By Luke Chavez
The Times 

Turkey Meatballs

My Recipes|Luke Chavez


January 26, 2023

Luke Chavez

Turkey Meatballs

The chilly nights are back after a brief, unseasonable warm spell, which has pushed me back into the kitchen to continue my exploration of comfort food classics. This week, I found myself craving the Italian American staple, spaghetti and meatballs. Instead of beef and pork I opted for a lighter version made with ground turkey. Made with an aromatic combination of herbs, the resulting meatballs are extremely flavorful and tender. Baked instead of fried, these lean polpettes are then simmered with a bright tomato sauce and served over pasta.


1 pound ground turkey

½ cup plain breadcrumbs, or panko

⅓ cup sweet onion, minced

¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

1 large eggs

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (see notes)

¼ teaspoon dried basil

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt)

¼ cup olive oil

For serving:

2 ½ to 3 cups your favorite homemade or jarred marinara sauce

1 pound pasta, spaghetti or bucatini

Fresh parsley, minced

Parmesan, fresh grated

Fresh ground black pepper


In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, breadcrumbs, onion, parsley, eggs, garlic, Worcestershire, dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Use your hands, or a sturdy spatula, and mix until well combined. Roll into 1-inch balls and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Brush a wire rack with oil and set on the prepared sheet. Arrange meatballs on the rack and brush all around with olive oil. Place in the hot oven then bake until browned and cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Use a thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. The edges of meatballs should be slightly crispy. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the marinara sauce to a simmer. Add the meatballs in a single layer, stirring in to cover with the sauce. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to package directions for al-dente. Drain and toss the noodles in a little olive oil. Serve pasta in bowls topped with a helping of sauce and meatballs. Garnish top with parsley, parmesan, and a crack of black pepper.


Herbes de Provence is a classic blend of dried herbs used, as the name suggests, in southern France. Traditionally, the blend includes rosemary, marjoram, thyme, savory, and oregano. Sometimes blends also include dried lavender. The flavors of this blend taste particularly wonderful with poultry. If you can not find Herbes de Provence, you can make your own (there are lots of recipes online), or for this recipe substitute ½ teaspoon dried rosemary and ½ teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme.

I opted for the lighter version of this recipe by baking the meatballs, however you can also brown them in the more traditional method of frying them in a large skillet. Use the ¼ cup of olive oil in the skillet and fry in batches, making sure they evenly brown, and cook through to 165 degrees.

These flavorful meatballs could be served over pasta, a creamy polenta, or even baked into a lasagna. Try them sliced as a pizza topping, or skip the sauce and add them to your favorite soup. I served them over bucatini with a crisp chopped salad on the side. Mangia!


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