These Italian turkey meatballs are going to be your new favorite mid-week dinner recipe. Juicy, flavorful, and perfect for pasta or subs.
I love a good meatball recipe, and these Italian turkey meatballs really, really hit the spot. I load them up with Parmesan cheese and plenty of spices to make the tastiest turkey meatballs.
For a weeknight dinner, I like that turkey is a little leaner than beef. With the additional Parmesan and a touch of cream in the meat, it makes for a rich meatball that’s still relatively lean.
I use store-bought Italian seasoning in my meatballs. My favorite brand is Sun of Italy which adds dried pecorino Romano to its mix. This gives a nice little funk to the dish. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like you can buy it online anywhere. My next favorite Italian seasoning blend is Cento Italian Seasoning. Use your favorite blend for this, but I recommend keeping a high-quality blend of Italian seasoning in your pantry; it always upgrades every Italian meal I make at home! If you can’t find a blend that contains pecorino Romano, that’s ok! You can skip it, or, if you want to make it more comparable to mine, add two teaspoons of freshly grated pecorino Romano along with the Parmesan cheese.
How to make these Italian turkey meatballs:
This recipe is two parts: the meatballs and the sauce. The meatballs are juicy and rich, while the sauce is loaded with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and plenty of heat from crushed red pepper.
The meatballs are made with just a few ingredients, including:
- The meat: ground turkey; I recommend using dark meat ground turkey or mixed dark and light meat ground turkey. The ground breast meat can be really dry, so the fat from the thighs keeps the meatballs moist.
- Eggs and dairy: Use an egg, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese. I recommend grating the Parmesan cheese fresh, but you can use pre-grated Parmesan in a pinch.
- The binder: I use panko, but breadcrumbs work just fine too!
- Spices: These meatballs load up on Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper.
What’s in the sauce?
The sauce is so simple. Once you fry up the meatballs, add the mushrooms and onion to the pot. Once they soften, add in some garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. From there, throw in some water and whole peeled tomatoes. Return the meatballs to the sauce and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
Once the meatballs reach 165ºF, you’re all done! From there, you can transfer the meatballs to a platter and toss the sauce with cooked pasta.
This recipe makes enough sauce to work with a 16-ounce box of pasta. I recommend rigatoni, but use your favorite pasta shape!
Italian Turkey Meatballs
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes drained and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- Crushed red pepper, to taste
- ½ cup water or chicken broth
- 28- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
- Pinch of sugar
- 15 basil leaves, torn; plus more for serving
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 16 ounces dry pasta, cooked according to package instructions
Make the meatballs:
- In a bowl, whisk together the cream and egg until smooth.
- Add ½ cup panko, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, a big pinch of crushed red pepper, and the Parmesan cheese. Mix until combined and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Add the turkey to the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix until combined, adding more panko as needed. The mixture should hold together but still be moist and not too firm.
- Heat the olive oil in a wide pot over medium heat. Once hot, add a tiny drop of the meatball mixture and fry until cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Reduce the heat on the pot to low while you roll the meatballs.
- Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls; you should have about 12 meatballs. If you prefer smaller meatballs, roll them into tablespoon-sized balls, and you should have about 20 meatballs.
Fry the meatballs:
- Return the heat on the pot to medium. Add the meatballs in an even layer and cook without moving for 3–4 minutes per side until browned all over. Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to cook them in batches. Transfer the meatballs to a plate. They need not be cooked through at this stage.
Prepare the sauce:
- If the pot is dry, add another teaspoon or two of oil and turn the heat to medium heat. Once hot, add the sliced mushrooms and diced onion and cook for 10 minutes until softened. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.
- Pour in the water or broth and scrape up anything stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil and add the tomatoes and salt and a pinch of sugar. Bring the tomatoes to a boil and add the meatballs. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid and check the temperature of the meatballs. Once they reach 165ºF, transfer them to a plate and scatter 5 fresh basil leaves on top of the meatballs along with a pinch more Parmesan cheese.
Finish the sauce:
- Tear the remaining basil leaves and add them to the sauce with the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Taste and season.
- Serve the sauced pasta at the table with the platter of turkey meatballs. Enjoy!