Jun 30, 2011

Turkey Meatball Spaghetti

Turkey Meatball Spaghetti

Spaghetti and meatballs is one of those meals that I think makes a consistent appearance on the top of people’s favorites list, starting when they are a kid. I was actually not one of those kids and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized it was probably because I wasn’t the biggest fan of red meat. So having a ball of meat or pork or a combination of the two sitting on top of my spaghetti was more in the way of a delicious homemade tomato sauce and noodles. My opinion of the spaghetti and meatball meal quickly changed when I made this dish from Nigella! I know I’ve made a turkey meatball and pasta dish before and shared it on here but this is a traditional meatball and tomato sauce recipe that cooks the meatballs right in the sauce. There is an element of rustic comfort with this dish that I just love! I know lots of people would see the turkey meatball part of this and immediately count it out. Why even have spaghetti without the big traditional meatballs, right?! While I may not be able to convince you that the turkey is better than the normal red meat, I can promise you that these turkey meatballs are far from dry and tasteless and the sauce is fantastic! On top of it all, I wasn’t simmering a large pot of sauce for half a day but was able to put this together in no time!

Here is everything you will need for this wonderful dish:


(Adapted from Nigella Kitchen. Makes plenty for two dinner portions and leftovers.)


  • 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes plus 1 full can water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper


  • 1/2 pound ground white meat turkey
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion and celery (from tomato sauce ingredients)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme


  • Spaghetti Noodles

The first step is to chop up the celery and onion. You can place large chunks in a food processor and pulse to fine pieces or you can chop both by hand into very small pieces. Save about 1 tablespoon of this mixture for the meatballs and put the rest in a large saucepan (or Dutch oven) with the olive oil heated up at a moderate to low heat. Also add in the thyme at this time, as well. Let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes and be sure to give things a stir every few minutes to make sure nothing is getting stuck or burning.

Onions and celery saute

Add in the can of tomatoes and fill the can with water and add that to the pot as well. Sprinkle in the sugar, salt and pepper and give everything a big stir. Let things come to a bubble and then turn the heat down so that you have a slow simmer.

While the sauce simmers you can put the meatballs together. In a medium sized mixing bowl throw in all the meatball ingredients (it’s really that easy)! Don’t forget the celery and onion you put aside from your sauce.

With your hands, just start mixing everything together and make sure everything is fully combined. I should also note the 1/2 egg I listed in the ingredients because I’m sure that resulted in a question mark! I cut the recipe in half and so when I need a half egg I just crack it in a glass, give it a quick stir to break the yolk and then I just pour half of that in. Another note, is when mixing your meatballs, don’t over mix and that will help keep the meatballs light and not too dense looking or tasting.

With everything combined you can start rolling out the meatballs. I made mine the size of a teaspoon but feel free to make them larger or smaller. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and keep all the rolled meatballs on there until you have them all complete and ready to be dropped into the sauce. I was able to make about 25 meatballs.

Drop the meatballs into the sauce but you need to be strategic about it! Strategic makes it sounds like it’s real serious business, which it really isn’t but you just want to make sure you don’t have all the meatballs end up in the same spot and in effect have trouble cooking properly. Nigella suggests you drop them in the sauce in concentric circles, starting at the edge of the pot and working your way in. Let the meatballs simmer for about 30 minutes until they soak in all the wonderful flavor from the sauce and are cooked completely through. Now half way through the time it takes the meatballs to simmer, boil a pot of salted water and go ahead and cook your noodles. By the time the noodles are cooked, your meatballs should be ready as well!

This is a great recipe to make a double batch of and eat some for dinner and store the rest in the freezer for another easy weeknight meal. You can pull it out of the freezer the night before and let it defrost in the fridge overnight and through the day and when you come home all you have to do is warm it up! You can serve this as spaghetti or if you wanted to mix it up you could make rice or even couscous when you’re feeling fancy (as suggested by Nigella)! You won’t want canned tomato sauce after you try this super simple recipe! A little bit of chopping by you or your food processor, a little bit of pouring, stirring and simmering and you will have a wonderfully delicious sauce! Mix that with the turkey meatballs and you’ve got a perfectly paired dish that will bring comfort after any long day! For now, that’s turkey meatball spaghetti…in the shell of a nut!

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