Tuesday, July 19, 2011

of My Favorite Turkey Meatballs (with Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce)

Spaghetti and Meatballs has always been a very comforting dinner for me. I blame it on my as yet undiscovered secret Italian heritage. Who would have guessed that these meatballs, invented during my whirlwind college years in between huge studio projects (shout out to LARCs), would one day become such a staple of my diet. Besides my mom who used to field my requests for meatballs and spaghetti at least two or three times a week that is...

I've had meatballs made with beef, veal, lamb, chicken, turkey or any possible combo of the 5 with any number of spice and seasoning combinations thrown in for good measure. I can honestly say that this recipe is my absolute favorite, and not just because it is one of mine. My favorite part of these are how versatile these little babies are. You can fry 'em up in a pan, sear 'em and finish up in the oven, or just go the lazy (my) way and bake these suckers. Each and every preparation lends a different quality to the recipe and all are enjoyable; however since I'm in charge here I'm showing my favorite way...feel free to experiment though I am not in your kitchen so I'll never know!

Another great thing about this recipe is that it is very easy to double, triple  or even quadruple the recipe. I made this at the beach last year for my family with no trouble at all and that is with  4 hungry men involved. As long as the proportions stay the same you will get the same result no matter how many pounds of ground turkey you put in. 

Today's Cast of Characters:

For the sauce I am using store bought tomato sauce but dialing the flavor up a bit with some baby heirloom tomatoes and white wine. I find that both lend a little bit of something undefinable to the sauce. When heirlooms are not in season I generally use little grape tomatoes, but since its the summer time I totally lucked out!

All sorts of goodies go into the meatballs, but don't be discouraged by the long list. These come together extremely quickly. For the meatballs you'll need ground turkey, good quality Parmesan cheese, an egg, olive oil, and milk (I used fat free half&half because it is the only thing I had). For the seasonings some garlic, some basil, a bit of Cajun seasoning, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes. You will also need bread crumbs. I am using whole wheat today but when I make them at the beach this year I will use Gluten-Free breadcrumbs so that my recently diagnosed with Celiac disease sister (told you the family allergy profile was bizarre) can enjoy them too!

What to do:

To get started, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You want the oven to be nice and toasty by the time you are finished with the prep. Also get a pot of water going on the stove. Add in some salt, trust me on this one. 

While the water is coming to a boil crack the eggs into a medium size mixing bowl. Beat it a little bit with a fork until it is combined. 

Add in the milk and mix a little more. This will allow the two to get a little bit acquainted before the others arrive to the party. Apparently socializing eggs is super important. 

Now its time for the salt, pepper, garlic, and all the other seasonings to give yourself a workout. Stir this until the mixture is evenly spread through with deliciousness.

Drop in your ground turkey. Pour in the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Try not to think about how you wouldn't mind eating raw meat at this point and get yourself a cheese stick to calm the tides of hunger.

Now that you are feeling better, incorporate the ingredients into the egg mixture until it is just combined. Be careful not to over mix as this could lead to tougher less mushy meatballs. I'd rate this a 5 out of 10 on things to take your aggression out on. But don't worry there is plenty of chopping involved later.

I like to hand roll the balls into approximately two inch spheres. I think this gives it a more of a homey feel plus I have always enjoyed playing with food. If you are a germaphobe like my mom you can wear gloves or use a small cookie scoop. To each his own.

Plop the meatballs onto a greased cookie sheet. If you are touching the raw meat make sure you remember to give your hands a good wash before continuing with the rest of the recipe.

By now your oven should be furiously beeping at you to let you know its ready and raring to go. Put the meatballs in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. You'll know they are ready when they are a delectable golden brown color and are slightly springy to the touch.

You can double check doneness by cutting one in half and seeing if it is all cooked through. As a bonus, you can sneak these halves into your stomach (Get in my belly!) or just add them to the sauce when its ready.

The water should also be boiling so add in your desired noodles. My choice is almost always thin spaghetti but very occasionally I like to mix it up with some angel hair or even fettuccine.

While all of this other stuff is cooking, pour the jar of your favorite store bought or homemade tomato sauce into a pot. Today I went with Francesco Rinaldi Tomato and Basil because as I said earlier I am in charge here so I am showing you my favorite way.

I always put in a little bit of white wine (to the bottom of the label) in the can and shake it up. This serves the dual purpose of adding a little bit of Italy and thinning the thick sauce.

Next sprinkle in some fresh or dry basil (enough so that you can tell it is in there). With fresh I use 3 or 4 leaves. With dry 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon should be plenty. Also add in your halved grape or cherry tomatoes. Today I am using baby heirloom tomatoes. It is just not summer without them. 10 or so of them should be just plenty too. 

Allow sauce to come to a simmer. Then add in the Meatballs and simmer for the duration of the time it takes to cook the pasta or if you were an overachiever and already had the pasta cooked 3 or 4 minutes should work out just fine. 

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain the pasta, and return to the pot. Finally, add a little bit of margarine, butter, or olive oil to the spaghetti noodles and mix it up real good. 

Serve up some spaghetti onto a plate, pour some of the sauce and a few meatballs on top of the spaghetti. Garnish with a little bit of Parmesan cheese and try not to die whilst you inhale this dish.

Serves 4 hungry people(more with a salad)


1/2 Package of Thin Spaghetti, cooked
1 Jar of Tomato Sauce, Heated
10 Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
White Wine

The Meatballs:

1 lb Ground Turkey
1/4 Cup Breadcrumbs
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1 large Egg
3 cloves Garlic
2 tbsp Milk
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Basil
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 dash Cajun Seasoning
1/8 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 dash Paprika


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, start a pot of salted water.
2. Crack an egg into a medium mixing bowl. Whisk with a fork until all yellow. Add milk, garlic, salt, pepper, and other seasonings. Mix well.
3. Add the ground turkey, bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Mix until just incorporated. Do NOT overmix. 
4. Form the mixture into balls approximately 2 inches round. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. Until golden brown, springy, and cooked through.
5. While the meatballs are baking, pour the sauce into a medium sauce pan. Rinse jars with White wine and pour into pot. Add Basil and tomatoes. Add in meatballs when sauce comes to a boil. Simmer until pasta is finished.
6. Add the pasta to the water and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to pan. Add in butter, margarine, or olive oil and stir.
7. Serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

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