Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mama Melissa's Meatballs - and Spaghetti!

Now that fall is officially here today, I feel like cooking some good old-fashioned comfort food. While my daughter was disappointed to see that the trees did not magically turn color overnight when she woke up on this autumnal equinox, she will be very glad to know that Mommy will be making spaghetti and meatballs again. Since I've come to work for NuVal, I've learned lots of things and I've made some changes in what foods I choose for my family. That being said, I have NOT changed how I make meatballs. I still make them the way I learned growing up in Rhode Island, the amazing little state where 'most everybody is at least part Italian. I have, however, changed which pasta I buy. I tried whole wheat pastas a few years ago and I was unimpressed. But when I heard Shari Steinbach, the lead dietitian at Meijer supermarkets, talk about how much she loved Barilla Plus Multi-Grain Pasta, I had to try it. Shari promised that it tasted just like plain old pasta and she was right. And get this - it scores a 91 on the NuVal scale (where 100 is best). Regular Barilla pasta scores a 61. And some of the favorites I grew up on (like Prince and Ronzoni) score a 49. The worst scoring pasta? Egg noodles. Some are as low as an 11. Check out all the pasta scores here.

Now, of course, like a good part-Italian girl, I make my own sauce. I was very happy to learn from Annette Maggi, the senior dietitian for NuVal, that canned tomatoes often have more lycopene in them than fresh tomatoes because they are concentrated. Who knew? But the scores on canned tomatoes really vary, mostly due to how much sodium and sugar is added. And this is why I need NuVal scores in a grocery store that is close to my home. Even though I have access to scores, I can't always remember them when I'm looking at the grocery store shelf. And lots of those tomato cans look the same, don't they?

Consider these sample canned tomato scores:
• Sclafani Regular Tomato Puree Concentrated (no additives): 82
• Hunts Regular Tomato Sauce (no additives): 75
• Contadina Regular Tomato Sauce (no additives): 37
• Hunts Regular Stewed Tomatoes: 34
• Red Pack Regular Crushed Tomatoes: 21
• El Pato Mexican Tomato Sauce: 17

And since this old-fashioned part-Italian girl is also one busy working mom/fitness instructor/blogger/volunteer/fundraiser, there is always some jarred sauce in our house. Again, the scores are all over the place:

• Eden Foods Spaghetti Sauce No Salt: 91
• Classico Di Roma: 68
• Ragu Old World Traditional: 52
• Barilla Sweet Pepper with Imported Olive Oil: 46
• Barilla Roasted Garlic with Imported Olive Oil: 36
• Newman's Own Sockarooni Spaghetti Sauce: 27

As for my Mama Melissa's Meatballs, as my Dear Husband affectionately calls them, here is the recipe. Sorry, no measurements - my mom never gave them to me. Just play around with the mix until it has a consistency and aroma that's pleasing to you.

Ground Beef (I use something around 85%, about 2 lbs)
Italian Style Bread Crumbs (around 1 1/2 cups)
2 eggs
Oregano (really shake it in there)
Parsley (really shake some of that in there too)
Parmesan Cheese
Garlic Powder (the more garlicky, the better)

Mix the ingredients and hand roll the meatballs. Bake them at 350 until firm and lightly browned. Transfer the meatballs to your sauce pot and let them simmer in the sauce on low for at least 5 hours. Works great in a crock pot.

Oh, and now go out and buy a very large bottle of Spray and Wash. I know in our house, after we eat this meal, we need it!


  1. This is awesome information. Thanks NuVal mom. I wish you had posted your sauce receipe also. I look forward to seeing some other recommended NuVal fall favorites.

  2. I was shopping at HyVee today and noticed Ancient Harvest Quinoa Supergrain pasta. I've never tried it before, but I was tempted as it boasts a NuVal score of 82. I'll give it a try and let you know how it tastes.

    Like you, I am now officially craving warm comfort foods. I can think of nothing better than the smell of marina sauce filling my kitchen. Unless of course there's homemade bread baking in the oven at the very same time. ;-)

  3. Sounds yummy... my kids love meatballs. I'll have to try your recipe. Thanks :)

  4. Very, very helpful! I hopped over from BookieBoo.

    I like the content of your blog!

  5. Joanne, I ate quinoa pasta in the past when told I had celiac sprue. Thankfully the dr.'s were wrong because it does not taste very good. The Barilla multi grain tastes great. I am pleased to see it gets such a good Nuval score. It was also the pasta recommended to me by my friend who is a registered dietitian. Joe P