I like making a meaty spaghetti sauce with ground turkey. I think it has much more flavor than a plain ground beef sauce. But the other day I was in the mood for meatballs in my spaghetti and I’ve never had much luck making ground turkey meatballs. They remain fairly soft even after cooking and tend to fall apart. I needed to find the equivalent of food glue.
I thought adding more crumbs and another egg might do the trick. I had two pounds of ground turkey and planned to use both packages and freeze half of the meatballs for another time. I’d make a double batch and have food in the freezer for quick meals on busy days.
I started by putting the ground turkey in a large bowl and added in the rest of the ingredients: 2 cups of ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, a tablespoon of Worcestershire, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, a cup of shredded Parmesan and a cup of bread crumbs.
I started using a large spoon and soon decided, as usual, that my hand was a better way to mix the ingredients together. It’s cold, but more effective. Once it looked well-mixed, I dug out my large cookie scoop and formed balls with it and place them on a sheet pan.
When all 51 balls were made, I rolled about 15 at a time in flour and sautéed them in a large preheated skillet that I’d drizzled with oil. I made sure they were browned on two sides, for that rich, caramelized flavor. I set the burner to medium high to sear them fast, about 2-3 minutes per side.
As the meatballs were browned I put them into an ovenproof dish and slid it into the oven preheated to 300°F. When they were all done I raised the oven temp to 350°F and set the timer for 30 minutes to make sure they baked all the way through.
When they were fully cooked I removed half of the meatballs to a plate to let them cool so I could package and freeze them for a later date. The remaining meatballs I added to the marinara sauce and let them simmer for another 30 minutes on low.
The meatballs were still softer than a beef meatball would be, but they did stay together this time. Previously I’ve had meatball mush, falling apart all over. That’s not a really bad thing, as it was more like spaghetti Bolognese. But I had wanted meatballs and that was not the result I was aiming for.
I made cavatappi pasta and served the meatball marinara sauce over top of a bowl of the pasta. Sprinkled with a little more parmesan, it was excellent!
I had fresh mushrooms and I wanted that nice fungus-y touch in the marinara. I also wanted to use some of the fresh spinach I had and that’s almost always a good addition to most Italian dishes.
I put the ingredients into a large nonstick skillet and let it simmer until it was bubbling.
I added the meatballs and let the skillet simmer for 30 minutes. I stirred in the spinach and Parmesan and let it simmer until the Parmesan was melted.
The meatballs were delicious and combined with the marinara sauce it was a great match. I like a tomato sauce with the ground turkey. The idea of putting ketchup or a tomato sauce on turkey sounds very odd to me, but in the ground turkey form it works well. And with Parmesan cheese in the meatballs and the sauce, it’s a rich, deep flavor that satisfies.
The marinara sauce is super simple. I’ve listed it under the meatball recipe below even though I’ve previously posted my recipe. I added the mushrooms and spinach to this marinara sauce which added extra flavor but they also added extra nutrition. Plus they make it look that much more interesting and pretty.
And as always with an Italian dish, the leftovers are even better. The flavors meld even more and are great microwaved.
Turkey Meatballs in Marinara Sauce
1# ground turkey (this is the single recipe; I doubled and froze half)
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup shredded parmesan
½ cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ – ½ cup flour for dusting
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Mix well with spoon or hands. Make into balls with hands or a large cookie scoop.
Preheat large nonstick skillet on medium high with a drizzle of oil.
Roll balls in flour and fry in batches of 12 – 15, turning until two sides are browned and caramelized.
Place finished meatballs in and ovenproof container in preheated oven until all meatballs are browned.
Increase oven temp to 350°F and bake meatballs for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and add to marinara sauce.
8 ounces white button mushrooms; cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon oil
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
Pinch of cayenne
1 cup shredded Parmesan
2 cups spinach; roughly chopped (could also use kale)
Extra Parmesan for garnish (optional)
12 ounce box Pasta of choice, prepared according to directions for al dente
Saute mushrooms 3-4 minutes in oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add tomatoes and seasonings.
Bring ingredients to a bubble then reduce heat to medium low. Add meatballs and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add shredded Parmesan and spinach and stir. When spinach is wilted, serve meatballs and sauce over hot pasta. Top with extra grated Parmesan if desired.