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Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

meatballs and zucchini noodles on plate

The Miami VA Healthcare System Healthy Teaching Kitchen recipes are designed for the general population that desires to follow a healthy diet. For recipe modifications due to diet restrictions please contact a Miami VA registered dietitian at 305-575-7000, ext. 3070.

By Amy Faulkner, registered dietitian
Thursday, August 17, 2017

Welcome to another edition of the Healthy Teaching Kitchen, brought to you by the Miami VA Healthcare System’s Nutrition and Food Services. My name is Amy Faulkner, registered dietitian. One of my goals is to teach Veterans to become more connected to their food, by showing them how wholesome foods can be easily prepared and by highlighting some of the nutritious benefits foods provide.

In this recipe, we’ve added a healthy spin on a traditional favorite: spaghetti and meatballs. Cooking a meal that is both delicious and nutritious can be so rewarding! Making healthy substitutions for “not-so-healthy” ingredients in recipes can have a positive impact on your overall health.

Benefits for Your Health

“Mozzarella-Stuffed Turkey Meatballs over Zucchini Noodles”


The turkey in this recipe is a great source of lean protein, which is essential for building new cells, maintaining healthy tissues, and producing enzymes and hormones necessary for growth. Including a protein source at each meal not only helps us feel satiated afterwards, but also ensures our bodies are able to carry out all of these crucial functions.

Phytochemicals act as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant

The word phytochemical means “plant chemical.” Phytochemicals are naturally occurring in plant foods, and while they are not needed to sustain life, they may help prolong life due to their unique health benefits in stimulating the immune system—which can protect from certain cancers, and chronic diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis and arthritis.

The rainbow of colors you see in a variety of fruits and vegetables all contain different types of phytochemicals:

  • For example, the zucchini in this recipe contains immune-boosting, anti-oxidative vitamins:
    • vitamin C
    • vitamin A
    • phytochemical zeaxanthin, which plays a role in maintaining your vision
    • Tomato sauce is rich in lycopene, which is known to prevent prostate, stomach and esophageal cancers

Some foods used to flavor recipes can also provide health benefits. For example, garlic does more than make this meal fragrant and tasty.

    • Garlic contains a phytochemical called allicin, which is known to fight disease-causing agents in our bodies known as free radicals. Garlic is widely recognized for its ability to help decrease the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.

Nutrition Tidbits Corner

This recipe is intended for anyone following a regular and diabetes diet; however, readers have requested recipe substitutions for special dietary restrictions. Here are solutions if you are following a special diet:

Renal/Dialysis Diet: Substitute the marinara sauce for roasted red pepper sauce to avoid excess potassium

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet: Substitute ground turkey for a pureed red bean and/or tempeh mixture and bind with breadcrumbs and egg

Gluten-Free Diet: Be sure to read your food label to ensure the marinara sauce used does not contain any gluten

If you have any additional dietary restrictions that may be of nutritional concern when making this recipe, consult your registered dietitian.

Mozzarella-Stuffed Turkey Meatballs
Yield: 2 servings | Serving Size: 4 meatballs

  • 4 zucchini
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 4 Parsley Sprigs (garnish)
  • 8 oz. Lean Ground Turkey
  • 2 oz. Low Fat Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 tbsp. Italian Seasoning Blend
  • 2 64 oz. Fresh Mozzarella
  • 8 fl. oz. Marinara Sauce
  • Canola Oil
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Pepper
  • 1 tbsp. parsley


A. Form and Sear Meatballs

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, ricotta, half the Italian seasoning, ¼ tsp. salt and a pinch of pepper
  2. Divide into 8 equally sized balls
  3. Press your thumb into center of each meatball and place a mozzarella ball in the well
  4. Reform meatball around cheese, making a tight seal
  5. Heat 2 tsp. canola oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Place meatballs in hot pan and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all around, about 3-4 minutes
  6. Transfer to a plate

B. Prepare the Sauce

  1. Heat 1 tsp. canola oil in pan used to sear meatballs over medium heat
  2. Add garlic, marinara sauce, remaining Italian seasoning, and half the parsley (reserve remaining for garnish) to pan
  3. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds

C. Finish the Meatballs

  1. Add sauce to meatballs
  2. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until meatballs reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees, 7-10 minutes
  3. Remove pan from burner. While meatballs finish, cook zucchini

D. Cook the zucchini

  1. Heat 2 tsp. canola oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat
  2. Place zucchini noodles in hot pan and cook, stirring occasionally until warmed through and tender, about 3-4 minutes
  3. Remove pan from burner and season with ¼ tsp salt and a pinch of pepper

E. Plate the Dish

  1. Add a serving of zucchini noodles on a plate or in a shallow bowl
  2. Top with four meatballs and more sauce
  3. Garnish with remaining parsley
  4. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts (per 4 oz. or ½ cup)
4 meatballs and 1 cup of cooked zucchini noodles per serving

Calories: 318 Kcal
Carb: 9 gm
Protein: 24 gm
Fat: 20 gm

  • low carb
  • low calorie
  • gluten-free

We want to hear from you!

Stay tuned for more healthy recipes. Now that you’ve had a chance to view the video and see this recipe prepared, let us know what you think. Do you have a healthy recipe? Your recipe could be featured in a future Healthy Teaching Kitchen video. To submit your recipes, call 305-575-7000, ext. 3070. Happy cooking!

Note: The Miami VA Healthcare System Healthy Teaching Kitchen recipes are designed for the general population that desires to follow a healthy diet. For recipe modifications due to diet restrictions please contact a Miami VA Registered Dietitian at 305-575-7000, ext. 3070.


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