Last night I played a game called “what to do I have to eat in my house that doesn’t require me to put on real pants and go to the store?”
This game usually starts by picking out a protein which in last night’s case meant a trip to the freezer. It was either figure out how to thaw a 6 lb. pork roast in 20 minutes or make something with ground turkey. I was also lucky enough to have some homemade pesto frozen from back in the summer when my Octomom-esque basil plant would not stop making basil and I got sick of covering every available surface with the stuff. So the turkey meatball brainchild was born.
I really like meatballs – they’re fun, functional, and you can make a little meat stretch a long way. And who doesn’t have a box of some weird-shaped pasta in their pantry they need to use up? Meatballs are the perfect weekday-night food and the further ahead you make them, the better they get. I had the aforementioned 20 minutes but they were still pretty awesome so, you know, recipe: KEEPER.
Make these with beef, if you’d rather, and mix with any kind of pasta sauce/pasta combo. You really can’t go wrong.
with PESTO PASTA
1 lb. ground turkey (90/10 works well)
1/4 cup onions, diced small
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. ground or grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. chopped parsley or basil (or both!)
1/3 cup of bread crumbs (seasoned or plain)
3 tbsp. olive oil
red pepper flakes
1 jar/container of your favorite pasta sauce (I used pesto)
1/2 lb. of your favorite pasta (I used spaghetti)
1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat with 1 tbsp. olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to boiling with 1 tbsp. salt so it will be ready for you to drop your pasta.
2. In a glass bowl add the ground turkey, egg, crushed tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and basil and/or parsley. Add in the cooled onions and garlic. Season the mixture liberally with salt and pepper and add a dash of red pepper flakes too, if you like a little spice. Take 1/3 cup breadcrumbs out of canister using a measuring scoop – this way you can add it in once your hands are “meaty” without contaminating everything.
3. Using your hands, mix all the ingredients thoroughly, being careful to break up the egg and spread it around. The mix will be very wet. Add in half the breadcrumbs then mix a bit more – add in more breadcrumbs until the mixture holds together and doesn’t stick to your fingers but isn’t dry to the touch. If you accidentally add too many breadcrumbs simply add some olive oil or an additional egg to the mix and try again. Form the mix into 1.5″ diameter balls and place on a clean plate in a single layer.
4. Heat your large saute pan over medium-high heat with 2 tbsp. olive oil until very hot. Add in the meatballs using tongs – sear for just a few seconds on each side before shaking the pan to turn the meatballs. If you plan to use a wet sauce (like a tomato sauce) don’t worry about cooking them through. Simply add the sauce to the saute pan once the meatballs are browned and cover, allowing them to cook at least 10 minutes longer at medium heat, preferably an hour if you have the time. If you’re using less sauce (like the pesto in my case) brown your meatballs then turn the heat down to medium-low. Add about 1/2 cup water mixed with 1/4 cup of your sauce to the pan then cover, simmering at least 10-15 minutes more. As you cook the meatballs, drop your pasta into the water.
5. Drain your pasta and return it to the hot cooking pot to remove any excess water. If using pesto-like sauce add it directly to the noodles then mix. Be all the water has evaporated from your meatball pan (if not, remove the cover and cook a couple minutes longer) then add the meatballs to the pasta and mix. If using more sauce, such as marinara, simply add the meatball pan to the noodles then stir to coat. Serve with some crusty bread and a sprinkle of more Parmesan cheese on top.