• Leigh

For Healthier Ricotta Meatballs Use Ground Turkey


Ricotta meatballs made with ground beef and/or ground pork are good but loaded with fat. I wanted to see if I could make a great meatball using low-fat ground turkey instead. The answer is yes. Ground turkey meatballs won't have the richness, which largely comes from the rendered fat, of meatballs made with beef or pork. Nonetheless, the turkey meatballs will have plenty of taste and will be light and fluffy. I really like them and find that, especially during the summer, the lighter meatballs are far better than those made with beef or pork. You can make the meatball mixture in just a few minutes and let it rest while you start a simple tomato sauce. When the sauce is bubbling, you simply form the meatballs, drop them in the wine-laced sauce, and let the meatballs simmer away for 15-20 minutes until they're cooked through. The tender, delicate meatballs infuse the sauce with more flavor as they braise. Try the meatballs with the pasta of your choice or atop some creamy polenta. If you like, dust the meatballs with a little chopped parsley and/or Parmesan cheese.

Turkey Ricotta Meatballs -- Serves 4+

Meatballs

2 slices of bread (about a cup and preferably whole grain), crumbled into small pieces

3/4 cup (about half of a 15-ounce container) of low-fat ricotta cheese

1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1 large egg

1/2 cup of chopped onion

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper (the salt free kind, or reduce the amount of salt you use)

1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes

1 pound of lean ground turkey (93 percent lean)

Chopped parsley (optional)

Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Sauce

1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

2 teaspoons of chopped garlic

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1 14-15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with basil, onion, and garlic

1teaspoon of dried Italian herbs

1/2 teaspoon of dried basil

1/2 - 1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 cup of red wine (I use cheap "Winking Owl"--"winky, winky"--Cabernet from Aldi)

For the meatballs, in a large bowl, combine the bread, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, egg, onion, garlic powder, salt, lemon pepper, and dried parsley flakes. Mix them until the bread absorbs the moisture from the cheese and eggs and the mixture looks quite mushy. Add the ground turkey and mix it in well. You want the turkey to combine with the ricotta mixture so that everything is integrated. Let the meatball mixture stand while you get the sauce started. Then when the sauce is bubbling away, form golf ball-sized meatballs and drop them into the sauce. Bring the sauce back to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pan, and let the meatballs cook for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. Serve the meatballs and sauce on pasta, polenta, or the carbohydrate of your choice. Dust the top of the meatballs with a little parsley and/or Parmesan cheese if you like.

For the sauce, heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet, chef's pan, or Dutch oven until the oil shimmers. Then add the onion. Saute the onion for 5-6 minutes or until it softens. Add the garlic and saute it with the onion for a minute or so. Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, Italian herbs, basil, salt, and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and let the sauce cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and bring the sauce back to a boil. Add the meatballs, partially cover the pan, and let the meatballs cook in the sauce for 15-20 minutes.

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