Turkey Meatballs with Tomatoes and Basil
We used to have a cat named Jack. Jack was a sly, slow-moving, long-haired Persian that would rarely come when called, but if you put out a small bowl of vanilla ice cream, out of nowhere he would magically appear.
This is sort of how my dad is with meatballs.
All I have to do is say, “Dad, I’m making meatballs,” and he’s half-way out the door on the way over. He loves these turkey meatballs.
It’s hard to go wrong with meatballs. You just need to make sure you don’t over-mix them, and you brown them slowly enough, and in enough fat, so that flavor develops and the meatballs cook through.
That said, meatballs made with ground turkey can tend to be on the dry side.
To counter that for our turkey meatballs we add some sour cream to the mix, in addition to breadcrumbs. It works!
We also use ground turkey thigh meat, which we are able to get at our local butcher. If you can get ground thighs, I recommend it. Not only will they be more moist because thigh meat is fattier than breast meat, but also more flavorful.
Recipe and photos updated, first published 2011
- 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (thigh meat if available)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup flour, for dredging
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 jalapeno chile, seeded, minced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons white wine or chicken stock
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped (can substitute a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 Make the turkey meatball mix: In a large bowl, place the turkey, bread crumbs, sour cream, egg, minced basil, salt, minced rosemary, oregano, thyme, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes. Gently mix together using your (clean) hands.
2 Form the meatballs and dredge them in flour: Place flour in a shallow bowl or plate. Use the palms of your hands to form 1 1/2 to 2-inch wide meatballs.
Roll the meatballs in the dredging flour and set them on a plate or tray. You should have about 18 to 22 meatballs.
3 Brown the turkey meatballs in olive oil: Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large, shallow sauté pan. Gently place the meatballs in the pan. You may need to work in batches as to not crowd the pan.
Once the meatballs are sizzling, reduce the heat to medium low and gently cook them on at least 3 sides, so that they get browned pretty much all over, and cooked through.
Use a fork to nudge the meatballs in the pan. Cooking the meatballs should take about 10 minutes per batch. A gentle heat will ensure that the browned meatballs get cooked through.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the meatballs from the pan to bowl, set aside.
4 Make the sauce base: Add the jalapeño and garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine or chicken stock. Increase the heat to high and boil down the liquid to the point where a wooden spoon leaves a trail through the pan as you scrape it along the bottom of the pan.
5 Return meatballs to pan, add tomatoes: Return the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and coat all over with the pan sauce.
Add the fresh tomatoes and toss to coat. Cook for four minutes or until the tomatoes just begin to break down. Do not overcook the tomatoes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the fresh basil.
6 Serve with freshly grated cheese: Serve with fresh mozzarella, parmesan or pecorino cheese. Serve alone or with pasta, rice, or in a sandwich roll.