Jun 12, 2010

Orecchiette and Mini Meatballs

Orecchiette Pasta with cherry tomatoes, basil and mini turkey meatballs.

Orecchiette with mini meatballs is one of my favorite pasta meals for two reasons. The first is simply due to the fact that orecchiette pasta is involved! Fun to say and so delicious. They look like shells in this image but they’re really like little bowls that can trap all the flavors of this pasta. The second thing I love about the meal is the mini turkey meatballs. Over the past year or so I’ve become a huge fan of ground white meat turkey. I would agree with the common argument that ground turkey can be bland or dry BUT you just need to add the right spices and herbs with it and it may just surprise you with how flavorful and moist it becomes! I guess you could say that this is a healthy version of your pasta and meatballs meal that won’t disappoint!

Here’s what you need to put this dish together:


  • 1/2 pound of orecchiette pasta
  • 1/2 pound of ground white turkey breast
  • 1/3 cup of panko (plain bread crumbs)
  • 1 egg
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1 cup of low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups of cherry tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper

I think it’s easiest to first put the mini meatballs together. It’s super simple. Take a big mixing bowl and add the ground turkey, 1 egg, panko, dash of garlic and onion powder, oregano, parsley and salt and pepper. You can just use your hands and mix all these ingredients together. It’s a bit messy but you want to make sure that all the herbs and spices you add are consistently spread throughout the meat and not clumped in one area. Now you just need to form the meatballs. As the title suggests, we prefer mini meatballs in this dish just because larger ones could overwhelm the little orecchiette! The easiest way to form the meatballs is to use a tablespoon measuring cup and just scoop up the turkey meat to form the ball. At this point you can have a large pot (we use our dutch oven) and just add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. When you finish making the meatball you can drop it in this pot.

Before you get your meatballs cooking, now is also the time to start your orecchiette pasta. You’ll want to bring the pot of water to boiling (I like to add a little salt to the water for taste) and then drop the orecchiette in. They usually take about 15 minutes to cook.

Once your pasta is on and all your meatballs are formed and ready to go in the pot you can turn it on medium heat. It really won’t take too long for the little guys to brown up. It takes about three minutes on each side. Once the meatballs are cooked all the way through you need to add the chicken broth and cherry tomatoes and lower the temperature so that everything is just at a simmer. The chicken broth is going to add even more flavor to the meatballs sand it’s going to help soften the cherry tomatoes. You can let this mixture simmer for approximately 5 minutes.

After the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it and then add the broth, meatball and cherry tomato mixture to the orecchiette. Stir that around and let the orecchiette soak in all those flavors and then you can add some fresh basil leaves and freshly grated parmesan cheese. You are just left with plating, eating and enjoying!

As you can see this is another pretty simple meal that can be thrown together in no time. Even putting together the meatballs can be done quickly with the simple tasks of throwing all the ingredients into a bowl at once, mixing and then shaping. Not too labor intensive. Then you cook the pasta while you cook the meatballs and they’re done at the same time. So a hearty meal with lots of flavor and you still have the whole night ahead of you! For now that’s orecchiette and mini meatballs…in the shell of a nut!

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