Kid Tested, Toddler Approved: Turky Meatballs with Spaghetti

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Me: "All right guys, what do you want for dinner?"


I don't know why I even ask anymore....
It's a staple. It's a must. I make some sort of version of the ol' noodles n' balls every 10 days or so. One version I do a lot that's super tasty and a bit healthier than their beef conterparts is the turkey meatball. It took me a while to covnice The Hubsters that turkey meatballs are not a basdardization of the traditional meaty sphere, but rather a healthier and just-as-tasty alternative that we can incorporate into our reperatoire. He agrees.

Here's the deal with the turkey though....

The reason why a lot of people prefer beef meatballs as opposed to turkey or chicken even is because they think they taste better. Often they are right. Why? Because beef is naturally fattier. Ground beef, especially. Turkey and chicken are not -- this is why we like them -- but using less fatty meats can sometimes yield a drier, harder result which translates to unappetizing. However, with a couple of tricks you can transform even white meat into delicious, outstanding and juicy balls. Because everyone love juicy balls, not dry ones. Ok, before my mind runs away into the gutter with this, let's get to the recipe!

First off, I use ground dark meat turkey. Ground turkey breast is fine, but the ground leg and thigh meat is a little fattier (but way lighter than beef) and has way more flavor than the breast. And when you're doing something like this where the ingredients going into the ball are not as many, you'd like to have as much flavor as possible. So first step is getting some ground dark meat turkey to work with.

The next thing you must do is the soaked bread technique. Many a nonna figured out long ago that to add moisture to a dry dish, one could simply place day-old white bread into milk, then let it soak it all up, and then add that spongey milk-bread into the mixture. This creates super soft, delicious meatballs. Using sparingly, however, or else you'll end up with a soggy mess. And I hate soggy balls more than dry ones!

Ok, so as along as you don't skimp on the above two critical points, you'll have perfect balls. Meat ones at least, I can't be held responsible for what you got going on down below...there I go again! Get me outa here! Ok, the recipe. Enjoy!

Turkey Meatballs with Spaghetti
1 lb ground turkey -- dark meat perferably
1 slice american bread
1/4 cup milk
1/2 white onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup ketchup
splash Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs lightly beaten
about 2-3 Tbsp Italian style dried breadcrumbs

2 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 lb spaghetti

Take the ground turkey and place into a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a small bowl, tear the bread slice into pieces. Pour the milk over the bread and massage into the milk with fingers. Let stand 10 minutes for bread to soak up most of the milk.

Meanwhilre, heat some olive oil in a skillet. Saute the onion on medium-low heat until translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute, until fragrant. Remove from heat and add the onion-garlic mixture to the turkey. Add the thyme leaves, ketcup, Worcestershire sauce, parmesan cheese, and eggs to the mixture. Add the soaked bread with any remaining milk as well. And add 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. With your hands, gently mix all the ingredients together until it just comes together. You don't want to over mix because that will make the balls tough; mix it enough so all the ingredients are incorporated and thoroughly distributed. Take some of the meat mixture and form a ball in your hand. The ball will feel quite soft but it should still hold its shape and not fall apart. If it doesn't hold its shape then add the remaining tablespoon of breadcrumbs and quickly mix in then try again. Form desired size and amount of balls by rolling the mixture in your hands, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I make my meatballs about baseball sized, which usually gives me 6-8 balls, but you can make these as small or large as you'd like.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until they just begin to get brown on top. I put my meatballs in the marinara sauce to finish cooking, but if you'd like to serve them on their own then continue to cook them until they are cooked through. Cooking time depends on how large or small you make them, but a general guideline to help you:

mini balls the size of a brussel sprout -- 7-8 min
balls the size of a lemon -- 10 min
baseball size -- 15 min
softball size -- 25 min

These cooking times are for fully cooked-through balls; if you plan to put them in the sauce, then take them out about 5 minutes before they are due to be ready! If you're making them brussels sprouts sized, don't bother with the oven at all and just go ahead and place them gently in the sauce directly.

While the meatballs cook, prepare your spaghetti according to package directions. Heat the sauce in a large pot or deep sauce pan. Once the sauce is simmering, reduce heat to low and add your meatballs from the oven to finish cooking.

To serve, place the spaghetti in a large serving bowl. Top with the meatballs and then spoon over the rest of the sauce all over the balls and pasta. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Serving suggestions: a side of steamed broccolini or broccoli and a salad of romaine lettuce tossed in a light vinaigrette!

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