One of my ultimate comfort foods are meatballs. They are so simply wonderful and they never cease to make me happy. Not all meatballs are created equal, but if you take me to an Italian restaurant, chances are I will order meatballs in one form or another. I have loved them since I was a kid and I will never stop.
Several years ago when I was realizing I was getting older and I should look for places in my diet to lighten things up a bit, I started using ground turkey or chicken in replace of ground beef for things like chili and tacos. I never really thought about it for meatballs until I started making a turkey lasagna. The thing I love about ground turkey is that it really is a blank canvas. It doesn't have much flavor on its own, so whatever seasonings you add to it, it takes that on and you don't really miss the beef. (Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for beef meatballs).
These hearty meatballs take on all the delicious Italian flavors you know and expect from your traditional beef/pork meatball, but they are lighter and don't leave you feeling as weighed down. I love these over a big bowl of pasta or spooned onto crusty bread with some mozzarella cheese melted over for a delicious meatball sandwich. They also make a great appetizer at a party. Just put them out with toothpicks and you're good to go.
I make mine rather large -- about 2" in diameter. You can make them any size you want, just know you'll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
I have been making these meatballs for years and I absolutely love them. I make a whole batch and freeze the extras so I always have some on hand for a quick dinner. I hope you'll try these and love them as much as my family does. Mangia!
Watch my TikTok to see me make these in action!
Italian Turkey Meatballs
Makes 22 meatballs
Prep time: 30-40 minutes | Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Click the file below to download and print the recipe
I recommend reading the recipe all the way through, including the recipe notes at the bottom, before you start cooking.
1lb. ground turkey*
1lb. spicy Italian turkey sausage, casing removed (usually 4 links)**
3/4 C. dried Italian bread crumbs
1 tsp. garlic, finely minced or grated (about 1 clove)
1/2 of a medium onion very finely minced or grated
1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 TB tomato paste
1/4 C. milk plus 2 TB (any fat percentage)
1 TB finely chopped fresh basil
1 TB finely chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 400°
In a large bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, eggs, garlic, onion, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and tomato paste until fully combined. Add in 1/4 cup of milk and mix. If the mixture is still crumbly, add up to 2 more tablespoons of milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is moist but not soupy.
To the bowl, add in the ground turkey, turkey sausage, basil and parsley. Using clean hands***, mix the turkey together with the bread crumb mixture until everything is evenly distributed and fully combined.
Using a 2" ice cream scoop, scoop out the meat mixture and place onto a large, parchment-lined baking sheet**** Scoop out all of the meat into their portions before going back and gently rolling each into a rounded ball. Lightly wet your palms every few meatballs to help the meat from sticking to your hands. Place each meatball back on the parchment-lined baking sheet with at least an inch between each one. You may need more than one baking sheet depending on the size of yours. Or cook them in batches.
Drizzle each meatball with some olive oil. This adds some moisture and helps them brown nicely. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes until they are fully cooked through to 165° and the tops are lightly browned.
Top with your favorite sauce over pasta or place on crusty bread and melt some cheese over for a hearty meatball sub. Freeze extras for an easy dinner anytime.
*Recipe notes + Variations*
*Use any type of ground turkey. I have used all white meat and a combo of white/dark meat. Both work well.
**If you don't like spicy, use sweet Italian turkey sausage instead. It is important to get the sausage in the links not the bulk stuff that comes loose like regular ground meat. I don't know why it matters, but it does. It just does not taste the same with the other stuff. Having said that, if you can't find linked Italian turkey sausage, feel free to use bulk. Usually the links come in a 1.25lb. package with 5 links. 1lb. would be 4 links. I freeze the extra and use it for a future dinner.
***Clean hands are a chef's best tool. Don't be afraid to get a little dirty. Mixing this meat with your hands is the best and fastest way to make sure everything is evenly combined. You don't want to over mix, which you risk if you try using a spoon or a stand mixer. Just make sure to thoroughly wash your hands with hot, soapy water when you're finished rolling the meatballs and/or before touching anything else.
****If you don't have parchment, feel free to use foil or nothing. I would lightly spray the foil or the bare baking sheet with a little cooking spray though.
Freeze extras! 22 meatballs is a lot unless you're feeding a crowd. Cook all of the meatballs as directed above then let them cool completely at room temperature. Place the meatballs you want to freeze onto a small baking sheet (I have a 1/4 sheet that I love and use all the time) and put them in the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, put them into a zip top bag or plastic container until you're ready to use. To reheat, simply place them in your favorite sauce and simmer on low until they are heated through. You can also thaw them on the counter or in the fridge then heat them in the sauce.