Thursday, December 13, 2012

Turkey Meatballs

I love Gwyneth Paltrow for a lot of reasons, one of them being her predilection for throwing in turkey where others would stick with beef. I'm a self-professed carnivore through and through--give me a seat at Peter Luger's and you'll be watching me take down a Porterhouse in an indecently short amount of time. But I do like to be conscious of how much red meat I'm taking in. Everyone knows it's not great for you, so I try to space out my consumption and keep it to once every few weeks or so. Hence, my love for turkey chili, turkey bolognese, turkey meatloaf, and now, these incredible turkey meatballs.

I first saw them on GOOP years ago, and always thought about making them, but never got around to it 'til last weekend. I love Di Paola turkey farm, which has a stand at the TriBeCa farmers' market, so I picked up a pound of ground turkey from them, and got down to the mixing, shaping, browning, and simmering that goes into these. They're every bit as good as meatballs made of beef, and you feel way better about yourself eating them. Plus they make your house smell pretty great. Give them a try and let me know what you think. xo

Turkey Meatballs
2 tablespoons olive oil plus 2 additional tablespoons
1 large yellow onion, very finely diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 pound ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
1 egg
1 pound spaghetti, cooked just before serving
1/4 cup basil leaves, roughly torn

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 8 minutes, sweating it without giving it too much color. When the onion's soft, add the garlic and fennel seeds and season generously with salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of pepper should do). Saute for an additional 3 or 4 minutes. Remove and reserve half of this onion mixture in a large mixing bowl.

Add the tomatoes and their juice to the remaining mixture in the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer while you make the meatballs. Be sure to put a little water in the tomato can, swish it around and add it to the pot (don't waste a bit!).

To make the meatballs, combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, parsley, thyme, and rosemary with the reserved onion mixture. Add the turkey and egg and mush it all with your hands (the best tool for this job) just until everything is well-combined. Don't overmix. Form the mixture into 1-1/2" balls with your hands (of course, you can make them whatever size you like).

Heat the last 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Making sure not to overcrowd the pan, brown the meatballs (should take about 5 minutes). Put the browned meatballs into the simmering tomato sauce and let them cook, shaking the pot occasionally to roll the meatballs around, for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour and half.

Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve with spaghetti and torn basil.

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