Turkey Zucchini Meatballs With Polenta and Tomato Sauce

I enjoy watching
Ree Drummond - The Pioneer Woman - as she shows us how to make dishes to feed her farmer husband and family. Most offer good serving sizes and most are really hearty, as those working a farm need dishes with more calories to tide them through.  She also offer some that an be partially d prepared and put in the freezer to be thawed and finished later.

The main negative is the amount of cheese, cream, butter and other high calorie ingredients. While these things work well  when feeding those laboring all day, for the average person, they can land us with extra unwanted pounds.  I decided to try and take her recipe for meatballs with polenta and tomato sauce, and slim it down without losing too much flavor.

The original recipe is one third larger in size to feed more people, uses beef and pork to make the meatballs, and includes heavy cream. Plus she gives instructions on how to freeze,  Interested? You can view it HERE. For mine I went with ground turkey, 1% milk and reduced the amount of cheese, butter and bread crumbs.  This is still not a low-cal diet meal, but these small changes still made a big difference in calories per serving.

The other change I made after trying it once was to switch to my favorite store bought spaghetti sauce.  I didn't feel her recipe made enough sauce and it wasn't outstanding. You could also create a sheet pan roasted cherry tomato sauce if you want to make one from scratch. You can see a recipe on how to do that here - www.theendlessmeal.com/roasted-cherry-tomato-sauce/, but there are many others out there.

Feel free to follow the link and make the original high calorie version, or make your own changes to the original.  One note is that this polenta recipe stays very creamy, so it is a bit challenging to serve. I set the meatballs aside, dolloped the polenta in the centre of the plate, then placed the meatballs on top. ENJOY!  

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Turkey Zucchini Meatballs With Polenta and Tomato Sauce

Polenta -

1 T                      Butter
1 T                      Fresh Oregano, minced, or 1 tsp dried
1 Clove              Garlic, minced
1/2                      Medium onion sliced, OR 1 bunch green onions chopped
3 C                     Chicken or vegetable broth
2/3 C                  Water
1-1/3 C               Cornmeal
2/3 C                   1% Milk (could try non-fat milk, smaller amount of cream cheese, or maybe even Greek Yogurt for a different flavor)
2/3 C                   Ricotta
1/4 C                   Fresh Grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper

Meatballs -

1 lb.                    Ground turkey
1 C                     Grated Zucchini
1 tsp                    Italian Seasoning
1 Cloves             Garlic, Minced 
1/3 C                   Bread Crumbs
1/4 C                   Parmesan
salt and pepper and pinch red pepper flakes

Other - 
Your favourite store bought spaghetti sauce or your own special homemade.
1/4 C Parmesan 
Optional - Chopped Parsley plus extra parmesan to sprinkle on before serving.

Instructions - 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (Her recipe says 425, but that was too hot for my oven). 

For the polenta: Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oregano, garlic and onions. Cook until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock along with 2/3C of water and bring to a boil. Slowly add the cornmeal while whisking constantly to avoid clumping. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in the milk, ricotta and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside off the heat.

For the meatballs: Add the ground turkey to a large mixing bowl. Add the zucchini, breadcrumbs, milk, parsley, eggs, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Using clean hands, mix together until well combined. Form 14 evenly sized meatballs. Set on a baking sheet coated in cooking spray and 15 minutes until brown.

While polenta and meatballs are cooking, prepare a 9 x 12 casserole with cooking spray. Spread the warm polenta in an even layer in the dish. Place the meatballs on top of the polenta,. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan over the top of the casserole and bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 40 minutes.

When you are just about ready to serve, warm your favorite sauce over medium heat. Sprinkle the casserole with chopped parsley. Serve with the warmed pan sauce and additional Parmesan on the side. Can be messy to self serve.  You can instead plate each serving to make it look neater, then let everyone add their own sauce and additionalparemsan.