Turkey Meatballs Two Ways

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I ran across this recipe in the digital edition of the April issue of Bon Appetit and knew I wanted to make it just based off the picture.  It just looked so good, so appealing; warm and comforting, and a departure from your normal meatball and marinara experience.  I had 2 pounds of ground turkey in the freezer, so it seemed like fate.  I made the recipe mostly as-is, but that I made the meatballs smaller than the recipe indicated, and ended up with a lot, which was perfect for multiple meals and turning leftovers into a whole new meal.

We used baguettes and turned them into meatball subs.  I used rigatoni and turned them into a pasta dish.  There are just two of us, but we probably got 4-6 meals total out of these meatballs.

We loved it.  The recipe is designed for turkey, so you enjoy the meatball instead of missing the beef or pork.  There is a lemony element, and it just tastes so fresh, light, and filling all at once.  I am seriously smiling as I write this at the sheer memory of how enjoyable they were.

One thing, in case you are worried about a time crunch- you can mix and shape the meatballs ahead of time and store in the fridge for broiling later.  It makes a decently fast meal even faster.

Turkey-Spinach Meatballs
adapted from Bon Appetit

¼ cup olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

1 large egg, beaten to blend
¼ small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1½ pound ground turkey, preferably 93% lean or less
1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed in paper towels to remove excess moisture
½ cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino
½ cup plain dried breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil


Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring often, until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and 1 Tbsp. water and cook, stirring, until tomato paste coats onion and begins to darken, about 3 minutes.
Add tomatoes to saucepan, crushing with your hands as you add them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer until slightly thickened, 20–25 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with nonstick spray or a light brushing of oil.
Using your hands or a fork, gently mix egg, onion, garlic, turkey, spinach, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl just until combined. Scoop out turkey mixture and form into 1-1.5" balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, spacing 2” apart; brush with oil.
Broil meatballs, turning often, until browned all over and cooked through, 15–18 minutes. Add to marinara sauce.

DO AHEAD: Meatballs with marinara sauce can be made 2 weeks ahead. Let cool completely and freeze individual portions in resealable plastic bags. Run under tepid water to loosen from bag and gently reheat, covered, until meatballs are warmed through and sauce is bubbling, 15–20 minutes.


  • If you want to do this in stages so it's faster, mix and shape the meatballs and place them on the tray.  Cover with plastic wrap and place the tray in the fridge.  When you are ready to broil them, take them out of the fridge as you preheat the broiler.  
  • The marinara was pretty good.  It started out smooth and balanced, and when I reheated in the microwave, it was  little bitter.  When I later reheated it on the stove top, it was back to balanced.  I don't have a scientific explanation for this, but stove top or oven reheating might be your friend here.
  • I haven't tried it, but I am sure you can use jarred sauce.  

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