Twist On Traditional Meatballs

The very best meatball recipe I ever came across, comes from my favorite chef Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa. And when we have guests over or when I want to make traditional meatballs and spaghetti I always turn to this recipe. Every time, they come out so moist and in one word, perfect. She uses 3 different kinds of meat (pork, beef and veal), bread crumbs and parmesan cheese and ,of course, she fries them. Certainly not a light dish. But, oh so good!

We try to eat healthy and clean during the week, so I tend to save Ina’s recipe for the weekends and make simple turkey meatballs for a weeknight dinner. I still use Ina Garten’s tomato sauce recipe but at times when I am pressed for time I substitute it with Homemade Rao’s marinara sauce. I find this store bought sauce to be the best tasting one (and closest to homemade).

As I always test different recipes and change things around, I tried replacing the bread crumbs with cooked quinoa to make the meatballs little more nutritious. Quinoa is one of the superfoods that is packed with protein, fiber, lot of different minerals and it doesn’t contain gluten so its very easily digested by most people. I was so happy my first trial was a success!  The meatballs came out moist and delicious and best part is, kids didn’t even notice the difference!

2 lbs of ground turkey
1 large onion (chopped)
2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 cup of cooked quinoa
Hand full of fresh parsley (chopped)
1 egg
Salt/Pepper/red paprika
Olive oil
1 regular size sheet pan (lay down the foil or parchment paper and spray with non stick cooking oil)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1  chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup red wine (you can use cooking wine as well)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (see note below)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Starting with the meat, layer all the ingredients in a large bowl with egg being last. Add some salt, pepper and red paprika.


Mix well until all ingredients are nicely combined. Unlike beef or pork, turkey meat tends to be more “wet” and harder to work with. So when you scoop out some meat to form a meatball, it is not going to come out perfectly round and it will be very sticky. And that is okay. Once done, place meatballs on a prepared sheet pan and generously pour some olive oil on top (just like you would on a salad). Put it in the oven at 425 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes. After 20 min, turn the meatballs over and put it back in the oven for another 10-15 min. At this point the meatballs will be nicely browned all around.


While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce. Heat the olive oil, add the onion and saute until onions look translucent. Add garlic. After a minute or two (garlic burns fast so you really have to watch it), add the wine and cook on high heat until most of the liquid evaporates. Finally add tomatoes, salt, and pepper and chopped fresh parsley.  Cook for another 30 minutes (the longer you cook the sauce the better it comes out).

I put one part of the meatballs in the prepared sauce because my kids love meatballs over pasta. For my husband and I, I serve them right out of the oven over some brown rice, salad or zucchini noodles (love the inspiralizer will talk about it next! ) with just a tablespoon of sauce on top and some fresh parsley.

Note: Original sauce recipe calls for 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt. I find this to be really salty. I always start with 1/2 teaspoon and if I need more, and sometimes I do depending on the tomatoes and wine, I add more. Similarly, if you try her original meatball recipe, she calls for 2 teaspoons of salt, I only put 1 teaspoon which is plenty when combined with saltiness of the sauce.


Bon Appetit!

Until Next time,


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