Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

This image courtesy of Christopher Hirsheimer

A little chipotle kick and the multiple herbs in this sauce lend layers of flavor without fat. The carrot, onion, and Parmesan in the meatballs make them luxuriously plump and moist. Together, over spaghetti, you have a comfort-food classic that satisfies on every level.



Total Timeunder 2 hours

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionFamily Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationpeanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Textureherby, light, meaty, savory, tangy

Type of Dishdry pasta, pasta


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • One 28-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup torn fresh basil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey meat
  • 1 slice whole-wheat bread, crusts removed and pulsed into crumbs in a food processor
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup finely grated carrot
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • One 16-ounce box whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish


  1. To make the sauce, in a 4-quart saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring a few times, until translucent, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, chipotle, oregano, and rosemary, bring to a low boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the liquid has evaporated slightly, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

  2. While the sauce is cooking, make the meatballs. Preheat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl. Form into 2½-inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Broil until browned and almost entirely cooked through, about 10 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, remove the rosemary sprig from the sauce and stir in the basil. Add the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and cook until the sauce has slightly thickened and the meatballs have absorbed some of the sauce, about another 10 minutes.

  4. While the meatballs are cooking, cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and meatballs, toss together, and heat through over medium heat. Divide evenly among 6 pasta bowls, sprinkle with the Parmesan, garnish with parsley, and serve.

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