Sunday, April 6, 2008

Heart Healthy Italian Meatballs - Wild Turkey Strikes Again

In keeping with eating healthier and trying to eat less red meat, we decided to make turkey balls with tomato sauce. These turkey balls have taken a definite Italian twist with the change up in the seasoning. I have included a touch of fennel seeds which gives your tastebuds the sensation of eating Italian sausage. I have added the traditional herbs associated with Italian cooking such as basil, dried oregano and parsley. In addition, the tomato sauce is infused with lots of herbs and mushrooms which make this meal a light and delicious entree which even your cardiologist would approve. Stella who is a hardy lover of spaghetti, absolutely loved these turkey balls and spaghetti.

As an alternative you may want to try the Swedish meatball version in our Original Wild Turkey Ball Recipe.


For the turkey balls (the steps for preparing italian turkey balls are similar to the wild turkey balls recipe)

  • 1 lb of ground turkey breast
  • 1-2 portabello mushrooms
  • 1 medium size carrot
  • 2 stalk of celery, including leaves
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup of flat leave parsley
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2-1 tsp of onion powder NOT SALT
  • 1/2-1 tsp of garlic powder NOT SALT
  • 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp of minced fresh oregano
  • 1 tbsp of minced fresh basil
  • 1 cup of flavored bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of finely ground cornmeal

For the sauce

  • 3 portabello mushrooms (stems removed and added to the turkey balls)
  • 1/2 package of crimini or white mushrooms
  • 1/4 tsp of onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 onion, coarsley chopped
  • 1/4 cup of flat leave parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2-1 tsp of fennel seeds
  • 1tbsp of minced fresh basil
  • 1tbsp of minced fresh oregano
  • 2 tbsps of dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp of fresh minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves, if they are large, you will need just one
  • 1 cup of red wine or white zinfandel wine
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (28 oz.)
  • 2 cans of whole peeled tomatoes (28 oz each)( or you can use 3 cans of tomato sauce)
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
  • 1tsp of salt (more if needed to suit your palate)
  • pinch of sugar


For turkey balls

  1. Wipe the portabellos clean with a papertowel.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over the entire portabellos, top and bottom.
  3. Season them with onion and garlic powder.
  4. Salt and pepper and set aside to marinade for about 15 minutes.
  5. Clean, peel and coarsely chop the carrot. Put it in the food processor.
  6. Clean and coarsley chop the celery. Add it to the food processor.
  7. Wash the parsley and add it to the food processor.
  8. Coarsely chop the yellow onion and add it to the food processor.
  9. Add the stems from all the portabellos.
  10. Now, process the ingredients in the food processor until they are finely chopped, the consistency will be that of almost a paste.
  11. Place the entire mixture into a fine sieve and let the juice drain out for a few minutes. Be sure to place a bowl under the sieve to catch the juices which will be added to the sauce later.
  12. Using a nonstick heavy bottom large pan, coat the bottom with olive oil. Heat it on medium high and when the oil begins to shimmer, set the portabellos with gills down and saute for a few minutes. Flip the mushrooms up and continue to saute until the juices begin to escape. Remove from the pan and cut them into strips and put them in the food processor. Grind them down until it is like a coarse puree. Let it cool a bit.
  13. Save any juices that may have escaped from the mushrooms and add to the bowl with the other collected juices.
  14. In a large mixing bowl, incorporated the cooled pureed portabellos in with the ground turkey.
  15. Add the chopped vegetable mixture and incorporated into the turkey mixture.
  16. Add the bread crumbs and thoroughly mix it in. This is important because any excess liquid will be absorbed by the crumbs and will make the meatballs tender and juicy.
  17. Add the salt, garlic and onion powder. Mix them in.
  18. Put the cornmeal in a shallow dish.
  19. To form the meatballs, I like to use a small metal ice cream scoop which has about 1 inch diameter. The scoop is great because the turkey balls will be fairly uniform in size so they will cook at the same rate. If you like big meatballs, then use a larger scoop or just form into bigger balls. Scoop the mixture with the scoop and roll it to form a nice ball.
  20. Roll the ball in the cornmeal and set aside on a dish. It will yield about 50 meatballs.

To cook meatballs and sauce

  1. I have used the combination of whole tomatoes and tomato sauce forever. I find that it gives the sauce a nice texture that the entire family likes. Of, course this is a personal preference. It is easier to use tomato sauce. The sauce will be more dense and less chunky than my combination. If you use the whole tomatoes, they will need to be "broken" up a bit. I use a hand blender and chopped them up this way.
  2. Slice all the mushrooms into thick slices, about 1/4 in thick.
  3. Sprinkle the onion and garlic powder on the mushrooms.
  4. Using the same pan that the portabellos were cooked in, coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Heat on medium. When it starts to shimmer.
  5. Add the mushrooms and saute until they are wilted and start to release some juice.
  6. Add the onions and saute until they are translucent. Remove mixture from the pan and set aside.
  7. Add a generous coating of olive oil to the pan. Make sure that the entire bottom is well coated with the olive oil. Heat the oil on medium/high. When the oil is hot, start to add the turkey balls. Brown the turkey balls until they are brown all around. During this process, lift the pan off the burner and give it a gently shake to ensure that the balls are not sticking to the pan. You might need to drizzle a bit more oil if they start to stick. However, if you started with enough oil, that shouldn't be a problem. If necessary, brown the meatballs in batches.
  8. When you are done browning all the meatballs, return them all to the pan.
  9. Add the mushroom/onion mixture and cook them for a few minutes together. The best way to mix the whole thing is to lift the pan and give it a few gently shakes to keep the whole moving around the pan.
  10. Turn the heat down to low.
  11. Add the garlic and cook it into the mixture.
  12. Add about half of the of the basil, parsley and oregano. Mix them in.
  13. Add all the fennel seeds and and mix in.
  14. Add the bay leaves.
  15. Add the wine. The pan will still be hot enough that most of the wine will cook off quite quickly. There should be just a little bit of liquid left.
  16. Add the tomato sauce and the other 2 cans. Mix each can in before adding the next.
  17. The heat should be low enough that the sauce should be simmering and not bubbling.
  18. Let the sauce simmer for about 3 hours which will bring all the flavors out of the sauce.
  19. About an hour into the simmering, add the grated cheese and mix it. You can also add the additional herbs and continue to simmer.
  20. This recipe makes a generous quantity of meatballs and sauce. It can be served with any type of pasta, polenta or gnocchi. We also make meatball heros and any extra sauce is used to make chicken/eggplant Parmesan for another meal. You can easily get 4 generous meals out of this batch.
  21. The sauce can also be frozen to be used when you are tired, but want a quick, home cooked meal.

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