The best part? It is super healthy and you are hiding the fact that there are vegetables in the meatballs if you have fussy eaters.
Hubs and I like our vegetables so when I made this I left the vegetables that are in the meatballs chunky rather than pureed completely. But you can puree them with no difference in flavour in the final dish.
Let me walk you through this yummy healthy meal! For busy moms this is perfect because I"m going to show you how to cook much of it ahead of time, freeze the layers separately and then defrost, assemble and heat for 30 minutes.
|Ready for oven|
Set the squash aside. You will either freeze this in an airtight container for later use or start assembling the layers if you are making the dish for today's dinner.
|Marinara Sauce + Cooked Squash|
I make my own Marinara sauce but you can buy decent ready-made Marinara in most grocery stores.
Step 2: Now you are ready to make the meatballs.
You need the following ingredients for the meatballs:
1 package of ground beef (about 1 lb)
1 package of ground pork (about 1 lb)
1 medium size carrot, peeled
1 medium size onion, peeled
2 medium stalks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley (optional)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. fine herbes
2 tsp. ground flax seed (this is the super healthy hidden part!)
Using either your blender or food processor, pulse the carrot, onion, celery, basil, oregano and garlic until you have a paste-like substance. I left mine chunkier and we liked it but it is your choice.
In a medium sized bowl, mix the vegetable paste, beef, pork, eggs, parsley, basil, fine herbes, oregano, cheese and breadcrumbs. Use your hands and dig in!
|Meatballs ready for the oven|
You are not cooking them until done, you are just cooking them enough that they don't fall apart when you go to the next step.
Next I put the meatballs and my Marinara sauce (about 2 - 3 cups) in my slow cooker. I set it to LOW and let it cook for about 2 hours. Use your meat thermometer to be sure the internal temperature is 160'F.
You can also simmer on low heat on top of your stove but I prefer the slow cooker method for slow easy heat.
|Meatballs out of oven|
|Meatballs in Marinara Sauce in slow cooker done|
You already made your first layer of Marinara Sauce then the cooked Spaghetti Squash.
Next layer: put in about 1/4 to 1/3 of your Meatballs (depending on the size of your family) I used 6 of my 30 meatballs for my husband and I, plus about 1/4 of my slow cooker juices. Then I sprinkled about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese on top.
I froze the rest of the meatballs and sauce in 4 portions of 6 meatballs each. That will give us 4 more suppers.
While your casserole dish is in the oven, make your spaghetti noodles the usual way.
When my casserole dish of the squash and meatballs was heated through and the cheese melted, I placed the spaghetti noodles on our plates and topped them with the meatball-squash casserole dish.
Make a small salad with this and you've got one heck of a healthy meal that kids will love!
It was incredibly tasty and the best part for anyone with fussy husbands or fussy kids who turn up their noses at vegetables or healthy foods -- you hid celery, carrots, squash and flax seed in an all-time favourite of spaghetti and meatballs! They won't notice the taste of the squash although they will probably wonder what it is. Don't tell them.
If you decide you want to cook the ingredients and freeze for future meals, I would freeze the squash separately from the Meatball Marinara mixture. Then defrost and assemble them as a casserole and bake for 30 minutes as directed above.
Tip: You can also make your spaghetti noodles ahead of time and freeze them. I do that all the time for my Minestrone soup pasta. When I pull out a cup size portion of my soup from the freezer I don't want to make 8 pieces of pasta so I also have my portion sizes of pasta pre-cooked and frozen in small ziplock bags.