Make Ahead

Secret Tips for Juicy, Tender Turkey Meatballs in Your Sauce or Mine

April  1, 2014
1 Ratings
  • Makes a large pot full
Author Notes

These light, juicy meatballs are one of my husband’s favorites. I’ve been making them for years, perfecting the recipe. Life is better with meatballs. So put some pasta on to boil and enjoy a meatball and spaghetti dinner tonight. They’re also great over creamy polenta or with crusty bread. Melt some mozzarella and Parmesan over them for a mini meatball Parmesan. Tender and moist turkey meatballs can be in your near future if you make this recipe, I promise. Many doctors and employees where I work have made these meatballs. They tell me that their families thought they were made from ground beef. I get lots of positive reviews on this recipe. I hope you give it a try. xo ~ Jilly

Some Notes:

Form the meat mixture into small walnut sized balls. The small size ensures they will cook up quickly in the sauce. Resist the urge to overcook them. I have faith you can do this. Cooking them too long in the tomato sauce leads to dry meatballs. First, they’re browned in a pan. The browning gives great flavor. Then they’re quickly finished in the tomato sauce. They take about 10 minutes to finish cooking in the simmering sauce.

Grated onion is the key ingredient to moist meatballs. Don’t skip it. Don’t worry, the onion flavor is not overpowering.

Just a little bit of grated Parmesan cheese gives more moisture to the meatballs and a nutty backnote. You’re free to add more cheese. But I try to keep them on the lighter side.

Use your own recipe for tomato sauce or mine. In a pinch, a good jarred sauce will do.

Pomi is may favorite brand of tomato products. They’re imported from Italy and they taste pure, with no added salt. They come in a box. I just love their fresh taste. If you can’t find them, use your favorite brand of tomato puree. Muir Glen is a wonderful canned tomato brand as well.

I keep a bottle of extra dry vermouth in my fridge to use in all my recipes calling for wine. It saves me from opening a bottle of wine and using only part of it. Vermouth is fortified wine. It’s lovely in savory dishes like this one. I learned this tip from Julia Child. If you want to use regular white or red wine that’s fine too. You can also omit the wine with good results.

Vintage Kitchen

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound of ground turkey. I use humanely raised, 94 percent lean.
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 small onion, minced using the fine holes of a hand grater
  • 1 garlic clove minced using a microplane zester or pressed in a garlic press
  • 1/3 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/8 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • A handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Ingredients for the Sauce:
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 13 ounces or a generous one and a half cups of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 26.46 ounce box of Pomi Strained Tomatoes or a 28 ounce can of tomato puree (see notes)
  • 2 dried bay leaves. Remember to remove them after cooking.
  • A couple of good pinches of dried oregano, about a teaspoon or so. Rub it between your fingers to release the flavor.
  • A pinch or two of sugar, about a teaspoon or so to balance the acid in tomatoes.
  • A couple of splashes of white wine, red wine or dry or extra dry vermouth
  • 1/2 cup of low sodium beef or chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • To Serve: Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, grated Parmesan cheese, cooked pasta
  1. Instructions for the sauce: Put your favorite sauce on to simmer or use one or two jars of good quality sauce. You need enough sauce to cover the meatballs. Keep it on a gentle boil. If you’re going to make my sauce then start by sauteing the onion and green pepper in a large pot with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the onion and pepper are soft, add the tomato products, a splash or two of vermouth, beef broth, bay leaves, oregano and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a gentle boil. Turn down the heat, cover, and keep on a gentle simmer. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes for the flavors to combine. Stir from time to time. As the sauce is cooking, proceed with making the meatballs.
  2. Instructions for the meatballs: Grate the onion and garlic into a large bowl using the smallest holes on a box grater, add all the other ingredients up to and including the salt and pepper. Be careful with how much salt you add because Parmesan cheese tends to be salty. Gently mix to combine. Form the meat mixture into small walnut sized balls. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium high heat with some olive oil. Drop the meatballs in the skillet and pan fry until browned on both sides. Don’t crowd the pan. Fry in batches if you have to. There’s no need to cook the center of the meatballs because they will finish cooking in the sauce. Once the meatballs are all browned on both sides, drop them into the simmering sauce. Make sure the sauce is at a gentle boil. Cook the meatballs in the sauce for about 10-15 minutes or until done in the centers. They don’t take long. You want them to be cooked but still juicy. You may wish to deglaze the pan that the meatballs were cooked in with a little vermouth or wine, scraping up the browned bits. Add the deglazing liquid to the simmering tomato sauce. It gives great flavor. Serve the meatballs and sauce sprinkled with chopped flat leaf parsley. Crusty bread, polenta or pasta make great sidekicks. You can also place the meatballs and sauce in an oven safe pan, top with shredded mozzarella and bake or broil until the cheese is bubbly and melted. Enjoy!

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3 Reviews

felicia S. May 27, 2019
Good tips for the turkey meatballs. I loved it . I will continue to use this method of cooking my turkey meatballs. It taste awesome !!!
Sarah Y. March 14, 2017
I made this recipe for meatball subs for a game night and it was a hit! Took a shortcut and bought marinara sauce instead of making it. Thanks for the recipe!
AntoniaJames April 2, 2014
Excellent recipe. So looking forward to trying it. Soon! ;o)