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Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I have recently been thinking of cutting back on the amount of red and processed meat that we eat, not least after watching the recent BBC documentary investigating the relative health-and environmental impacts of eating various kinds of meat protein. But Chief Stick Collector and Bird Girl definitely fall into the carnivorous camp, and love their bolognese sauce and beef meatballs.  Vegetables are either just about tolerated (on a good day) or outright refused (unless hidden incognito in something else!).  So the question was whether I could replicate one of their favourite beefy meals with something else?

Step forward Turkey Mince.  The challenge? Make some meatballs with turkey mince that were not only edible, but tasty. A bit of internet surfing revealed a large number of recipes for turkey meatballs, but none seemed exactly what I was looking for, so I mixed and matched and added and subtracted and threw in a variation of one of our favourite tomato pasta sauces, and ended up with the recipe below.

The results? Well, the children loved the sauce and the pasta. Bird Girl loved the meatballs but Chief Stick Collector said he preferred ‘brown ones’ (i.e. beef).  But he’s contrary!  Mr LetsTryThisAtHome and I actually preferred these to beef meatballs.

If the children weren’t eating with us, I would probably add a pinch of dried chilli flakes to the meatballs or sauce, and perhaps increase the quantity of sunblush tomatoes.

The leftovers worked brilliantly the following day reheated and rolled in flatbreads with a drizzle of creme fraiche and a rocket and spinach salad.

 Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce


Ingredients (serves 4)

For the meatballs

  • 400g minced turkey breast &/or thigh meat
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 50ml milk
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 5 sunblush tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs (including basil and marjoram or oregano)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flour for dusting

For the sauce

  • A glug of olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 200ml water
  • 50ml white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • a few leaves of fresh basil


Sautee the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and soft.

Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk and season with salt and pepper.  Mix in half of the sautéed onion and garlic, then all of the sun blush tomatoes, the mixed herbs, fennel seeds and the grated parmesan. Then when well mixed, add this mixture to the turkey mince and gently combine (don’t be too heavy-handed here; you want them to be light and not too dense).

Using your hands, make the mixture into meatballs, being careful not to squeeze or squash them, and roll each in flour to stop them sticking. Leave them to rest for 10 minutes or so while you start the tomato sauce.

To the remainder of the sautéed onion and garlic, stir in the tomato puree and allow to cook through for a couple of minutes on medium. Then add the wine and cook out for a minute or two before tipping in the tin of chopped tomatoes, the chicken stock, bay leaf and herbs (except the fresh basil).  Bring up to simmering point and then turn the heat to minimum and leave to simmer gently while you get on with frying the meatballs.

meatball stages montage

Preheat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs for around 10 minutes, turning occasionally.  When they are nicely browned all over, add the sauce into the pan with the meatballs, and simmer all together for another 10-15 minutes while you cook the pasta.  Turn the meatballs halfway through the cooking time.

At the last minute, remove the bay leaf and add some torn fresh basil.  Serve over spaghetti with a dusting of freshly grated parmesan.  This goes really well with a crisp green salad.

Processed with Moldiv


I am entering this recipe into this month’s Mediterranean-themed Cooking With Herbs recipe challenge hosted by Lavender and Lovage.



Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage


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