Baked Turkey Meatballs
I took some big bites last year. Really big bites in my life and work.
I’m talking about those almost mortifying first date kind of big bites… the kind where you can’t decide if you should take that piece of sushi in one bite or two. The answer is always one bite because trying to divide a piece of sushi into two bites will inevitably lead to you having seaweed and pieces of rice stuck to your chin. But that one big bite.. man… that’s the kind of bite that has you covering your mouth with your hands (both hands), deep breathing through the nose, with eyes wide that betray just the slightest bit of panic. That was my year: full mouth, eyes wide with bits of panic, chewing through it… just chewing through it.
I’m taking this month to recollect and reconnect. January seems like a good month for that. I want to see some friends, plan some collaborations, and sit at my desk and eat some meatballs. That’s really all I want to do.
Meatballs might just be as therapeutic to make as pie. I think it’s all the chopping, sautéing, and general smooshing. It’s slice and dice and stress-ball therapy.
I start with ground turkey. You could also use ground chicken. If you’re in the market for more of a beefy ball, these Cup of Jo meatballs are probably what you’re looking for.
A few slices of bread (I used Spelt bread because I’m really into it) are soaked in milk.
Onions and garlic are sautéed and softened.
Eggs are an important binder when it comes to meatballs. The proteins in eggs will help the whole mixture stick together and not crumble.
It’s just about time to turn this meat into balls.
I like to bake my meatballs in a bit of tomato sauce. Let me be perfectly honest, I used store-bought tomato pasta sauce. No shame in my game. Meatballs are from scratch and I just give myself a bit of a break when it comes to the sauce. If you’re thinking of making your own sauce, well… high-five, and this recipe (with onions and butter) is my very favorite.
These meatballs are swimming in a bit of tomato sauce, and also topped with a bit of a sauce just before being baked. Baking the meatballs will keep any sort of splattery mess in the oven and not on the stovetop. We’re doing all sorts of winning, if you’re keeping track.
This recipe is adapted from Deb’s recipe for Chicken Meatballs on Smitten Kitchen. This might be the fourth time I’ve made them and every time I tweak them just a bit. This go-round I added grated parmesan cheese and extra parsley. Just because Just because.
With pasta. With salad. Cold from the fridge. Thawed from the freezer. Meatballs. You know what to do!
Baked Turkey Meatballs
makes 24 meatballs
adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Gourmet
6 slices italian or whole wheat bread, torn into medium chunks
2/3 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground turkey
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
3 to 4 cups tomato-based pasta sauce
Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, pour the milk over the bread crumbs. Allow to soak for 5 minutes.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and cook until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Squeeze any excess milk from the bread. Add the bread to the turkey and discard the milk. Add the cooked onions and garlic. Add the eggs, salt, red pepper flakes, oregano, cheese, tomato paste, and parsley. Use a wooden spoon to work all of the ingredients together. You may need to get in there with your hands to thoroughly and evenly combine all of the ingredients.
In two 9×13-inch pans, spread about 2 cup of sauce (1 cup in each pan). Shape together 24 meatballs. Each meatball will be about 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Use your hands to best shape the meatballs. Rinse your hands in warm water every few meatballs to keep your hands from getting too sticky. I found that having slightly damp hands helps tremendously in shaping the balls. Place 12 meatballs in each pan. Top each meatball with a small spoonful of sauce.
Bake meatballs for 25 minutes, or until bubbling and cooked through. Remove from the oven and serve with pasta, or just with sauce and a hearty green salad. Meatballs will last up to 4 days well wrapped in the refrigerator.