Not Your Ordinary Spaghetti and Meatballs

Good morning, friends!

I had a special visitor for dinner last night — my dad! He’s in town and asked last minute if I would feed him some dinner. It was great to see him!


He requested “no hippie food” and asked for something along the lines of salad and spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, lol. Clearly I slightly improvised ;)


I had some whole wheat rotini and quinoa (!!) elbow pasta in the pantry that I wanted to use up, so I decided to be sneaky to see if he noticed it wasn’t normal pasta ;)

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Verdict: he totally didn’t notice :) I asked halfway through if he thought there was anything weird about the pasta, and he said no and that it was delicious! Success! He was very surprised when I told him the spirals were whole wheat and the elbows were made from (gasp) that “hippie food” quinoa! Heh

I also used lean ground turkey instead of ground beef. Tasted just as delicious!


And added lots of veggies. I love bulking up pasta with fresh veggies — it adds nice texture AND lots more volume for minimal calories, so you are full on less pasta!


My dad hung out in the kitchen while I made dinner. He’s a decently healthy eater (and a big runner, so he’s in fantastic shape), but has absolutely NO clue about cooking — left to his own devices he will have cold soup out of a can, hehe. He reads my blog every day, but was still amazed watching me cook, asking things like “Aren’t you timing that? How do you know when it’s ready?” and “So you REALLY know what you’re doing with this?” Hehe :) Clearly my mom was the cook in our household! 

Anyway! I started by sautéing the ground turkey in a large pan over medium high heat with some cooking spray. My dad’s not a fan of garlic, so no garlic tonight :)


Once it was fully browned/cooked, I added in some pasta sauce. I was too lazy to make my own, plus I love Prego’s “fresh mushroom” marinara sauce. Why mess with awesomeness? (Although it does have a good amount of sodium.. oh well)


And then I added in my veggies — chopped zucchini and green pepper.


I turned the heat down to medium low and put a lid on top so the veggies would steam.


A couple minutes later, and it was ready to go! I had already boiled the pasta in a separate pan, so I drained it and added it on in, along with some extra marinara sauce (I’m obsessed with sauce).


Delicious and super easy. Plus, I have lots of leftovers! :)


I also made us side salads with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes (my dad’s favorite!), cucumber, and avocado, topped with balsamic vinaigrette and a little cracked pepper. Delish :)


I think it’s safe to say my dad was impressed :)

Who’s the cook in your family? Is your family into healthy eating? I didn’t get into cooking until after college, so my mom was always the cook in ours, though she prefers baking to cooking! Her cookies are pretty much to die for. :)


  1. 1

    That looks delicious. Really cute to hear about you and your dad. My dad and I are super close and when it comes to cooking, he’s pretty clueless unless it’s a greasy breakfast dish – he’s got that down. We grew up eating relatively healthy – rarely had dessert and no soda in my house. Now, as an adult, my fiance is the real cook. He loves experimenting with recipes and he’s really talented!

  2. 2

    My dad can bbq like no other but I think its a requirement in this state…:) Mom is def. the cook though! Dinner looks great and I am glad you got to have a special guest for dinner! And you know David is the cook…HA! I think Im funny… Miss you!!!

  3. 4

    We all cook in my family. My husband cooks meat because I don’t eat it and he also bakes bread at least weekly. I’m better at sweet baking and I do all the canning but we’re equally responsible for everything else.

  4. 5

    My mom was always the cook, but my dad had a handful of dishes he could make. Him cooking only happened a few times a year though. My boyfriend now is a chef, and I love to cook, so we both split the duties pretty evenly which I love.

  5. 6

    Hmmm! :)

    Your dad is my Bf in somes years! When is home alone and “has” to cook for himself, he’ll it toast or soup from a can. When I tell him “Why didn’t you do this or that” is answers is always : Way too complicated. Oh well :)

  6. 7

    Mmmm, I always forget about the simplicity that pasta brings to life. I need to make some pronto.
    Growing up, Momma was the cook – but Dad manned the grill and was the best pancake and grilled cheese maker ever.
    These days, definitly me. I started the blog just so my family could see what I was up to in the kitchen.

  7. 8

    That looks so easy and delicious! I’ve definitely gotten more into cooking since I got married 2 years ago, but I am still hesitant to cook meat. I feel clueless about buying AND cooking it, but I want to be able to do it even though I don’t eat much meat. I would try this recipe!

    • 9

      I don’t eat or cook with meat much either, but it’s definitely a good thing to know how to do every once in awhile when you have visitors :) Give it a try – it’s not scary!

  8. 10

    Mom is definitely the cook in ours! I *sort of* cooked in college…and may or may not have relied on frozen meals now ‘n then (Lean Cuisine should never be a staple food…). Now when I’m home, I basically take over the kitchen, and have zero complaints. ;)

    And you’re right – never mess with the Awesomeness.

  9. 11

    That looks so yummy! My mom is usually the cook in our family, and she is very much into health cooking. My dad cooks on occasion (mostly grilling), but he’s gotten more into cooking in recent years. He’s really excited about it now that I’ve started a food blog….but he’s way more of a meat-eater than I’ll ever be. So some of his recipes are no-gos. I love being in a family that loves to cook!

  10. 12

    Quinoa pasta! I had no idea… that’s on the top of my shopping list :)

    My mom was definitely the cook… my brother, sister and I were scared when left alone with my dad for dinner! Mac and cheese, always…

    • 13

      Ha! My brother and I would usually convince my dad to take us to McDonalds or Burger King in those cases ;) How things have changed, right?!

  11. 14

    My mom was always the cook growing up. My dad can cook, he just rarely did so until a few years ago. Now, they are both impressed with what I create in the kitchen and love when I am home and cook for them!

  12. 15

    My mom is definitely the cook in my family. She’s famous for her desserts — all “home cooking” type things but very, very delicious! I definitely get my love of cooking from her and I love to help her when I’m home for holidays. My brother can cook a few things pretty well (especially grilled items and omelets, which I think are some sort of manly rites of passage or something seeing as it is all some guys cook!). I’ve never seen my Dad cook anything but hamburgers on the grill and food on a camp stove in the wilderness. :)

  13. 17

    may not be ordinary but i bet it’s delicious!!! my parents did a great job of splitting the cooking…i learned so many things from both of them in the kitchen!

  14. 18
    Lauren Madow Setzer says

    Hi Anne!

    Your recipes look incredible. I am planning to make some this week… :) Will let you know how they turn out.

    Hope all is well!


  15. 20


    My dad gets nervous when I cook too, but then he loves whatever I make!

  16. 21

    It was def my mom growing up, and as soon as I moved out for school I couldn’t wait to start cooking for myself. Now at home with the hubster, we eat healthy, though he does endulge in steak, mashed tatters, and mcdonalds on his own ;-) lol

  17. 22

    That is most certainly not your ordinary spaghetti and meatballs…it looks a million times better! It’s pretty slick that you covered the healthy pasta in a red sauce ;) I’ll have to try that with my dad because he pretty much hates all things healthy :/

  18. 23

    I cook pretty much the same things you do. My hubby also doesn’t like ” hippie food” but I find that if he doesn’t see me cooking the so called ” hippie food” he likes it when I serve it to him. I have gotten pretty good and making his favorite dishes into healthier, “hippie food” without him noticing to much.

  19. 24

    My dad was definitely always the cook in our household. He has a really stressful job and loves coming home at the end of the day and just doing something totally different and creative. He makes really healthy, really delicious food!! My mum on the other hand will eat a cheese sandwich, when left to her own devices :).

  20. 25

    My Mom was the cook and she is excellent at it. I learned to love cooking from her but she actually learned to cook from my Dad, funny huh?

    I am the cook in our family too, my Husband is not allowed in my kitchen. Sometimes he helps with minor tasks but I dont like a crowded kitchen lol

  21. 26

    My mom and dad were both cooks in the family – my dad was more into ‘experients’ he juices every vegetable in sight! Now y boyfriend and I are both the cooks, but I make more ‘regular’ meals and his are more ‘productions’ that see to take hours to prepare.

  22. 27

    No hippie food…that’s cute!
    When I visit my parents, my dad gets really excited because that means I’ll cook. He doesn’t cook much and my mom, for all her great qualities, doesn’t LOVE to cook. She makes dinner, and we were never hungry growing up, but she cooks with very little enthusiam. So, when I show up, they get all excited.
    A few years ago my dad had heart bypass surgery, so he eats a lot more healtfully than ever before, which is great because I love cooking vegetables.

  23. 28

    So nice to have dinner with your dad!

    I am definitely the main cook in the house, but my boyfriend is starting to love to cook, too. My family in general are all pretty healthy eaters, but we like our splurges, too!

  24. 29

    mmmm. I’m gluten free so I’ll have to try those elbows. I love pasta!

  25. 30

    I’m lucky because all of us like to cook. My mom was the main cook, and she’s fabulous at it, but my dad loves to grill and I’m the baker. Quite a nice set-up if I do say so myself :)

  26. 31

    Sounds like a fun night! I totally support your Dad in his request for “no hippie food!” In my house both my parents cook, but my Dad specializes in grilling, major meat pieces, and of course, family recipes for Italian cooking! :) My Italian Grandmom is the absolute CHAMPION chef of the family, everything she makes is amazing and she makes it all using experience from watching her mother- no measurements or timing, just feeling it out.

  27. 32

    I was one of the few kids in the early 80’s bringing hummus for lunch (and my mom grew up 15 min from Woodstock). So, no, my family’s pretty open to “hippie food”. ;)

    My mom did a lot of the cooking, and my dad grills, but by the time I was in middle school I was cooking at least 1/2 the meals. My parents were GOOD at delegating. And now? My husband’s a decent cook, but I usually do it all.

  28. 33

    My mom is an incredible baker. She can whip up [insert baked good here] from scratch and from memory without any recipes. Amazing! And indulgent! And living with her for the last year has wreaked havoc on my butt!

  29. 34

    What is that delicious and healthy looking dressing on the salad???

    • 35

      Well, it looks really healthy because the dressing wasn’t on it yet, ha! :) That’s just cracked pepper in the photos. But, I used a Newman’s Own Light Balsamic Vinaigrette to top the salads with – LOVE that dressing.

  30. 36

    I made a very similar dinner last night! Except the only veggie I added to the pasta was roasted broccoli… I totally agree with your comment on added veggies, it def fills you up faster with less pasta ;)

  31. 37

    That sure looks good – really good, in fact… adding the veggies is a great touch. And it looks like it wasn’t too hard/time consuming to make, either. Very nice! :-)

  32. 38

    What a tasty looking dish! My parents are ok cooks – but not really keen to try new things. So I always like to make different dishes when i am home so that they can try them!!!

  33. 39

    Aww, what a great surprise dinner date with your dad.

    I feel that I gained all of my passion for cooking and food from my dad. We love to share our latest food creations or great meals with each other today and still reminisce on the days when he taught me to cook.

    Glad you had a good night with your dad. He sounds like such a great man! :)

  34. 40

    My mother did most of the cooking but she doesn’t love it! Now I cook a ton for my family because I make them eat all that “healthy” food which they don’t complain about because they don’t want to hurt my feelings…whole wheat pasta, ground turkey, low fat cheeses, etc.

  35. 41

    My mother was the cook in our family and my dad was the griller and made breakfast on the weekends. I didn’t really learn how to cook until I got married and taught myself. Of course my cooking style for the last 5 years now is healthy and have learned a lot from weight watchers, the internet, and also just experiementing. BTW, I wheat pasta and always bulk mine up with veggies when I make it.

  36. 42

    My dad is a good cook, but my mom usually had cooking duty. :) haha.

    I’m definitely the cook in our house, my husband totally set a fire trying to cook EGGS and also somehow made shredded potatoes turn kinda purple in the oven trying to make hashbrowns… he only heats frozen meals and makes sandwiches now. :)

    I never buy premade sauce anymore – once I started making my own w/ a can of crushed tomatoes + seasonings I was sold. So much cheaper and healthier!

  37. 43

    My mom eats similarly to me. But what’s even stranger is that so does my grandma who is 88. She was making Green Monsters like 5-6 years ago. In her Vita-Mix. Seriously!

  38. 45

    I’m glad you got to be with your dad! My husband (!) isn’t a super healthy eater but gives it a try for my sake – I can’t WAIT to try quinoa pasta! Looks awesome. I hope you have a great weekend, Anne!

  39. 47

    Sometimes classic spaghetti and meatballs is awesome.
    I just made the most delicious meatballs this week!

  40. 48

    My dad and mom are both awesome cooks. My dad just throws together is awesome comfort food at the drop of a hat and my mom can follow recipes and make the most extravagant, fancy pants feasts. I’m lucky!

  41. 49

    That’s nice you had a visit from your dad! What a colorful, amazing looking meal! I bet it tastes awesome!
    I am definitely the family member to loves to cook most and especially try new things. My dad seems to have enjoyed cooking more now that he is retired, which is nice to see. :-)

  42. 50

    Holy YUM!
    This dish looks amazing!
    I bet you had a wonderful time with your Dad :)
    Wish you a great weekend, Anne!
    Brazilian XOXO´s,

  43. 51

    Nice looking combo!

  44. 52

    haha I love that you’re “sneaking” in health food; I can only think of Deceptively Delicious. The recipe looks like it turned out great! I am a total health nut and no one else in my family is

  45. 53

    I love that your Dad was interested in watching you cook.. and that you were able to sneak in healthier foods without him noticing. I’ve done this to my Dad before but he’s super picky… and I think he’d be ok knowing about the whole grain pasta, but I would have had to keep the quinoa a secret because he’d try to tell me it upset his stomach later. haha. It’s all in his head! :)

  46. 54

    Yum! The pasta does look DELICIOUS! I’ve been wanting to try the quinoa pasta, and I definitely will since it passed the “no difference” test :) I love when that happens! I tricked my dad once with Egg Beaters – SUCCESS! :)

  47. 55

    I know this post is years old, so I’m unsure if anyone will read this and answer…but I was wondering how much pasta you used with the 1 lb. ground turkey? I’m terrible at guessing pasta quantities…I always cook WAY too much.

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