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Baked Sundried Tomato & Basil Chicken Meatballs with Summer Squash Pasta Sauce

The Mini and I love noodles.  We could eat pasta every day if my skinny jeans allowed it, but for now we try to stick to eating it once a week.  Since I was in the mood for spaghetti and meatballs this week, I set about to make a lightened up version of this classic Italian dish.  Ground chicken breast is seasoned with fresh basil, garlic, and sundried tomatoes in these tasty and healthy meatballs.  I used a little bit of whole wheat panko and an egg to bind the meatballs together, and nonfat Greek yogurt is the not-so-surprise ingredient (if you follow my blog regularly) that keeps the lean chicken meatballs moist and tender.  We nestled them atop a plateful of whole wheat linguine noodles tossed with a summer squash pasta sauce.

In my search for lower sugar spaghetti sauces to keep my figure svelte and the Mini from having any post-dinner sugar rushes, I realized that the best solution is usually the most obvious – I could just make my own sauce from scratch.  I did cut a few corners by using canned, crushed San Marzano tomatoes because peeling tomatoes by hand is just not a practical solution for most home cooks with toddlers like myself.  Diced yellow squash and zucchini give the dish some gorgeous color as well as an additional serving of vegetables.  If you like your sauce a little spicier, just double up on the red pepper flakes and add an extra clove of garlic.

The whole family loved this meal, and I’m excited to find a new way to serve the leftover meatballs for dinner tonight.  I’m thinking of making open-faced meatball subs and broiling them with a slice of provolone cheese on top, but they’d also be delicious served over herbed, mashed cauliflower.  Either way, this is a simple and healthy weeknight meal that is sure to please even the pickiest palates.

Baked Sundried Tomato & Basil Chicken Meatballs with Summer Squash Pasta Sauce
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

by:
Serves: 4

Ingredients
  • for the meatballs:
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 tbs olive oil, plus additional for greasing baking dish
  • 1 lb ground chicken breast
  • ⅓ cup whole wheat panko
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 tbs plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 3 whole sundried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and finely diced
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ tsp ground thyme
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • for the sauce:
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 whole yellow squash, diced
  • 1 whole zucchini, diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1-28 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 tbs finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ¾ lb of whole wheat linguine (optional)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a large baking dish (I use a lasagna pan) with olive oil.
  2. In a large pot that you can make your sauce in later, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sautee the yellow onion for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until starting to become translucent. Add the clove of minced garlic and sautee an additional 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Transfer the onion and garlic to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.
  3. Once the onion and garlic has cooled, add the rest of the meatball ingredients and mix thoroughly with your hands until well combined.
  4. Roll heaping tablespoons of the meat mixture into small balls with your hands and place evenly in the oiled baking dish.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees F, turning once halfway through cooking to ensure that both sides are evenly browned.
  6. While the meatballs are baking, heat the olive oil for the sauce in the large pot over medium heat. Add the diced squash and zucchini and sautee for about 5 minutes, or until just beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic, oregano, salt and red pepper flakes and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant.
  7. Add the crushed tomatoes with any juice to the pot. Cook over medium heat for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently but being careful not to let the tomatoes break down and get too mushy. Right before serving, sprinkle in the chopped fresh basil leaves.
  8. To serve: Either add the meatballs to the pasta sauce and stir to coat if serving alone, or toss the sauce with al dente pasta and serve the meatballs on top. Add a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

 

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