Spaghetti smothered in a pumpkin red sauce and paired with pumpkin sage turkey meatballs. A classic dish amped up with beautiful, Fall flavors.
Happy Friday friends!
It’s really starting to get cold in Chicago and there is talk of snow this weekend 😔
The one good thing about that is it’s the perfect weekend to stay in for a cozy date night.
And I have the perfect, Fall inspired, easy to prepare, absolutely delicious, menu for you!
For an appetizer, I highly recommend my crostini’s with roast beef, herbed cream cheese and fig jam. It’s simple to make and super delicious. It’s a great combination of sweet, salty, savory, crunchy, creamy, tangy, and earthy deliciousness. It also happens to be my husband’s favorite appetizer and he is always very happy when I make them. So it’s the perfect way to start date night.
For the main course, I created a new pumpkin inspired pasta dish. I took a classic, spaghetti and meatballs, and gave it a makeover with some wonderful Fall flavors. I created a pumpkin red sauce for the spaghetti and paired it with pumpkin sage turkey meatballs. Yum!
It tastes decadent and rich, but is actually rather healthy. I used Banza Pasta for the spaghetti. Banza uses chickpeas to create their pasta instead of whole wheat or white flours. By using chickpeas, a superfood that is naturally gluten free and low in the glycemic index, the pasta has double the protein, four times the fiber, and nearly half the net carbs.
Plus, it has the same taste and texture of real pasta – which works perfectly for both my husband and I. He is a huge pasta fan and veggie noodles just don’t cut it for him. But with Banza pasta, he cannot even tell the difference. So I get a great healthy alternative and he gets the same taste, feel, and experience of eating real pasta. Win win! Pleasing both parties is another secret to a great date night 😉
Let’s get to cooking.
I recommend first making the meatballs because they work best if you store them in the fridge for at least a half hour before cooking – it allows them to properly set up and hold together nicely when cooked.
In a bowl, add all of the meatballs ingredients: ground turkey, spices, panko whole wheat bread crumbs, pumpkin, and diced fresh sage. The sage is a traditional Fall herb that has this beautiful earthy, almost minty flavor. It pairs well with meat dishes, especially poultry.
Pumpkin might seem strange to add to the meatball mix, but trust me it’s a good move. The pumpkin adds a subtle sweet, earthy flavor which pairs well with the sage, while also adding moisture to the mix to keep the meatballs light and moist.
Mix all of the meatball ingredients together so everything is well incorporated. Use a small ice cream scoop or spoon to grab a small scoop of the meat mixture and the use your hands to form it into a ball. Repeat this process until all of the mixture is used. It should make 15-18 small meatballs. Set in fridge. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
No you can start making the pumpkin red sauce. In a large dutch oven or sauce pot, sweat your onions and garlic with olive oil. Next, add in the tomato pasta and cook until it becomes rusty in color, about 30 seconds. Then deglaze the pan with a good quality balsamic to get all of the yummy brown crusty bits from the bottom of the pan and into the sauce.
These first few steps is how we build depth of flavor to the sauce. The garlic and onion add a slightly sweet, robust flavor. The tomato pasta, with it’s concentrated bold tomato flavor, adds nuance and body to the sauce. Finally, the good quality balsamic adds acidity and richness to the sauce. And when I say good quality balsamic, I mean the thicker, more expensive stuff – it’s so worth the extra money as it adds so much more flavor to any dish!
Finally, you can add the remaining sauce ingredients to the pot, crushed tomatoes, pumpkin, chicken broth, sweetners, and spices. The pumpkin helps thicken the sauce and also adds a sweet, earthiness to the sauce. I added extra garlic and onion powder to intensify those flavors, which I happen to love. I also added cinnamon and allspice to pairs with the pumpkin and amp up the fall flavors. Finally, I used a little bit of maple and coconut sugar to help round out the acidity from the tomatoes to create a well-balanced sauce (if you do not have either of those sweetness, you can use brown sugar instead.
Bring the sauce to a boil then allow the sauce to simmer for about a half an hour. Once the sauce is cooked, use an immersion blender or transfer to a regular blender to blend and smooth out sauce.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package instructions and cook the meatballs in the 400 degree oven for 18-20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Once all of the different components are cooked, you can put it all together. Toss the spaghetti with the red sauce and divide it among your two bowls. Top with 3-4 meatballs and garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and sage leaves.
Your delicious, decadent, but still healthy date night meal is ready! This pasta dish also pairs wonderfully with a nice glass of red wine. And duh, some wine is a must for a perfect date night!
Obviously, no good date night meal is complete without a yummy dessert – stay tuned tomorrow as I will be sharing my recipe for a paleo pumpkin skillet cookie that is the perfect end to this delicious, Fall inspired meal.
Pumpkin Pasta with Pumpkin Sage Turkey Meatballs
- 1 pound turkey
- 1/3 cup whole wheat panko crumbs
- 1/3 cup pumpkin
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 4 sage leaves minced
Pumpkin Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 onions diced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons good aged balsamic
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup pumpkin
- 1 cup chicken or veggie broth
- 1 teaspoon maple
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ allspice
- Salt and pepper
- Red chili flakes
- 1 box Banza Spaghetti
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Small sage leaves 1-3 for each plate
- Pinch red pepper flakes optional
To make the meatballs, combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until all of the ingredients are well-combined (mix gently though so the meatballs do not become tough). Using a small ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop out some of the mixture and form into balls. The mixture should make 15-18 meatballs. Set aside.*
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or large sauce pot over medium heat. Add in onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent & garlic is fragrant. Next, add in tomato pasta and cook for about 30 seconds until it becomes a rusty red color. Finally, deglaze bottom of the pan with the balsamic. Add in remaining sauce ingredients and stir until combined thoroughly. Bring the sauce to boil and then allow to simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes. Once the sauce is cooked, use an immersion blender or transfer to a regular blender to blend and smooth the sauce out.
As the sauce simmers, cook the meatballs. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the meatballs on a greased baking sheet. Brush the top of each meatballs with olive oil. Bake for 8-10 minutes per side (the outside should get golden brown and the inside cooked through).
Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions. Strain and reserve some of the pasta water.
Mix together the spaghetti and desired amount of sauce. If necessary, use reserved pasta water to help thin out the sauce and better coat the noodles evenly.
Divide spaghetti into 4-6 bowls. Top with 3 meatballs (or more if you desire), parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and sage leaves.
Serve and enjoy!
*I recommend making the meatballs a few hours beforehand so they can set up in the fridge - it helps them hold their shape better and for the flavors to meld.