Shortcut Turkey Meatballs With Herby Ricotta

October 31, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

As much as I love meatballs, most are a project between the prep, the frying, and the clean-up. That’s why these tender, baked meatballs have earned a special place in my weeknight rotation. They’re the lowest effort, highest reward version I’ve found. Covered in marinara sauce, they’re right at home with pasta, mounded on top of polenta, or stuffed in a big, toasted roll.

The secret to their deliciousness and ease? Equal parts ricotta and pesto, which you mix in with ground turkey, panko breadcrumbs, and Parmesan. That’s it—no chopping of herbs, no mincing of garlic or onion, no soaking of bread, not even eggs to mix in. The ricotta keeps the ground turkey moist and tender, and the pesto amps up the brightness and flavor. Since pesto already includes herbs, garlic, and olive oil—ingredients found in most meatball recipes—there’s no need to add these ingredients individually. Just mix and go. If using store-bought pesto, opt for a refrigerated versus shelf-stable variety for better flavor and texture.

If you really want to get ahead, make a double or triple batch and freeze whatever you don’t eat for nights when you have less time. Like most meatballs, these freeze beautifully. Here’s what to do: Fully bake the meatballs, and once cool, freeze them (spaced apart so they don’t stick together) for 2 to 3 hours. Once solid, transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container, where they’ll keep for months. Add them frozen to the sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until warmed through. —EmilyC

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound ground turkey (85 percent or 93 percent lean)
  • 1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta, plus an additional 1/3 cup for serving
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto (from a 7-ounce container or homemade), plus an additional 1/3 cup for serving
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups marinara sauce (from a 24-ounce jar or homemade)
  • 1 pound freshly cooked pasta or Italian-style sandwich rolls for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 400℉.
  2. In a large bowl, combine turkey, 1/3 cup ricotta, 1/3 cup pesto, panko, Parmesan, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix together with your hands until just combined (don’t overmix).
  3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil, and evenly drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. With lightly oiled hands, shape the turkey mixture into small meatballs (about 35 grams each), or 18 to 20 meatballs in total. Arrange evenly on the pan. Drizzle tops of meatballs with remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake the meatballs for 13 to 15 minutes, or until they’re cooked through and lightly browned on the bottom. (For better color on top, pour off any accumulated fat on the pan and place the meatballs under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes). Remove from the oven.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring marinara sauce to a simmer. Gently drop the meatballs into the sauce, and simmer over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/3 cup pesto with 1/3 cup ricotta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Serve the meatballs and sauce with pasta or stuff into a sandwich roll, with big dollops of the pesto-ricotta mixture on top and more grated Parmesan. Or, if serving with pasta, spread the pesto-ricotta mixture on the bottom of each dish (as pictured above!).

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Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

1 Review

robinorig December 30, 2022
Used prepared pesto. Served with linguini and made my own sauce (takeoff on Marcella Hasan's, added lemon and balsamic, herbs). So good. I would cut the salt a tiny bit in the meatballs next time as the pesto added enough salt. I got ~6 servings out of the recipe, 20 meatballs.