Monday, 10 June 2013

Spaghetti with chicken/tofu (meat)balls marinara

Spaghetti and (meat)balls are usually most children and adult favourite meal. Who does not enjoy slurping in the spaghetti with the tangy marinara sauce? It is a classic meal and one that our family cannot have enough of. I prefer to make chicken and tofu meatballs instead of the traditional "meat ball" which uses ground beef due to two reasons. Although, now I cook chicken and fish for my hubby and daughter, I have been a veggie all my life and it is hard for me to deal with red meat still :(. Secondly, and more importantly, I do see the importance of including all food groups in proper proportion for a healthy diet and that is one of the reasons why I support my hubby and daughter in their choice to eat meat and I even cook for them. But I just think that the cons outweigh any benefits we get from red meat for regular consumption. So I do not make them at home. When we go out they are more than welcome to try or eat red meat. But at home they get healthy meat like chicken and fish. This gives a good moderation in their meat food groups. As usual, I still substitute soya products for meat for myself. So I modified this wonderful classic to suit our entire family by making chicken meatballs for hubby and Anjalie while I enjoy soya chunk/mince meatballs. I usually make a lot of meat balls (enough for 4 servings for three of us) and freeze them since it features at least once every week in our meal plan. I just make the marinara sauce and use thawed out meatballs when needed for a quick filling dinner. A lot of us have our own recipes for marinara sauce so feel free to use your own or you can try the one here for a change.

You will need:
For the meatballs:
1 lb chicken mince/chicken breasts or 250 g of soya chunks/mince soaked and washed in hot water well.
1 egg
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano (or the equivalent dried)
Salt to taste (be careful cheese can be salty)
1/4 cup olive oil for shallow frying or 2 tsp of oil fro baking in the oven (healthier option)

For the marinara sauce:
1 small onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic crushed
1-2 stalks of celery chopped
1 can tomatoes (you can use chopped, peeled or whole what ever you prefer)
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp oregano
salt and black pepper for taste
flat leaf parsley for garnish

For serving:
250 g of spaghetti pasta - cook according to packet instructions

Mince the soya chunks/chicken breasts using a food processor. If using chicken breasts, chop them into 1 inch pieces before processing to get better results. In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients given in for meatballs list except the oil and mix well. If the soya mince is too dry, add more egg or add 2 tsp of oil to get them together. You should be able to shape the meatballs easily and they should stay together during the frying or baking.

For shallow frying, heat olive oil in a skillet to medium low heat and drop the meatballs in batches and fry until golden brown on all sides and evenly cooked. It takes around 8 mins for chicken meatballs to get cooked inside thoroughly.

Check to make sure that the insides are cooked thoroughly and there is enough salt before the next batch. This is very important for the chicken meatballs. Here is Anjalie checking for salt after I had made sure the chicken is cooked thouroughly.

For the healthier baking option, place the meatballs in a baking tray and bake in the middle rack at 180 degrees Celsius (fan assisted) for 15-20 mins for chicken and 12-15 mins for the soya mince until well browned. If it has not browned by 15 mins increase the oven temp to 200 degrees Celsius. Now the meatballs are ready :) They make excellent snack too.

For the marinara sauce, heat oil in a pan, add onions and garlic, sauté until the onion is transparent. Add celery stalk and cook for 2 more mins. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato purée, salt and black pepper and cook for 3 more mins. Add oregano and mix well. Blend them in a food processor/blender until smooth. We do not care for chunky style here, but, you can leave part of it without blending for chunky style.

Place the sauce back in a pan, add the meat balls (I use half the amount of what I made earlier), bring it to a boil and turn it off. Now your meatball sauce is ready.

When ready to eat, make spaghetti according to packet instruction and serve with meatball sauce and garnish with fresh flat leaf parsley. Enjoy!

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