Is there anything more satisfying than a pot of meatballs slowly stewing in a simple Sunday marinara sauce? I like to make a big batch of these for the week. My Italian supermom, Camellia, deserves all the credit for leaving that taste in my mouth from childhood. I'll make them tennis ball size and add them to pasta, or teaspoon size and toss them into chicken broth with pastini & spinach for an Italian wedding soup, or slice them up and add them to grilled sprouted bread with spinach or as a cold meatball (loaf) sandwich on white country bread with a thin layer of dill pickle, pickled onion, ketchup and mayo. Searching for healthier ways to make the traditional beef/veal/pork ball, I found that using turkey (brightened with fresh herbs) you get just as tender of a meatball without sacrificing any of the taste and texture. I now prefer turkey to red meat balls in fact. I like to use a handful of fresh herbs like basil, thyme, and parsley but dry Italian seasoning and/or toasted dried fennel seeds work great too. If you're feeling adventurous, most butchers will grind whole turkey for you (dark meat is most flavorful) but I find the store bought meat works just as well. While the balls cook - I do the simplest, roughly blended marinara sauce.
2 lbs ground turkey meat
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for topping
Handful of fresh herbs, chopped or 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 14 oz can whole stewed tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, and minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4-5 fresh basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. On a nonstick sheet tray add a few glugs of olive oil, spread around evenly and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients and mix around thoroughly with your hands until combined.
2. With a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture and form into 1 inch balls and place on sheet tray, spaced apart, and bake for 15 minutes.
3. While your balls roast, make your marinara. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic, onion, salt and red pepper and sautée for about 5 minutes, right before the garlic starts turning brown. Add the canned tomatoes and cook a few more minutes until it starts to simmer. Turn off the heat and transfer half of the mixture to a blender with the fresh basil and blend until smooth. Mix both together and set aside.
*Hint - An easy way to chop up whole canned tomatoes is to use kitchen shears or a knife, go into the can after opening and give the tomatoes a good slash all around.
3. When your balls come out, if serving immediately, add them to a bowl and top with your marinara, grated parmesan, olive oil, and a sprig of basil. If saving for later, pour sauce over the balls (or not - Alicia prefers them without the sauce), let cool, and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.