Friday, May 4, 2012

Turkey Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

My kids love meatballs!  Do yours?  Through the years, I have purchased pre-made meatballs simply because of the ease.  Just pop them into a pan, pour over some sauce, heat, and eat. 

As I have aimed to try to eat a bit more health consciously, however, I have looked for a recipe that was easy to make, budget friendly, and a favorite of the eaters around my table.   While I like the ease of a pre-made meatball, I don't like the long list of ingredients/additives on the package or the heartburn that pre-made meatballs sometimes leave behind.  After experimenting a bit, I came up with this recipe that seems to be a winner.  I have taken this dish to a potluck and had several people ask me why my meatballs were so good compared to the ones they'd had before.  When I told them they were made from turkey, they couldn't believe it!

The trick to this recipe is getting the lean ground turkey seasoned well enough to have a lot of flavor.  The deglazing process (just pouring a little liquid into the pan that you brown the meatballs in) also adds a robustness to the sauce.  I have never tried to brown these meatballs in the oven; I have only browned them on the stove in a skillet, so I'm not sure if you'd get the same depth of flavor doing them in the oven without that deglazing process.  I also love the flavor that the Fire Roasted tomatoes (rather than just regular diced tomatoes or Italian seasoned diced tomatoes) bring to the sauce.  I also like to use kosher salt and fresh ground pepper in this recipe over regular table salt and pepper just because it seems to season the meat a little better.  Toss in a little parmesan cheese into the sauce as it cooks, and you're left with a meal that is up for a restaurant challenge anyday.

I will admit that this is a meal that I will make when I have a little bit more time to prep dinner.  It does take some time to mix and roll the meatballs, but they cook quickly.  Sometimes I'll roll and brown the meatballs, deglaze the pan, add the sauce, and then throw it all into the slow cooker to either continue heating or to keep warm until dinner time.  These also freeze and reheat beautifully if you're looking for a freezer meal or a recipe to add to your ministry meal file.

Turkey Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

1 lb lean ground turkey
½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp onion powder (or 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh)
1 tsp garlic powder (or 2 minced cloves)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

Tomato Sauce:
¼ cup wine (to deglaze pan after browning meatballs; can also use beef broth)
1 jar favorite pasta sauce
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1 bay leaf
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1.        Thoroughly combine turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.
2.       Form into golf ball sized meatballs.
3.       Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.
4.       Brown the meatballs, about 5-7 minutes on each side.
5.       Remove cooked meatballs from the pan and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
6.       Add the wine or broth to the skillet to deglaze the skillet.  You want all those little browned pieces to come loose; this gives the sauce a rich flavor.
7.       Add the pasta sauce, tomatoes, and bay leaf. 
8.       Bring to a simmer.
9.       Return meatballs to skillet and cook an additional 15 minutes.
10.   Add parmesan cheese to skillet and stir gently.

Serve over favorite pasta.  We like whole grain rigatoni or rotini with this particular dish.

Sorry there's not picture for this dish!  Our doorbell rang just as I was putting dinner on the table, and I got sidetracked and forgot to take the photo!  I'll try to add one next time we have these on our menu!

What's your favorite ground turkey recipe?

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