Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Turkey Meatballs and Marinara

Rafe is usually pretty happy-go-lucky when it comes to what I prepare in the kitchen and generally enjoys my cooking no matter what I make.  I think he trusts that I know what tastes good and I won't steer him wrong. But every now and again he'll request something specific - and my ears perk up. 

About a week ago he said, you know, I really like when you make meatballs.  Do you think you'll make those again soon?

Welp, that's all it took....That and promises of another snowstorm.  Can you think of anything better than being snowed in with a big bubbling pot of meatballs and marinara?  I can't.

Giada De Laurentis' recipe for turkey meatballs is my inspiration, but I make some changes to the recipe.  First is my choice of turkey.  Giada recommends using dark meat turkey.  I think if I'm going to have a turkey meatball I want it to be a little lighter - so I use all white meat turkey.  And instead of frying, I bake the meatballs in the oven.  

I bake the meatballs not so much for the health value.  The deciding factor is cleanup.  Fried meatballs are bar-none the most delicious.....But all that sizzling splattering oil?  I'll only tolerate that once in a great while.  I'm not the tidiest person in the world, so that helped to simplify my decision.

My pan was nonstick, and did suffer some staining - if you choose to make this recipe, I would suggest lining your pan with oiled aluminum foil, or parchment paper.

I checked on the meatballs a few times during cooking, and rolled them around on the pan so they would brown evenly.  When you cook them in a pan - they do end up a little flat on one side instead of perfectly round, but you will see why that is OK in a minute.

Once they were cooked through I dumped them into a pot full of marinara.

I made a really simple marinara sauce and simmered my meatballs all day!

I would be lying if I didn't admit that I ate a few of these throughout the day before dinner.
quality control of course.

After a day of slow simmering:

Around 7pm we tired of being snowed in, and we assembled our dinner: Meatball Sandwiches!!
Slightly flattened meatballs are perfect for this meal.  How many times have you eaten a meatball sandwich, taken a big first bite....and then PLOP!!  A meatball falls out of the back of the sandwich and onto your plate!! or worse - your lap!??

The flat meatballs lay perfectly on the sub rolls, and don't roll around at all.  We assembled the sandwiches, put provolone on top, and put them in the oven to melt the cheese and toast the bread.

Oh man.....That looks good.  Rafe assembled one of his famous salads to go alongside.  Lettuce, tomato, avocado, pecans, feta, red onion.

I apologize in advance that I cannot send these through your computer....they are delicious.

Meatballs and Marinara

Turkey Meatballs
1 lb white meat turkey
1 tablespoon milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
olive oil

Mix together the egg, milk, parsley and parmesan in a large bowl.  Add the breadcrumbs, and turkey.  Mix gently with your fingertips until just combined - do not overmix or the mixture will make dense meatballs.  Mixing with your fingertips ensures light fluffy meatballs.  
Form the meatballs by gently rolling the meat between your palms.  They should be about the size of a golf ball or a little smaller - just to ensure that they cook through without drying out.  Place them on an oiled baking sheet.  Then drizzle the tops with olive oil.
Bake at 350 in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the meatballs are browned and cooked through.  Stir a few times to ensure even browning. Once cooked through add the meatballs to the simmering marinara on the stove.


1 large onion - chopped
2 carrots - fine dice
1 celery stalk - fine dice
2 cloves garlic
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
dash crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
olive oil

In a 5 quart heavy-bottomed pot, saute the onion, carrot, and celery in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, until fragrant.  Add the 2 tablespoons tomato paste and stir to coat the carrots/onion/celery.  Then pour in the red wine and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan and cook until reduced by half.

Add the 2 cans of tomatoes and the dried oregano, dried basil, a dash of crushed red pepper and two bay leaves.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, and add meatballs.  After an hour of simmering, taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, and sugar if the tomatoes are very acidic.

Serve on sub rolls, pasta, or just eat 'em straight up!


  1. Those sandwiches look awesome!!! I need to make meatball subs again soon. And avocado makes any salad so much better : ) Good to chat last nite!

  2. These sandwiches look awesome! As much as I love being creative in the kitchen, it is always nice when someone makes a request for a true and tried favorite!

  3. Jeff usually asks me to make meatballs too. I made so many last time, we still have a ton in the freezer! And quality control is so necessary. You not only have to make sure the meatballs are okay but also have to dip them in the sauce to make sure both taste okay together.

  4. This looks SO delicious! Another meal I am adding to my lineup.

  5. I love turkey meatballs. I never think to make meatball sandwiches at home. Delicious!

  6. i need to make meatballs more often, i love them so much... these look AWESOME! great to see you last night :)

  7. Absolute comfort on a plate! You reminded me that I need to make me some meatballs soon! It's been far too long, and they freeze so well!

  8. Mmm.. meatball sandwiches. So perfect for a snow day! I also like making turkey balls (or turkey chili, or turkey casseroles) to help lighten dishes up. Pairing the leaner meat with something flavorful like marinara really helps!

  9. Yummm! There's seriously nothing better than a meatball sub!! I made meatballs the other night but now I seriously wish I had leftovers so I could make a sub out of them :) These look amazing!


  10. I love meatballs, and these have got my mouth watering! What a great and healthy dinner idea. So easy, too! I love your blog and am so happy I found it. Looking forward to exploring your recipes and seeing what’s next! :) – Georgia

  11. Lizzy - It was great seeing you Monday night as well.

    Georgia, Welcome to the Clean Plate Club!! Thanks for the comment!

  12. You're not kidding w/ these meatballs sandos. And I was proud of my Trader Joe's warm up... :)

  13. What great looking meatball subs!! This looks perfect in every way!

  14. Wow - These look amazing. It makes this non-cooker want to cook!