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Sunday supper and more

Double up on heart-healthy comfort food

Ground turkey makes a leaner plate of spaghetti and meatballs. The next day, add chicken stock, ditalini, sauteed vegetables, and fresh spinach to make a traditional Italian wedding soup. Ground turkey makes a leaner plate of spaghetti and meatballs. The next day, add chicken stock, ditalini, sauteed vegetables, and fresh spinach to make a traditional Italian wedding soup. (Food styling/Sheryl Julian and Lisa Falso; Photos by Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Lisa Zwirn
Globe Correspondent / December 9, 2009

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Steaming plates of spaghetti and meatballs define comforting family suppers. The tender little rounds of moist and flavorful meat appeal to children and adults of all ages. It’s hearty, warming fare that everyone can appreciate. In fact, this is a good time to get youngsters interested in the kitchen. Little hands can roll the meat mixture into balls that parents can ease gently into the bubbling tomato sauce.

Meatballs, like meatloaf, are usually made from a combination of ground meats: beef and pork, perhaps crumbled sausage. Bread crumbs soaked in milk and egg are used to bind the mixture and seasonings might include Parmesan, parsley or other herbs, and spices. In December, when tempting rich foods are everywhere, you can make this dish leaner with ground turkey. Once the balls have simmered in tomato sauce, no one will notice your heart-healthy meat. What’s important is the type of turkey you use. Extra lean ground white meat, from the turkey breast, turns dry and the meatballs can be tough. Use ground turkey that includes some dark meat (sometimes labeled “93/7’’) for tastier, more tender meatballs.

The next day, take any leftover spaghetti with the sauce that clings to it and some of the meatballs and turn dinner into a traditional Italian wedding soup (not served at weddings, but rather, its flavors marry well). Save about half the meatballs from the spaghetti for the soup. Saute aromatic vegetables in olive oil. Add chicken stock and ditalini or other soup pasta, then the meatballs, any leftover spaghetti (snip the strands several times first with a scissors), and finally several large handfuls of fresh spinach. Sprinkle the bowls with grated Parmesan and add a crusty loaf. Healthy, filling, satisfying - and cheap. That’s good news this time of the year.