A long time ago I asked an Italian friend to show me his method for making meatballs. He agreed to show me not only meatballs but red sauce and vodka sauce. He said for meatballs we must use ground beef, veal, and pork. I smiled and asked if we could make them with ground turkey instead. He looked at me weird and said that we could but it wouldn’t taste as good. In the end we ended up with two different batches. Mine was made with turkey and the sauce was pureed until smooth because at that time I preferred my sauce smooth. I now prefer it a little chunkier. My vodka sauce was even made with turkey bacon.
I’ve learned to adapt so many recipes to poultry instead of red meat that my mind only recognizes the taste of the poultry version. Sloppy joes only taste “correct” when I make it with ground turkey. Philly cheesesteak? Sure, I'll have it with slices of grilled chicken, peppers, and provolone cheese. Ever have a chicken Big Mac? I managed to convinced the folks at McDonald’s to make me a chicken version.
As with many recipes learned through observation, this one is not truly a recipe. My friend’s version calls for frying the meatballs (or as he calls them “meat flats) on the stovetop. The Barefoot Contessa does her chicken meatballs in the oven. I prefer the oven because I can actually do other things in the kitchen while the meatballs bake.
• 1.25 lbs ground turkey (turkey seems to come in 1.25 packages. Don’t get the 97/3 version of the ground turkey. They will dry out) • 2 large eggs • 2 cloves garlic (or garlic powder) • ½ onion, finely minced (or chopped garlic) • oregano • basil • flat leaf parsley • parmesan cheese, grates • ½ cup breadcrumbs • salt • black pepper • crushed red pepper flakes (optional) • fennel (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together and form balls. Place balls on an aluminum foil lined baking pan. 3. Bake for about 20 minutes or until slightly golden. (Depends on the size of your meatballs. I prefer my meatballs on the smaller side.)
That is it. You can now finish cooking them in red sauce and serve over spaghetti noodles or use them in Italian wedding soup.