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Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs & Rapini - Food Gypsy

Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs & Rapini

Eating lighter, health-conscious meals lends balance to cold-weather-comfort-food season. With the accent on fresh and green, this Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs & Rapini is sure to make it to the family table.

Ground turkey can be a great supermarket value.  It’s a lean, versatile white meat, so often forgotten.  In this recipe, I kept a heart-friendly theme and baked (rather than sauteed) the meatballs.  It’s easier, creates less mess in the kitchen and makes for a result that’s lower in fat.  Tasty, spicy turkey meatballs. I feel so… HEALTHY.

Try Something Different

In this shot, we’ve used Peperoncino Spaghetti, a product that I simply could not resist on the shelves of my local supermarket.  Made from Durum Wheat Semolina with chilies and garlic, it has a beautiful colour and lends a unique flavour profile to the dish without being overpowering.  Personally, I like how well it holds, never getting sticky or clumpy.

 When making pasta dishes I almost always pre-cook then rinse my pasta so that it can hold as I finish the dish.  In our tiny kitchen, this helps to free up space on the stove and manage timing.  Then when I’m ready, I simply toss with my chosen sauce until warm, and serve.  A good kitchen hack to apply for your next dinner party, or in your small space.

Tossed with a classic combination of garlic, parsley, and olive oil, this is a hearth healthy meal complete with a light, spicy meatball, and dark, bitter greens.

Spaghetti with Parsley & Garlic - Food Gypsy

Craving Bitterness

At a certain time of the year, as winter drags on, I begin to crave bitter foods.  There’s a reason for this craving; bitter foods help to bring the body back into balance after a season heavy with sweets, spicy and salty foods.  The best way for our system to re-boot and clear is to seek that which it lacks.  The bite of bitter fuels the heart increases circulation and clears the small intestine.  Coffee, dark chocolate, and dark leafy greens feed the need for a bitter.  Rapini (or broccoli raab/rabe as it’s often called in North America) is packed with nutrition; vitamins A, C & K plus potassium, calcium, and iron.  It’s bitter, and if it’s overcooked, it can be even more so.

Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs & Rapini 2 - Food Gypsy

Rapini a Roma

In this recipe I handle rapini like the Romans do; tossed at the last minute with a simple pan of garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper.  Rapini, and most vegetables, in my opinion, should still be served bright and colourful, with a bit of crunch intact.

A word of caution, don’t overdo the taste of bitter in your diet as it may affect your heart and inhibit your sex life (and we can’t have that!).  Flavour and health are all about balance: sweet, sour, salty, bitter & spice in harmony.  A Fung Shui approach to good living and healthy eating.  Everything in balance.

We balanced this meal with a decent Valpolicella.  (Purely for medicinal purposes, of course.)

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Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs & Rapini 2 - Food Gypsy

Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs & Rapini

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  • Author: Cori Horton
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4


Fresh, green, easy, and delicious. Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs & Rapini, a heart-healthy recipe that is sure to be a hit on your table.



Turkey Meatballs:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (olive oil-based preferred)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (smooth)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash of Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Spaghetti with Garlic & Parsley

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 68 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • 2 pounds rapini (broccoli raabe)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced fine
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – to finish


1)  First start the meatballs; in a large bowl combine turkey, shallots, garlic, mayo, mustard, herbs, and spices and mix, using your hands or a spatula, until combined.  Then add panko and mix again.  Shape meat into balls, about 2 tablespoons in size, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

2)  While meatballs chill, pre-heat oven to 350°F (175°C) and get your water salted boiling for your pasta (about 4 quarts/liters and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt).  Chop garlic & parsley for pasta & rapini (if you didn’t chop it all while prepping your meatballs) and wash and prep your rapini.

3)  Bake meatballs at 350F (210C) for about 30 minutes. While meatballs cook, once the water has come to a solid boil, add your pasta and cook to just al dante.  Reserve about half a cup of pasta water before draining and rinsing your pasta well, then reserve.

4)  As meatballs finish, return the empty pasta pot to the stove over medium heat, add olive oil and garlic, and cook, stirring as needed, for about 3 to 4 minutes until garlic begins to brown.  Stir in parsley and red pepper flakes and remove from heat. Cook your rapini:  Place a large pan over medium heat and add oil & garlic for rapini.  Once hot, add rapini, tossing quickly with oil & garlic, season as desired.  Add two or so tablespoons of water to create steam and reduce heat to low, this will help finish cooking, but not overcook your rapini, and hold hot.

5)  Remove cooked turkey meatballs from the oven, allow to rest in a warm spot.  Return oil & parsley to the heat for the pasta.  Add pasta and about a 1/4 cup, or more if needed, of the reserved pasta water (you wondered what that was for didn’t you), to loosen the sauce, and toss your pasta to coat & steam.  Serve immediately, curling pasta in the bowls, punctuating with turkey meatballs, and adding rapini to the side. Finish with a measure of Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated fresh.

Fresh, fast & healthy. Buon appetito.


Need shortcuts for fast family weeknight meals? Make the meatballs the night before then it’s just reheat, whip up the pasta and rapini, and boom… dinner.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 Minutes
  • Category: Mains
  • Cuisine: Italian

Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.

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