Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Greek "Spanakopita" Spaghetti and Meatballs

 Here is my version of spaghetti and meatballs with a Greek twist.  I adore spanakopita because it is full of healthy spinach and tangy feta.  So I thought, why not give it a pasta twist?  I had fun creating this dish and even more fun eating it.  As they say in Greece, "OPA!"  Enjoy.

For the Pasta:
4oz of crumbled Feta
1lb of spaghetti pasta
1lb of frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed)
2Tbs of fresh parsley minced
1Tbs of fresh mint minced
1tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp red chili flakes (or to taste)
1 medium onion chopped
4oz of onion and chive cream cheese (see note)
3-4 cloves of garlic grated
juice from half a lime
1 cup of milk (whole)
1 cup of chicken broth or water and bullion equivalent

Note: If you cannot find onion and chive flavored cream cheese, you can try to make your own by mixing plain cream cheese with 1/2 tsp of onion powder and 2Tbs of minced fresh chives.

For the meatballs:
1lb of ground lean meat (chicken, beef, pork or lamb)
1Tbs of lemon juice
2cloves of garlic grated
1Tbs of fresh parsley minced
1/2Tbs of fresh mint minced
1/2tsp of dried oregano
1/2 tsp of red chili flakes
1 slice of bread soaked and crumbled in 2Tbs of milk
salt and pepper to taste

Cook your pasta:  Cook 1lb of pasta in a pot of water per package instructions.  Cook the pasta 1 minute shy of "al dente" because it will finish cooking in the sauce at the end.  Reserve 1-2 cups of the pasta water (the starchy water that you drain away from the pasta) to use later if needed. 

Make your meatballs and brown in a large pan with 2 Tbs of canola oil.  Once the outside is browned, you can pull the meatballs out of the pan and set aside until later to finish cooking in the sauce.

In the remaining oil, saute your chopped onions for a few minutes until softened.  Then add your grated garlic and saute for another minute.

Next add your chicken broth, milk, parsley, crumbled feta, cream cheese, mint, dried oregano, chili flakes, salt and pepper.  Stir until the feta and cream cheese melts into the sauce.  Taste for salt and seasoning. 

Return the partially cooked meatballs back into the pan to finish cooking.  Don't forget to also add any drippings/juices from the meatballs that collected on the plate.

Add your thawed and squeezed dry spinach to the pan and gently stir with all the other ingredients.  Adjust salt and seasoning now that the spinach as been added.   If you think you need more liquid add more chicken stock or pasta water (mentioned above).

Add your cooked pasta to the sauce and toss.  Allow the sauce to finish cooking off the pasta.  Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the stove and squeeze half a lemon over the pasta and toss again gently.

Serves 6.  Enjoy

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