Tender Turkey Meatballs and Orzo with Whole-Lemon Vinaigrette

By EmilyC
October 4, 2017
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Author Notes: Mayo is certainly not a traditional ingredient in meatballs. But it’s not an unusual choice, either, when you consider its parts: egg, oil, and a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice, all whisked or blended together. Because it’s a stable emulsion, mayo serves as an excellent binder for meatballs. It easily slips into the role played by eggs and bread crumbs. With mayo, the path to meatballs is simple: no eggs to crack, no bread to blitz into fine crumbs, no guessing at the amount of crumbs to work in (too much...hockey puck meatballs! Too little...crumbly, fall-apart meatballs!). And a good quality mayo adds a lot of flavor in the process. Easier still, these meatballs are cooked on a sheet pan under the broiler, so they get golden brown without the mess and time required of frying.

Together, the meatballs and orzo are bright, light, and lemony. The orzo is double dressed, first with mayo to add body and light creaminess (and prevent the orzo from sticking and clumping as it rests), and then by a whole-lemon vinaigrette inspired by Alison Roman’s recipe in Bon Appétit.

Serves: 6-8 people

Turkey Meatballs

  • 2 pounds ground turkey (dark meat recommended)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Finely grated zest from 1 large lemon (saving juice for the orzo)
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
  1. Heat broiler and place top oven rack below heat source.
  2. In a large bowl, combine turkey, mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest, parsley, Parmesan, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix together with your hands until well combined.
  3. Line a large sheet pan with foil and, using your hands, rub olive oil over the entire surface.
  4. Shape turkey mixture into small meatballs, about 2 tablespoons each or 1 1/2-inches wide, and place them on the foil-lined sheet pan. It’s fine if they’re close together. Drizzle the meatballs with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Broil meatballs about 8 to 10 minutes, flipping them once, until they’re browned on both sides and cooked through. Remove from oven; cover with foil to keep warm.

Orzo with Whole-Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1 pound orzo
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots (from 1 small shallot)
  • 1 cup green olives, such as Castelvetrano, pitted and coarsely chopped or torn
  • 1 large lemon, quartered, seeds removed, and finely chopped (peel and flesh)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped greens (such as spinach, arugula, kale, or a mix)
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste (from the lemon you zested for the meatballs)
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add orzo, and cook according to package directions. Drain (do not rinse) and transfer to a large bowl. Immediately add mayonnaise, and stir until evenly incorporated.
  2. While orzo is cooking, make the whole-lemon vinaigrette: in a bowl, combine shallots, olives, and chopped lemon. Season with kosher salt and few grinds of black pepper. In a small skillet or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add lemon-olive mixture, and cook, stirring frequently, until ingredients are warmed through and the shallots have softened but not browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the whole-lemon vinaigrette over the warm orzo and mayonnaise, and toss to combine. Add Parmesan and chopped greens, and toss again. Taste the orzo, and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.
  4. Gently toss in the meatballs, or place them on top of the orzo. Serve warm, with more grated Parmesan if desired.

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