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I’ve had my eye on this recipe by Annie of Annie’s Eats for quite some time and this weekend I finally couldn’t take it anymore. Just as I was about to start baking ham and scalloped potatoes for our Easter meal I decided I had to stop everything and make these meatballs. Have you ever experienced a serious meatball emergency?
No? Just me?
I ran off to the store for a few things I needed only to find that my local store doesn’t carry the main ingredient – ground chicken. I would not be deterred. I decided right there on the spot to substitute ground turkey and pretend everything was just fine. I made several other modifications to make use of items I had on hand and, my friends, everything is more than just fine. It’s downright fabulous.
First, a couple of ingredient notes. Feel free to use any brand of crushed tomatoes you prefer but look for a variety with added ingredients like these Crushed Tomatoes with Basil from Muir Glen. Italian style would also work well.
Whoever decided to package tomato paste in a tube is a genius. I always keep a tube in my fridge for recipes, like this one, that call for just a tablespoon or two.
The sauce is a simple one and we’ll start with it first. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep, oven-proof pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup finely chopped onion and cook until it begins to soften. Stir in 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, water, a touch of salt, and fresh ground pepper. Reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer while you prepare the meatballs.
Tip of the day. Use a cheese grater to grate onion when you want to add onion flavor to a recipe without adding too much texture. A great choice when making meatballs.
All the meatball ingredients go into a large mixing bowl. Ground turkey, Italian style panko bread crumbs, an egg, grated onion, dried parsley, dried basil, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Scroll down to the printable recipe below for the exact measurements.
Reach in there with clean hands and mix it up until well combined.
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil generously with non-stick cooking spray. The ground turkey is not going to cook off very much grease so you want to be sure to use the cooking spray so they don’t stick to the foil. Roll the meat mixture into balls about 1-1/2″ in diameter and place them on the foil.
Bake the meatballs in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes, till browned. The meatballs will get more time in the oven so it’s not necessary for them to be totally cooked through at this point. Remove the meatballs from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
Let’s get back to the sauce. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/3 cup heavy cream or half-and-half. It’s just enough to bring down the acidity of the sauce and add a nice rich layer.
Transfer the cooked meatballs to the sauce.
Top with a little fresh mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan and pop it back in the oven for about 15 minutes or until bubbly and the meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
These meatballs were incredible served over cooked pasta with a big green salad and French bread. Next time I’ll make meatball subs by piling them onto toasted sandwich rolls.
They’ll be making a return appearance on our dinner table very soon. Try them!
For the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes with basil (or Italian style)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
For the meatballs:
- 1/2 cup Italian style panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated onion
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1-1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
For the garnish:
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella
- 1/4 cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- Melt the butter in a large, deep, oven-proof skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook about 1 minute, until it begins to soften. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes and mix just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, water, a touch of salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat to low and allow to simmer while you make the meatballs.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty foil and coat the foil generously with non-stick cooking spray.
- Place all of the ingredients for the meatballs in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to combine well. Form the mixture into meatballs about 1-1/2 inch in diameter. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until browned, but not entirely cooked through. Remove the meatballs from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.
- Remove the simmering sauce from the heat and add 1/3 cup heavy cream or half- and-half. Transfer browned meatballs to the pan with the sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella and additional Parmesan over the top. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with the fresh basil. Serve warm.