This a favorite recipe of mine, but I often alter it to suit whomever I am serving. My starting point was this recipe from House Beautiful, but I tweaked the ingredient list a bit even on that occasion.
I recently prepared the dish for friends who were coming over for dinner, and because Jill doesn’t eat beef or pork, I used turkey and chicken sausage–which is actually how I prefer the meatballs myself. Also, instead of the tomato sauce recipe below, I used the tomato-ginger glaze that I make for my Turkey Meatloaf.
Also, when I’m cooking for celiac or gluten-intolerant clients I use gluten-free bread crumbs.
2 hours total prep and cooking time
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup bread crumbs (either homemade or store bought–preferably low sodium)
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, small dice
1 pound ground turkey breast meat
1 pound raw Italian chicken or turkey sausage
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 cup finely grated parmesan
2 large eggs
¼ cup minced parsley (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup olive oil
½ medium red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Tina’s Tip: I use the paste in a tube vs. a can because it stays fresh longer
½ cup dry red wine
2 28-ounce boxes of Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Soak the bread crumbs in the milk in a medium bowl for 5 minutes.
Heat a 7- to 8-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add olive oil, then the onion, and cook until soft and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
Place ground turkey and chicken or turkey sausage in a large bowl and mix well. Add oregano, cheese, eggs, parsley and bread crumb mixture. Add onion and mix well, then stir in the salt and pepper. Set aside.
To make the sauce: Heat a 10-quart casserole over medium heat, then add the olive oil. Add onion and cook until translucent. Then add garlic and sautee another 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and stir for 1 minute. Add the wine, tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste if necessary.
While the sauce is cooking, shape the meat mixture into golf ball-sized balls and add them to the sauce. The recipe should make 16-18 meatballs.
Tina’s Tip: To portion, I use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop–also known as a portion-control scoop in the food service industry. To make nice round meatballs, roll each one between your palms. Moisten your hands with cold water before you start to keep the meat from sticking to your hands, and dip your hands in water as necessary.
Return the sauce to a simmer and cook until the meatballs are cooked through, about 1½ hours. Be sure to keep the meatballs and sauce at a very gentle simmer; if the sauce boils, the fat will separate from the meat and they will get dry. When you think the meatballs are done, remove one from the pot and cut into it with a knife. If it is still pink inside, continue cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes.
I prefer to serve the meatballs alone or with polenta. If you want to serve them with pasta, wait until the meatballs are done, then fill a 10-quart pot with 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain, add to the pan with the meatballs and sauce, and carefully toss to coat. Serve immediately.
NOTE: I do not always cook the meatballs in the sauce. Sometimes I bake them–in a 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes–on a sheet pan that I prepare by spraying it with cooking spray and lining it with parchment paper. (As seen in the photo above. The meatballs in the photo are also glazed with the sauce from my Turkey Meatloaf post.)