Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs! Everyone needs the perfect recipe for this classic dish!Spaghetti with turkey meatballs and cheese meatballsEveryone loves spaghetti and meatballs. It is such a comfort food, one that often takes us back to our childhood. Many families have their own version of this recipe, one that’s passed down from generation to generation. This recipe is the ultimate meatball recipe for me and I hope to pass it on one day to my sons.

These meatballs are super moist and soft thanks to ricotta cheese. Sweet Italian sausage with its crushed fennel seeds and herbs adds some nice flavor. You can totally skip the sausage though. Many times I made these meatballs using just ground turkey and ricotta cheese and they were still very delicious. If you like the flavor of sweet anise-like fennel add 1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds into the meat mixture when you decide to leave out the sausage.

Ricotta cheese comes from Italy and it is made out of whole milk and heavy cream. There are tons of recipes how to make ricotta cheese at home. I haven’t tried it yet but it looks very easy. You need to cook the milk and heavy cream together for few minutes, then slowly pour some vinegar in. Leave it for several minutes so the curds can form. Pour the curds into a sieve covered with a cheesecloth. Drain for several minutes. The whole process takes about 30 minutes and you’ve got a fresh, homemade ricotta cheese. I might have to give it a try!

To make the meatballs, start by combining some bread crumbs with milk. When the milk is all absorbed, add ground turkey, Italian sausage (if using), ricotta cheese, 1 egg, Parmesan cheese, shallot, garlic and spices. Using your hands combine all of the ingredients. Taste it and add more salt and pepper if needed.ground turkey, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, chopped shallot in a bowl

I love small meatballs and I think kids like them too. I use a small ice cream scoop to form nice, even balls. Make sure to wet your left hand (if right handed) in cold water when forming the meatballs. That will keep the mixture from sticking onto your hand. I get about 40 small meatballs from this recipe.small turkey meatballs before cooking

Heat up a large skillet, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the meatballs in batches, making sure they don’t touch while cooking. Cook them 3-4 minutes per side until nicely brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Pour all of the oil out and using kitchen tongs to hold some paper towel, wipe the skillet clean. Repeat, until all of the meatballs are cooked. Set them aside.cooked turkey meatballs on a plate

To make the marinara sauce, chop an onion and garlic, then cook them on a skillet. Add a bit of white wine and let it evaporate. Add one large can of chopped tomatoes and one large can of marinara sauce into the skillet. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, honey and dried oregano. Cook for another 10 minutes and adjust seasonings again. Add a handful of chopped fresh basil. Return the meatballs into the skillet and simmer while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to the instructions. Drain. Serve with the meatballs, sauce, lots of Parmesan cheese and a green salad on the side.turkey meatball with marinara sauceServes: 8         Prep time: 40 minutes       Ready in: 1 hr 15 minutes

Ingredients:

Meatballs:

  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (optional)*
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed (optional, if not using the Italian sausage)

Sauce:

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes (35 oz) and their juice
  • 1 large can of marinara sauce (35 oz) or 2 small (14.5 oz) cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • a handful of fresh basil, torn up
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions:

  1. Meatballs: in a large bowl combine the bread crumbs with milk. When the milk gets absorbed, add ground turkey, sweet Italian sausage (casings removed), ricotta cheese, egg, chopped shallot, minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and crushed fennel seeds (if not using the sausage). Mix everything really well. Adjust the seasonings.
  2. Wet your left hand and using an ice cream scoop or a spoon form the meatballs. Set aside and continue with the rest of the meat.
  3. Heat up a large skillet and add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook the meatballs in batches, about 3-4 minutes per side until they are nicely browned. Discard the oil and wipe out the burnt bits after each round. Set the cooked meatballs aside.
  4. Wipe the skillet clean again. Chop the onion and cook it in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil until it starts turning golden. Add the sliced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour in the wine and let it evaporate. Next add the tomatoes and marinara sauce. Add a good pinch or two of salt, pepper, bay leaf and oregano. Stir and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more salt if needed (usually), pepper, drizzle of honey and fresh basil. Stir and simmer a bit more. Add the meatballs back to the skillet and continue to simmer.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta accordingly. Drain.
  6. Serve the meatballs and sauce over pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

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