Giada's Turkey Meatballs With A Twist

If you follow chef Giada de Laurentiis' recipe for classic Italian turkey meatballs to the letter, you are going to make some pretty excellent meatballs. On the other hand, if you follow chef and recipe developer Mackenzie Ryan of Food Above Gold's recipe that puts a twist on things, you're going to get a meatball that goes beyond classic and that's even tastier than the OG. What's the twist? We'll get to that soon enough. But first, a few things you'll want to know before you get to work on this recipe.

"Splurging for a cookie scoop makes a huge difference in getting a uniform meatball size," says Ryan, so treat yourself to one, especially as she adds: "This recipe makes quite a few meatballs. A one-ounce cookie scoop is often referred to as a size #30 scoop. It may be an easier way to find one at the store, as the numbers are usually stamped on the scoop somewhere."

As for serving ideas once the meatballs are cooked and ready, Ryan says: "Serve this with a thicker pasta like vermicelli or bucatini. It lets you get a good noodle-to-meatball ratio. It's also best with a vinegar-based side salad or lightly wilted greens. And you can't forget the hearty, robust red wine."

Gather your ingredients for Giada's turkey meatballs with a twist

For the meatballs themselves, you'll need plain breadcrumbs, some shredded Parmesan, fresh parsley, whole milk, tomato paste, salt and pepper, two eggs, minced garlic cloves, a minced small onion, ground turkey meat, hot Italian sausage, and fresh mozzarella, cut into pieces about the size of dice.

For the sauce, you'll need red pepper chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil, more garlic cloves, smashed and minced, more chopped onion, ground fennel seeds, dried oregano, two 28-ounce cans of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, basil, and some optional chicken broth. There are quite a few ingredients involved, but don't worry — they come together pretty easily.

Make the meatballs and stuff with cheese

So your veggies are chopped, your eggs cracked and whisked, your milk, breadcrumbs, and spices measured out, and your sausage minced? Then it's time to make some meatballs, which is a pretty simple and very hands-on process. First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now simply use your fingers to mix together all the meatball ingredients. Work them together in a large bowl until they are fully combined. Next, use that one-ounce cookie scoop to remove balls of meat, and use your hands to smash each portion flat. Now place a piece of mozzarella in the middle and close the meat around the cheese, then roll it in your hands to make a smooth ball.

Repeat that until the meat mixture and cheese are all used up, then place the meatballs on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil. Now bake them for 15 to 20 minutes.

Make the sauce, simmer the meatballs, and enjoy

Once you have the meatballs in the oven, it's time to make the sauce. To start, put a dry pan over medium heat, add the chili flakes, and cook them for one minute. Now add in the quarter cup of olive oil, three smashed and minced garlic cloves, and a chopped onion, and cook until the onion turns translucent, which will take about three minutes.

Next, stir in the two teaspoons of ground fennel seeds, half of the basil, two teaspoons of dried oregano, and the cans of tomatoes, including their liquid. Let this all simmer until the liquid has been reduced by about half. Now add in the cooked meatballs and let it all simmer another 10 minutes or so, diluting the sauce with chicken stock if it gets too thick.

Finally, stir in the last of the basil and serve meatballs with a healthy serving of sauce. Garnish with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.

What did we change?

"The twist is the stuffed meatballs," says Ryan. Adding cheese to the meatballs adds a whole new level of flavor and sensory experience that will thrill (and impress) anyone who takes a bite. "Plus, there's a little extra spicy oomph in the sauce," Ryan adds. "The extra spice is nice with the mozzarella stuffed into the meatballs because it keeps the flavors more balanced."

This recipe yields a lot of meatballs, so you may well have some leftovers. And that's a good thing. "These meatballs will be great for up to five days," Ryan says. "In fact, you can just store any leftovers right in the sauce in the pan for easy reheating. Just make sure the pan isn't aluminum or cast iron because the acid from the tomato sauce has the potential to damage the pan with long-term exposure."

Giada's Turkey Meatballs With A Twist
5 from 24 ratings
Giada de Laurentiis' recipe for classic Italian turkey meatballs is delicious. But why not try this recipe that puts a twist on things?
Prep Time
20
minutes
Cook Time
35
minutes
Servings
25
meatballs
Stuffed turkey meatballs on a plate
Total time: 55 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup Parmesan, shredded
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 small onions, minced
  • 1 pound dark turkey meat
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, minced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, ground
  • ¼ cup basil, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans of fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed
  • ½ cup chicken broth (optional)
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Use fingers to mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, milk, tomato paste, salt, pepper, 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion, turkey meat, and Italian sausage together until fully combined.
  3. Use a 1-ounce cookie scoop to remove some meat, then use your hands to smash it flat and place a piece of mozzarella in the middle.
  4. Close the meat around the mozzarella and roll it in your hands to make a smooth ball.
  5. Place the meatballs on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, then bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, in a dry pan over medium heat, add the chili flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Add in the olive oil and remaining garlic and onions, and cook until translucent, or about 3 minutes.
  8. Stir in the ground fennel seeds, half of the basil, oregano, and tomatoes with liquid, and let simmer over until reduced by half.
  9. Add in the cooked meatballs and let simmer another 10 minutes or until heated through (dilute sauce with chicken stock if it gets too thick).
  10. Stir in the last of the basil and serve meatballs with a healthy serving of sauce. Garnish with extra Parmesan cheese.
  11. Serve and enjoy!
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 181
Total Fat 11.9 g
Saturated Fat 4.4 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 48.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 7.1 g
Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
Total Sugars 2.6 g
Sodium 375.2 mg
Protein 11.7 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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