Kid-friendly Cloudy with a Chance of Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls+Fastest Tomato Sauce+Italian Peach Granita Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Family Meal Plan: Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls + Fastest Tomato Sauce Ever + Italian Peach Granita

Family Meal Plan: Cloudy with a Chance of Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls+Fastest Tomato Sauce+Italian Peach Granita

Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls + Fastest Tomato Sauce Ever + Italian Peach Granita

by Erin Fletter
Photo by Maren Winter/Shutterstock.com
prep time
30 minutes
cook time
35 minutes
makes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls

Has anyone ever eaten meatballs with the spaghetti on the inside instead of the outside? Our Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls accomplishes that feat and does it deliciously! Your kids will have fun breaking up spaghetti pasta into pieces before cooking and adding it to their un'meat'balls made of blended white beans and other yummy ingredients. Try dipping them into the Fastest Tomato Sauce Ever. Deliziosa!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief
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Shopping List

  • FRESH OR FROZEN
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/8 fresh onion (or 1/2 T onion powder)
  • 1 small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley tops, optional
  • 2 to 3 fresh tomatoes **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 to 1 1/2 C frozen peaches
  • 1 lemon (or 1 T lemon juice)
  • DAIRY
  • 1/8 to 1/4 C grated pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, optional **(see allergy subs below)**
  • PANTRY
  • 1 pkg spaghetti or linguine pasta **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 4-oz can tomato paste **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, or 1 bread slice **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 15-oz can white beans **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • HAVE ON HAND
  • 5 1/8 C water

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • bake :

    to cook food with dry heat, as in an oven.

  • drizzle :

    to trickle a thin stream of a liquid ingredient, like icing or sauce, over food.

  • measure :

    to calculate the specific amount of an ingredient required using a measuring tool (like measuring cups or spoons).

  • pulse :

    to process just short of a purée in smooth, rhythmic bursts of power with a blender.

  • purée :

    to blend, grind, or mash food until it is thick, smooth, and closer to a liquid.

  • roll :

    to use a rolling pin to flatten dough; use your hands to form a roll or ball shape; or move a round food, like a grape or a meatball, through another food, like sugar or breadcrumbs, to coat it.

  • slice :

    to cut into thin pieces using a sawing motion with your knife.

  • sprinkle :

    to scatter small drops or particles of an ingredient evenly or randomly over food. 

  • stir :

    to mix together two or more ingredients with a spoon or spatula, usually in a circle pattern, or figure eight, or in whatever direction you like!

  • taste :

    to put a bit of food or drink in your mouth to determine whether more of an ingredient is needed to improve the flavor.

Equipment Checklist

  • Blender (or pitcher + immersion blender)
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Skillet + lid
  • Blender or food processor (or bowl + immersion blender)
  • Cutting board
  • Kid-safe knife
  • Can opener
  • Whisk
  • Oven
  • Baking sheet
  • Medium saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Colander or strainer
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Large mixing bowl
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Ingredients

Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls

  • 2/3 C broken (2" to 3" pieces) spaghetti or linguine **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free spaghetti or linguine)**
  • 4 C water for boiling
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 rounded T tomato paste **(for NIGHTSHADE ALLERGY sub sweet red bell pepper paste or pumpkin purée)**
  • 2 T hot water
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, or 1 slice bread, torn **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free breadcrumbs or bread)**
  • 1 15-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed well **(for LEGUME ALLERGY sub 1 1/2 C diced mushrooms or firm tofu, if no soy allergy)**
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/8 fresh onion OR 1/2 T onion powder
  • 1 small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, optional
  • 1/8 to 1/4 C grated pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, optional **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub dairy-free/nut-free cheese shreds, like Daiya brand)**
  • 1/4 C olive oil + more for cooking (in classes)
  • big pinches ground black pepper to taste

Fastest Tomato Sauce Ever

  • 2 to 3 fresh tomatoes **(for NIGHTSHADE ALLERGY omit sauce and use olive oil + salt + chopped parsley to top pasta)**
  • 1/8 C olive oil
  • 3/4 T tomato paste **(for NIGHTSHADE ALLERGY omit sauce and use olive oil + salt + chopped parsley to top pasta)**
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 big pinch salt

Italian Peach Granita

  • 1 C water
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 C frozen peaches
  • 1 T lemon juice

Food Allergen Substitutions

Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls

  • Gluten: Substitute gluten-free/nut-free spaghetti or linguine. Substitute gluten-free/nut-free breadcrumbs or bread.
  • Nightshade: Substitute sweet red bell pepper paste or pumpkin purée for tomato paste.
  • Legume: For 1 can of white beans, substitute 1 1/2 C diced mushrooms or firm tofu, if no soy allergy is present.
  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free cheese shreds, like Daiya brand, for grated cheese.

Fastest Tomato Sauce Ever

  • Nightshade: Omit sauce and use olive oil + sprinkle of salt + chopped parsley to top pasta. 

 

Instructions

Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls

1.
break + boil + drain

Break spaghetti or linguine into 2 to 3-inch-long pieces to make **2/3 cup of broken pasta. Then, in a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water** to a rolling boil. Add the broken pasta, salt the water, and cook until al dente (slightly firm to the bite). Drain the pasta and run it under cold water and drain well again. Set aside to cool.

2.
measure + whisk

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small mixing bowl, measure and combine 2 rounded tablespoons of tomato paste and 2 tablespoons of hot water and whisk to loosen the paste. Add 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs to the mixture to moisten. Set to the side.

3.
combine + pulse

In a blender or food processor (or bowl for use with an immersion blender), combine 1 can white beans (rinsed and drained), 1 garlic clove, and 1/8 onion. Pulse until chopped, but not smoothly puréed.

4.
add + mix

Transfer the bean mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the cooled pasta. Tear 1 small handful of parsley leaves, adding them to the bowl along with 2 to 4 tablespoons grated cheese, 1 drizzle of olive oil, and big pinches of salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well to combine.

5.
stir + adjust

Stir the tomato paste and breadcrumb mixture into the bean mixture. If the mixture seems too wet, add another 2 to 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Mix together well.

6.
roll + bake + drizzle

Roll the mixture into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch balls with clean hands. (It’s fine if the pieces of cooked spaghetti stick out of the un'meat'balls, as they’ll get crispy and delicious!) Bake the un'meat'balls on a baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes, until browned and crispy at the edges. Drizzle the un'meat'balls with olive oil and serve warm with the Fastest Tomato Sauce Ever alongside for dipping. Say, “Buon appetito!” and enjoy your meal!

Fastest Tomato Sauce Ever

1.
slice + sprinkle + drizzle

Wash 2 to 3 fresh tomatoes and slice them into halves or quarters. Add the tomatoes to a blender or food processor (or bowl for use with an immersion blender), sprinkle with 1 big pinch of salt, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

2.
purée + taste

Purée until very smooth. Taste the sauce and add a little more salt if needed.

3.
cook + whisk

Add the freshly puréed tomato mixture to a cold skillet on the stovetop. Add 1 whole, peeled garlic clove to the skillet and heat to medium-high. Cover and cook until bubbling, about 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully add 3/4 tablespoon of tomato paste and whisk together into the sauce. Discard the whole garlic clove and use immediately, or reduce the sauce as much as you want before serving. It's perfect for pouring over pasta and dipping garlic bread or our Spaghetti Un'Meat'balls into!

Italian Peach Granita

1.
combine + blend

Have kids combine 1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 to 1 1/2 cups frozen peaches, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a blender (or pitcher for use with an immersion blender). Blend until everything is well mixed, icy, and smooth. Serve before it melts!

Surprise Ingredient: Tomato!

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Photo by Zaitsava Olga/Shutterstock.com

Hi! I’m Tomato!

"I'm a beautiful, juicy red Tomato. Do you pronounce my name: "tuh-may-tow" or "tuh-mah-tow?" Either way you slice it (or say it), we tomatoes are wonderfully adaptable. You'll find us fresh or cooked on sandwiches, in salads, tacos, soups, stews, sauces, and much more." 

History & Etymology

  • The tomatoes we have now descended from the pea-size fruit of wild plants that grew in western South America. Mesoamericans were the first to domesticate the tomato plant sometime before 500 BCE. 
  • Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, may have brought tomatoes back to Europe in the 16th century after conquering the Aztec city, Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). 
  • Tomatoes cultivated in North American colonies in the early 1700s may have been introduced from the Caribbean. Thomas Jefferson also brought tomato seeds back from France. Before tomatoes were used in cooking, the plants were used ornamentally due to some people's beliefs that they were poisonous. One reason for this error was that tomatoes come from the nightshade family, including the belladonna plant (or deadly nightshade), which has highly toxic leaves and berries. Another reason may be that the pewter plates they used back then adversely reacted to the acid in tomato juice. 
  • China is by far the largest producer of tomatoes in the world. In the United States, California and Florida produce the most tomatoes.
  • The American and British pronunciations of "tomato" were made famous by an Ira and George Gershwin song from 1937 called "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Americans pronounce the word "tuh-may-tow," and the British say "tuh-mah-tow."
  • The word "tomato" comes from the Spanish, French, or Portuguese "tomate," from the Nahuatl "tomatl."

Anatomy 

  • The tomato is a berry from the tomato plant (Solanum Lycopersicum), a perennial vine. It is part of the Solanaceae family, like the potato, pepper, eggplant, and petunia. Since it is a berry, it is a fruit, although mainly used as a vegetable. 
  • A tomato's color is usually red but can also be yellow, orange, green, or purple. Tomatoes can be spherical, oval, or pear-shaped. Their flesh is pulpy with cavities, called locules, that hold the seeds. 
  • There are more than 10,000 tomato varieties. Some are hybrids, and some are heirlooms. An heirloom tomato is a variety that has been grown for generations on a family farm rather than commercially. Unfortunately, in the past 40 years, many heirloom varieties have been lost, along with the smaller family farms that grew them. However, hundreds of heirloom tomato varieties are still available. 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • If you are growing your own tomatoes, pick them from the vine while still firm, with a slight give, and before their ripe color (usually red) deepens too much. While holding the fruit, twist it off the stem until it snaps off. The leaf on top of the tomato (the calyx) and part of the stem will come with it. You can also snip it off using garden scissors.
  • When you choose tomatoes at the store, pick fruit that has smooth, brightly colored skin with no cracks or bruises, is firm but gives with slight pressure, is heavy for its size, and has a pleasant, aromatic smell. Avoid tomatoes with pale or dark spots.  
  • Store tomatoes at room temperature, as their flavor will decrease in a refrigerator's cold temperature. Wait to wash them until you are ready to use them.
  • If you plan to make a tomato sauce or soup using fresh, raw tomatoes, you will want to peel them first. This can be difficult without some preparation: First, put a pot of water on the stove to boil and fill a large bowl with cold or icy water. Next, after washing the tomatoes, use your knife to cut a shallow 'X' through the skin at the top or bottom of each one. Then use a slotted spoon to place the tomatoes into the boiling water until the skin begins to loosen and peel back at the incision, about 30 to 60 seconds. Finally, immediately dunk them into the ice water. The skin should peel easily now. You can also remove the seeds by cutting the peeled tomatoes in half and scooping the seeds out with a spoon.  
  • Tomatoes are versatile vegetables for cooking. Ripe tomatoes can be prepared fresh, stuffed, baked, boiled, or stewed, and they are the base for many sauces. You can also pickle green, unripe tomatoes, add them to salsa or bread and fry them.

Nutrition

  • Tomatoes are a moderate source of vitamin C, and cooked tomatoes are high in lycopene, an antioxidant, which may help protect your body's cells from damage, strengthen your immune system, and prevent some diseases.

 

History of Spaghetti and Meatballs!

Photo by MSPhotographic/Shutterstock.com
  • Spaghetti and meatballs is an Italian-American dish. Italian immigrants to the United States, especially New York City, in the late 1800s created the dish. It was inspired by dishes from southern Italy. 
  • In Italy, meatballs ("polpette") are smaller than a golf ball and sometimes as small as an olive ("polpettine"). These meatballs are most likely to be served alone as a snack, in soup, or added to a baked egg-based pasta dish. 
  • Because meat was more plentiful in the US, the Italian immigrants could more frequently add meatballs, and larger ones, to their pasta. They would top their spaghetti and meatballs with "marinara" (Italian for "seafaring") or "sailor-style" sauce because canned tomatoes were among the items available at local grocers. 
  • A version of spaghetti and meatballs is found in almost every Italian restaurant in the United States. Parmesan cheese is often grated on top, and garlic bread is served with it.

Let's Learn About Italy!

Photo by Marina Andrejchenko/Shutterstock.com
  • Italy became a unified country in 1861, only 150 years ago. It is sometimes called "bel paese" or "beautiful country."  
  • Italians invented the piano and the thermometer! 
  • In ancient Roman mythology, two twin brothers named Romulus and Remus founded Rome, Italy's capital city. The myth says the twins were abandoned and then discovered by a she-wolf before being found and raised by a shepherd and his wife. Eventually (and after many exciting adventures), they found themselves at the location of Palatine Hill, where Romulus built "Roma." The Italian wolf became Italy's unofficial national animal. 
  • In the 1930s and 40s, Mussolini, Italy's prime minister, and dictator tried to eliminate all foreign words from the Italian language. How did he do that? He just changed them! For example, in soccer, "goal" became "meta." Disney character names changed, too: Donald Duck became "Paperino;" Mickey Mouse became "Topolino;" and Goofy became "Pippo." Although they're not banned anymore, these words and names have stuck. So now if you go to the Italian Disneyland, called Gardaland Park, you will see Topolino and Pippo! 
  • About 60 million people call Italy home, and it is 116,350 square miles, slightly larger than the US state of Arizona. If you compare that to the United Kingdom, 67 million people live there, and it is about 94,350 square miles. So, the UK is smaller than Italy but has a bigger population! 
  • The Italian flag is green, white, and red. These colors represent hope, faith, and charity.
  • The average Italian eats close to 55 pounds of pasta annually. If you think about how light pasta is, that is a considerable amount! There are more than 500 different types of pasta eaten in Italy today. 

What's It Like to Be a Kid in Italy?

  • Kids begin school at 6 years old. They grow up speaking Italian, but they learn English in school, so many become bilingual in Italian and English.
  • The most popular sport for kids is football (soccer). The Italian word for soccer is "calcio," the same word they use for "kick." A favorite of younger kids is "Rody, the bouncing horse," a plastic horse that a small child can hop onto and bounce around the room. Rody was invented in Italy in 1984.  
  • The family ("la famiglia") is a central characteristic of Italian life. Children have great respect for their older relatives. It is traditional to name the first male child after the grandfather and the first female child after the grandmother.
  • If kids live close to school, they can go home and have lunch with their families! Lunch at school might be pasta, meat with vegetables, a sandwich, or a salad with lots of ingredients. Families typically eat dinner later (7 to 8 pm), so kids end up staying up later, too!
  • Between lunch and dinner, kids often enjoy "merenda," which is an afternoon snack that translates to "something that is deserved." It is really a mini-meal that can include both savory and sweet foods. Examples of savory foods are a salami or mortadella sandwich, a slice of rustic bread rubbed with a cut, raw tomato, or "pizza bianca" (white pizza without tomato sauce). Types of sweet foods eaten during merenda are "gelato" (a lower-fat type of ice cream), any kind of cake, or biscotti dipped in warm milk.

That's Berry Funny

What is a scaredy-cat’s favorite dinner? 

Ravioli with afraid-o sauce!

Lettuce Joke Around

"Knock, knock!"

"Who's there?"

"Getty!" 

"Getty who?"

"Getty with meatballs is my favorite food!"

THYME for a Laugh

Did you hear the joke about the peach? 

It's pit-iful!

Lettuce Joke Around

How do you make a peach into a vegetable? 

You step on it and make it squash!

That's Berry Funny

Where did the spaghetti go to dance?

The meat ball!

Lettuce Joke Around

Why did the tomato blush? 

Because he saw the salad dressing!

The Yolk's On You

How do you fix a broken tomato? 

Tomato paste!

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