Jeremy Emmerson's Turkey Meatballs and Whole Wheat Penne

Photo: Nathaniel Welch

"I love pasta and meatballs," says San Francisco chef Jeremy Emmerson, who recently lost 54 lbs. His take on the family favorite is low-fat, high fiber – and easy. "It's a good recipe for the kids to help with – mixing the meatball mix and rolling it into balls," says the dad of two girls, ages 7 and 4. "I find the more they help with a dinner the more of it they will want to eat it." He suggests serving it alongside a green salad, cherry tomatoes and carrot and celery sticks to "get all the food groups on the table and a range of foods that the kids will enjoy."

Read about how Emmerson and three other chefs lost major weight – despite working around food all day – in the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.


1 ½ lbs. lean ground turkey breast

Salt and pepper

1 egg

10 leaves fresh basil, shredded

4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese (half for the meatball mix and half for the table)

Olive oil spray (or 1 tablespoon olive oil)

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 12-oz can of plain tomato sauce

8 oz. whole wheat penne pasta

Serves four


1. Season the ground turkey with salt and pepper.

2. Mix in the egg, half the shredded basil leaves, and 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese.

3. Roll the mix into small balls – about the size of golf balls. Place a skillet over medium heat, spritz the pan with olive oil spray, and add the meatballs. Gently sauté, until they are brown all over, then remove and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.

4. Reduce the heat to low, spritz the pan with oil again, and cook the garlic and onion for five minutes. Add the dried oregano, cook for a few more minutes.

5. Add the tomato sauce, bring to a simmer, then return the meatballs to the pan. Continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, making sure to occasionally roll the meatballs around the pan so they cook evenly. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Once cooked (approximately 9-14 minutes depending on manufacturer's instructions), drain and place in four warm serving bowls. Top with the meatballs and tomato sauce.

7. Serve the remaining parmesan and basil on the side so the kids can add as little or as much as they wish.

493 Calories per serving; protein 55g; Carbs 60g; total fat 5g (saturated fat 2g); sodium 1,530mg; fiber 8g

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