Italian-Style Turkey Meatballs

Italian-style turkey meatballs are pretty darn delish, to be honest. Leaner than beef and pumped up with the umaminess of anchovies and mushrooms. And we’ve heard that the sauce is nothing to turn your nose up at, either.

A pan full of turkey meatballs with tomato sauce, beside a chopping board with Parmesan and a bowl of parsley.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen | The Chicken Bible | America’s Test Kitchen, 2021

We start with 93 or 85 percent lean turkey; the 99 percent lean type didn’t have enough fat to create a palatable meatball. Next, we add an egg and fresh bread crumbs (instead of a panade, which made the meatballs too wet) to help bind the meat. To boost meaty flavor, we add glutamate-rich ingredients such as Parmesan cheese, anchovies, tomato paste, or rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms—America’s Test Kitchen

Italian-Style Turkey Meatballs

A pan full of turkey meatballs with tomato sauce, beside a chopping board with Parmesan and a bowl of parsley.

Our turkey meatballs rival those made from beef or pork, thanks to a few test kitchen tricks.

America’s Test Kitchen

Prep 45 mins

Cook 30 mins

Total 1 hr 15 mins

  • In a covered microwave-safe bowl, combine the broth and mushrooms and microwave until steaming, 1 to 2 minutes. Let sit until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain mushrooms in a fine-mesh strainer and reserve liquid.
  • In a food processor, pulse bread until finely ground, 10 to 15 pulses. Dump the breadcrumbs into a large bowl (don’t wash the processor bowl). Add Parmesan, parsley, gelatin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to bowl with bread crumbs and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • In the food processor, combine the mushrooms and half of anchovies and pulse until chopped fine, 15 to 20 pulses.

  • Add mushroom mixture, turkey, egg, and half of the garlic to the bowl with breadcrumb mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.

  • Divide mixture into 16 portions (each about 1/4 cup loosely packed). Using your hands, roll each portion into a ball, taking care to not pack them too tightly. Put the meatballs on a large plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

  • In the food processor, pulse tomatoes and their juice to a coarse puree, 10 to 15 pulses.

  • In a small bowl, combine oregano, pepper flakes, remaining 2 anchovies, remaining garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • In a 12-inch (30-cm) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm oil until shimmering, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the meatballs and cook until well browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meatballs to a paper towel-lined baking sheet, leaving fat in the skillet.

    If your turkey is very lean, you may need to add a little extra oil to the skillet.

  • Add oregano mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to high, stir in tomato paste, reserved mushroom liquid, and pureed tomatoes, and bring to a simmer.

  • Return meatballs to the skillet, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the meatballs register 160°F (71°C), 12 to 15 minutes, turning meatballs once.
  • Place meatballs on a serving platter, increase heat to high, and simmer sauce until slightly thickened, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over meatballs and serve, passing extra Parmesan separately.

*Why do you add gelatin to Italian-style turkey meatballs?

Mainly, adding gelatin to ground meat helps it to retain moisture resulting in a more tender texture. Adding a small amount of unflavored gelatin mitigates graininess by trapping moisture and giving the meatballs a juicy mouthfeel. Then, a 15-minute refrigeration gives it all time to bind together and produce a springy, juicy texture in the cooked meatballs.

Serving: 1servingCalories: 313kcal (16%)Carbohydrates: 8g (3%)Protein: 28g (56%)Fat: 19g (29%)Saturated Fat: 5g (31%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 120mg (40%)Sodium: 268mg (12%)Potassium: 419mg (12%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 372IU (7%)Vitamin C: 3mg (4%)Calcium: 124mg (12%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Originally published July 16, 2021

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