboy is to men, Clean Eating Magazine is to me… It’s like crack on Christmas when I think about all the delicious possibilities that come in clean carbohydrate form… I rarely follow the recipe as is, and often times I change it on the fly but it is a great place for me to find some really great foods.
So, on a dark, cold, snowy night like last night all I could think about is one thing…baked spaghetti and meatballs.

Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs

Serves 6: Enough for my girls and I to have it twice!  You can take liberties with several ingredients too switching it up each time or keeping it classic.

Olive oil spray
1/2 pound whole wheat pasta noodles (you don’t have to use spaghetti noodles… my girls like to pick out different kinds each time like elbow macaroni, fettuccini, angel hair.  I have found some great gluten free pastas here for those of you with those concerns)
2 cloves of garlic pressed
2 TBSP Olive oil
1 ounce of Parmigianino cheese, finely grated, (I have used mozzarella in a pinch)
1/3 cup organic tofu (or cottage cheese)
6 ounces of lean ground turkey or chicken (note: chicken breast strips work well in this recipe too! Or for the vegetarians out thee you can leave this step out entirely!)
1 TBSP wheat germ (substitute with gluten free bread crumbs or omit to keep gluten free)
1 TBSP milk (almond milk works well here too)
2 1/2 cups roasted tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 handful baby spinach

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Lightly mist a large casserole dish with organic olive oil spray; and set aside.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. drain rinse and then set aside.
In a food processor combine garlic, spinach, and basil until finely chopped.  Add half of the cheese and the olive oil.  Remove 1 TBSP of the blend and set aside in a medium bowl.  Add tofu to the mixture and process until smooth.

Add turkey, wheat germ and milk to the bowl with the basil mixture and mix gently until well blended.  Form mixture into small balls (about 24 total).  Heat a skillet over medium/high heat.  Mist with nonstick spray and add turkey balls until browned – about two minutes.  Add tomatoes to the skillet reduce heat to medium and simmer until meatballs are cooked through – about 8 minutes. I sometimes add a bit more garlic with the tomatoes at this point as well. 

Spoon 1/4 cup tomato-meatball mixture into bottom or casserole dish.  Toss spaghetti with remainder of the mixture and transfer half to the casserole dish.  Dot tops of noodles in the dish with half of basil mixture.  Cover with remaining spaghetti mixture and dot top layer with remaining basil mixture and sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven until bubbling – about ten minutes. 

Remove foil and bake an additional ten minutes.  Let set for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Information using whole wheat spaghetti pasta, tofu, and ground hamburger.  Different ingredients will alter the nutrition.

Serving size: 6 ounce servings
Calories: 254
Carbs: 34
Fat: 8
Fiber: 6

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