My experiences with turkey as a stand in for red meat haven’t always been so terrific. The flavorless, dry turkey burger will never beat a juicy, carnivorous, extra-large greasy burger from your favorite burger joint. But when done right, a great turkey burger topped with all kinds of deliciousness can stand up to any beef burger in my book.
Lucky for me, one of our favorite local restaurants, Bowman’s Tavern, serves a damn good burger – turkey or otherwise. Bowman’s Tavern in New Hope is top of my list for honestly, just about everything. This little hide away spot on River Road is the place you’ll find my husband and I many a Friday or Saturday night. I’ll be sitting at the bar, drinking a Victory Headwaters and eating a turkey burger. The perfect way to kickoff a weekend. Friday nights they have a piano bar if you want to belt-out some show tunes after a few cocktails.
Thinking about Bowman’s killer turkey burger inspired me to apply the same logic to meatballs. A skeptical, red meat loving, Italian-o-file of a husband couldn’t sway me – but I was going to make awesome turkey meatballs and he was going to eat them!
In a quest to make sure they were moist and flavorful I decided to mix half ground turkey and half spicy turkey Italian sausage. I prefer Martin’s brand Italian turkey sausage. While many of the brands miss the mark on authentic Italian sausage flavor, Martin’s wins the prize. I buy Martin’s at None Such Farms.
Sadly, I did find after poking around online at other turkey meatball recipes, Giada has a recipe using a similar combination of ingredients. I thought I was being so creative. With that said, I will say this recipe was adapted from her just to make sure I acknowledge that we are of equal genius in the kitchen. Ha!
- 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 small yellow onion, small dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1lb ground turkey
- 1lb spicy turkey Italian sausage, casing removed
- About 1/4 cup water
- Kosher salt & pepper to taste
- Olive oil
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Brush the foil with olive oil and set the pan aside.
Combine all the ingredients up to and including the garlic in a large bowl. Add the two meats and using your hands, mix everything together being sure the sausage meat is evenly incorporated throughout the mixture. Add some salt and pepper. Start to add water to the bowl a few tablespoons at a time, mushing the meat mixture with your hands. You want it to be fairly wet and sticky. You shouldn’t need more than a 1/4 cup of water and may even need less. Water is the trick I also use for my meatballs marinara, it keeps them moist and delicious every time.
Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a small fry pan over medium heat. Take a little of the meatball mix and form into a small patty. Fry it in the pan, flipping after a couple of minutes, until cooked through – about 2-3 minutes per side. Taste it. It should taste really flavorful and delicious. At this point you can decide if it needs a little more salt or pepper, or maybe a little more cheese… or maybe it’s perfect : )
Form your meatballs and place them on the sheet pan. I make them the size of golf balls. Once done, brush the top of each meatball with a little olive oil and place the pan in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
While you’re waiting for your meatballs to cook, throw together a big pot of marinara sauce. Use your favorite recipe, my recipe or even a couple of jars of your favorite sauce (we’ll never tell).
When the meatballs are done, remove the sheet pan from the oven and using a spatula, gently lift them from the foil and put them in the pot with the sauce. Now just sit back and relax. Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for a nice long time. I say at least 1 hour is fine but 2 hours is awesome.
Then just nom nom nom……