Cauliflower Gnocchi with Creamy Roasted Vegetable Sauce and Italian Turkey Meatballs (Gluten-free, Low-Carb, Dairy-Free, Paleo-Friendly)

I grew up in a household where I was constantly exposed to so many different dishes and foods; I guess that’s what happens when your father has a passion for cooking and food. A classic choice was always some sort of Italian dish, so naturally this became my comfort food (well, that and mashed potatoes/French fries bc who doesn’t love those?) As most of you know, I recently went to New York (Brooklyn and Manhattan) where I allowed myself to eat a little less restricted while still trying to stay balanced. One thing I wanted the whole time I was there was pasta. Sadly, everywhere we went for dinner didn’t have pasta at all or did not serve gluten-free pasta. Even somewhere that said online that they did told me at their location they don’t! It isn’t always a choice to be gluten-free!!

IMG_8808So, naturally, the moment I got home my recipe creator mind went crazy trying to think of a delicious dish I could make to satisfy my craving. When I create recipes, I like to think of a dish and write down all my favorite flavors that match with that dish. For this recipe, I started with the sauce…because that is my favorite part! I wrote down a list of flavors that I wanted to taste, some extra veggies I could throw in to add more health benefits, and how I wanted to use the ingredients. Then, I moved on to what kind of pasta I wanted to match it with, and I needed to think of a protein to add so it would be a balanced meal. Thus, I created this beauty…okay the color is a little odd, but it comes from the mix of roasted veggies…yum!

I have heard about Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi all over the BeachBody Instagram world. They are gluten-free and made with a base of cauliflower (veggie pasta? Yes please!) One of the best parts about them is that they are frozen, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad before you have your next pasta craving. I was finally ready to try these babies after reading about them for about a month now. When I got to the store, I was pleasantly surprised that they were only $2.50 a bag! That’s such a great deal, especially if you are gluten-free like I am and you are used to buying products for way more than the typical prices.

IMG_8809Next came thinking about a protein. I remembered how much I liked the meatballs I made a couple of months ago, and I was excited when I discovered ground turkey in the fridge that needed to be used. However, this time I wanted to do something different from the pesto flavor, so I used two of my spices from RawSpiceBar. If you have never heard of this company, I highly recommend looking into their spices. It is a quarterly subscription that sends fresh, high quality spices to your door and gives suggestions on how to use them. I love receiving the spices because they always inspire me to create things that I normally wouldn’t! I’ve cooked a variety of middle eastern and asian foods I would have never tried without these spices. I am not sponsored by them (a girl can dream) but I have been featured on their Instagram/Twitter pages and recommend them on a serious level! PS: Who can spy a hungry puppy in the bottom of this picture??

Now that I’ve blabbed enough, I am ready to share this recipe! My mom said this was some of the best sauce she has even had and I was so proud. The sauce is creamy without any added cream, and it was purely veggies, some spices, and olive oil! Pretty amazing what vegetables can do on their own! Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Cauliflower Gnocchi with Creamy Roasted Vegetable Sauce and Italian Turkey Meatballs Recipe

This recipe yields about 3 servings of sauce and gnocchi, and 12-15 meatballs depending on their size.

Ingredients

Gnocchi:

  • Cauliflower Gnocchi from Trader Joe’s

Meatballs:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package of RawSpiceBar New York Italian Seasoning (or your favorite Italian Seasoning)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (I used RawSpiceBar’s)

Sauce:

  • 6 tomatoes (I used Roma because that is what grows in my garden, but feel free to use beef or any other large tomato)
  • 1 whole sweet onion, sliced
  • 6-9 cloves of garlic (depending on preference)
  • 1 whole bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 °F. Line two baking sheets with foil for easy clean up.
  2. For your meatballs, in a mixing bowl, add egg, garlic, almond flour, spices, and fennel seeds. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Add your lean ground turkey. Be sure to mix really well so all of the turkey is covered in flavors, egg, and flour!
  4. Using a tablespoon for measurement, take a scoop of turkey and using your hands, roll into a tight ball and place on your baking sheet. If this thought totally disgusts you, you can also use a cookie scoop so you aren’t touching the raw meat. When making your meatballs, remember to try to make them all a similar size so you can be sure they cook through all the way.
  5. Put baking sheet in the oven and allow your meatballs to cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Using tongs, flip your meatballs so they brown on both sides. Cook for 10 more minutes. When done, take them out of the oven so they are ready to plate later.
  7. While your meatballs cook, you can begin to prep your veggies for the sauce. Chop your onions, tomatoes, and bell pepper, then lay them all out on your second foil lined baking sheet and season with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper. Your garlic can be placed in whole cloves on the sheet as well!
  8. Place your veggies in the oven with your meatballs. They will take less time to roast than the meatballs, so keep a close eye on them. Mine took about 25 minutes and came out perfectly!
  9. In a sauce pan, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and your fresh herbs. Let this begin to warm up on a low heat so the herbs infuse their flavor into the olive oil.
  10. When your veggies are ready, add them to the sauce pan and begin to break them down while mixing it all together.
  11. In a blender, pour your sauce and blend until smooth. A hand held blender works just as well. I personally use my NutriBullet and love it.
  12. Pour your sauce back in the pan, add sea salt, cracked pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir well and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  13. Cook your gnocchi according to the directions on the package.
  14. Pour gnocchi, sauce, and meatballs into a bowl and enjoy the heck out of it!
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Pesto Turkey Meatballs (Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Paleo Friendly)

I eat a fair amount of chicken, in fact, it is a go-to in my diet. When eating chicken, I really only eat the breast because it is lower in calories and fat, but very high in protein. However, I do go through phases where chicken does not sound appealing because I have eaten too much of it. So, I decided I needed a change.

My second go-to meat is always lean ground turkey. I love it’s versatility and protein content. I personally buy 99% lean, because I tend to add healthy fats (like olive oil and coconut oil) to my cooking and do not need the extra fat from meat. However, for some, 99% lean is way too dry. If this is you, I suggest trying 90% lean! With that being said, I couldn’t decide how I wanted to cook it up. I wasn’t in the mood for tacos or burgers…then I realized something I haven’t had in awhile…MEATBALLS!

Now, this brings up a fun fact. For my friends that know me, you know I love Jersey Shore. So, I thought why not make some versatile, Italian flavored meatbawls, in honor of Jersey Shore Family Vacation finally airing and being so successful! I am a huge fan of a few shows on MTV, but Jersey Shore is literally the reason I pay for a Hulu account. I just love a good reality tv show!

My first step was to think about the flavors that I like most in Italian cooking. My number one is always basil! I love how it can make a meal taste fresh and so flavorful while also being a leafy green (that counts right?) But what’s better than just basil? Pesto. I had a jar of pesto from Trader Joe’s that I have been using in various ways, but this seemed like a great way to add flavor to my meatballs. I also love dried oregano, minced garlic, and to my father’s disapproval, dried parsley. These flavors can easily be used in many ways and with many sauces, pastas, and salads.

Now, normally meatballs call for breadcrumbs. However, I am gluten-free (if you haven’t noticed). I decided to try to make them with almond flour instead of any type of bread crumb. This also eliminated any high carbs or extra/unneeded starches. If you have a nut allergy, I am sure rice flour would work as well, but like I said, I didn’t want the extra carbs. The use of almond flour also made my meatballs paleo friendly, so enjoy babes!

Pesto Turkey Meatballs Recipe

I was able to make 13 large meatballs, but if you wanted to make more, you could just use less meat in each ball. PS: these are better enjoyed while watching Snooki and Deena day drink and dance their hearts out (;

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 °F. Line a baking sheet with foil. This creates easier clean up for you! IMG_7045
  2. In a mixing bowl, add egg, garlic, almond flour, parsley, oregano, pesto, salt, and pepper. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Add your lean ground turkey. Be sure to mix really well so all of the turkey is covered in flavors, egg, and flour!
  4. Using a tablespoon for measurement, take a scoop of turkey and using your hands, roll into a tight ball and place on your baking sheet. If this thought totally disgusts you, you can also use a cookie scoop so you aren’t touching the raw meat. When making your meatballs, remember to try to make them all a similar size so you can be sure they cook through all the way.
  5. Put baking sheet in the oven and allow your meatballs to cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Using tongs, flip your meatballs so they brown on both sides. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  7. Allow to cool.
  8. You can enjoy them on pasta, add them to my Spaghetti Squash with Avocado Pesto or how I decided to enjoy them tonight, with some veggies and homemade tzatziki! Just because they are Italian meatballs, it doesn’t mean they can’t go well with Greek (;