lunchbox life: slowcooker turkey and kale meatballs with whole wheat rotini

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Ah, Sunday: we meet again.  This weekend was full of disco fever due to Taste of the Arts: Studio 54, a disco party and auction benefiting Macon Arts Alliance.  Months of hard work by the committee and staff were all worth it when we saw Macon’s Terminal Station lit up in pink lights and booming with disco music!  Today we got to take it easy and sleep in a bit, although I do have to brag on my run buddy Renee and myself who both attended Taste of the Arts last night and ran six miles this morning–woohoo!

This week’s lunches are a partial request from friend and reader Jennifer Borage.  Jennifer and Jason have a beautiful new baby girl, Bethany, and Jennifer requested a slowcooker recipe to save time and energy as she adjusts to new mommyhood and going back to work full-time.  This recipe would be a great lunch or weeknight meal, so Jennifer, this is for you, Jason, and sweet Bethany!

The great part about these meatballs is that you don’t have to worry about baking the meatballs in the oven before you place them in the slowcooker.  You just mix the meat mixture, form the meatballs, place them in the slowcooker, pour the sauce over the meatballs, and cook on high for 4 hours.  These are super simple, healthy, and will change the way you think about the otherwise arduous task of meatball making.  I got a good bit of inspiration from this Skinnytaste recipe, but I added the kale and whole wheat pasta to make it a well-rounded meal.  Enjoy!

Slowcooker Turkey and Kale Meatballs with Whole Wheat Rotini

Serves 8

2 lbs. ground turkey

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 bunch of kale, stems removed, chopped, massaged with 1 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper

for the sauce:

2 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Organic brand)

3 bay leaves

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup fresh parsley

8 oz. baby bella mushrooms

salt and pepper

2 cups dry whole wheat rotini (double this amount to match the pasta needed for all of the meatballs in this recipe)

For the meatballs: in a large mixing bowl, add the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, egg, oil-massaged kale, garlic powder, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  Once the meat mixture is evenly combined and begins to take form, start forming the meatballs in golf ball sized shapes.  Don’t pack the meatballs too tightly; they’ll become too tough if you over do it.  As you form each ball, place them in the slowcooker.  You should have about 30 meatballs from this amount of ingredients.

For the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot and add the garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Cook garlic for about 1 minute until fragrant, then add the 2 cans of crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, and mushrooms.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, then pour the sauce over the meatballs in the slowcooker.  Cook on high for about 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours, depending on when you’d like for them to be ready.

When you’re ready to eat, quickly prepare the pasta according the package directions.  Remove the meatballs from the sauce in the slowcooker, then when the pasta is ready, drain it and place pasta in the sauce; stir to coat and combine.  Add about 3/4 cup of pasta and sauce to a dish, then top with four meatballs for each bowl.  Top with grated parmesan.

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