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Tiny Turkey Meatballs Atop Penne & Escarole

I’ve given up quite a few foods in the past year. Many of them are comfort foods, family favorites—family traditions really. Cannoli at Christmas, lasagna, manicotti, and my Mother’s meatballs. I haven’t had to give up pasta though (deep sigh of relief).

I’ve never made turkey meatballs let alone tiny ones. I’ve always made my Mother’s meatballs. She makes hers with veal, pork, and beef. And, they’re the size of baseballs. Each one is held together by a crunchy, almost black exterior. But, inside they’re fork tender. Douse them with some homemade sauce and you’ve got yourself a little piece of heaven.

After having to reinvent the way I think about, prepare, and eat food it seemed like I may as well tackle the big one. The traditional recipe. The one that is never varied from generation to generation. The meatball! So, that’s what I did and these little meatballs turned out darn good, if I must say so myself. When my hubby started talking about them during dinner, all the while devouring them, I knew we had a keeper.

Interestingly, the organic escarole that came with our CSA delivery is what prompted this recipe. I queried some friends for ideas and someone suggested escarole soup with turkey meatballs. I really didn’t want soup but knew the ingredients would make a great pasta dish. And, escarole soup minus the soup was born!

You can see this recipe on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Also, check out turkey meatballs an Asian twist plus links to a few other related recipes at the Gluten-Free Goddess.


Tiny Turkey Meatballs

1 pound chopped turkey
1 teaspoon flax mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water (or 1 egg)
1 cup plain GF breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 small or 1 large basil leaf, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat the oven (convection roast) to 400 degrees. I find the convection oven will create a very crispy exterior to the meatballs—similar to frying. However, you may bake them in a regular oven or fry them in a cast iron pan with a little olive oil.

Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix in with your hands. It’s really that simple! Add more breadcrumbs and water as needed to get to the right consistency. They should be sufficiently moist but not so much so that they won’t hold a spherical shape.

Form the meat mixture into balls 1¼ to 1½ inches in diameter. It helps to wet your hands with a few drops of water each time you form a new meatball. Arrange them on a shallow metal pan lined with parchment. (A sheet or broiler pan works well.) Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn the meatballs and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Continue turning and cooking until a nice crispy crust is formed. Total cooking time about 30 minutes—until they are crispy brown on the outside.

Meatballs can be added to your favorite dish or frozen at this point. This recipe yields about 24 meatballs.

Penne with Escarole

1 head of escarole
2 or 3 plum tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, smashed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup of chicken broth
salt and pepper
½ pound GF penne

Place two tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy frying pan set on a burner at medium heat.

Smash the garlic and add it to the pan browning it lightly, a few minutes. Meanwhile, clean the escarole, pat it dry, and chop it into 2 inch pieces. Add it to the pan and turn up the heat to medium high. Turn the escarole frequently with tongs until it is wilted.

Chop the tomatoes into a coarse dice. Add them to the pan and mix in. Sauté for a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the chicken broth and remaining olive oil. Bring everything to a low simmer and lower the heat. Cover the pan cooking until the escarole is softened but still has a little substance—about 5 minutes. Make sure there’s still liquid in the bottom to avoid burning. More broth can be added if needed.

Cook the gluten free pasta—penne is good for this dish—as directed. Top with the escarole and Tiny Turkey Meatballs.

This recipe serves two to three people. It is easily doubled to serve a larger group of four to six.


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Reader Comments (5)

yum! i just made these. of course, being a college student i made em the easy way: just turkey and breadcrumbs. delicious all the same. thanks for being the very first dinner i've ever cooked for myself :)

Ali - terrific! I'm so happy this worked for you. My son is a college student, too, so I understand how important it is to have some foods you can make yourself and enjoy.

BTW, I visited your site. Lovin' the Chocolate Cinnamon Bread. Yum! Nancy

Sep 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterali

It is a very informative and useful post thanks it is good material to read this post improved my knowledge.

This looks like a delicious recipe that I am going to try. I have recently found out I need to be gluten free and was glad to find you website. I will be coming back often. Thanks. Bev

Bev - this is one of my favorite recipes. I make the meatballs all the time. Looking forward to seeing more of you. -Nancy

Sep 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBev

I am super happy to have found your website. I have the meatballs in the oven as I type! It made so many I figured that I can freeze the extras and reheat them whenever I want a snack! I can't wait to try them because they smell delicious.
I just found out 9 days ago that I am very allergic to dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten and beef...among other food items.
It's not so bad...but I am glad to have found your website because I will need a lot of ideas to make plain food more elaborate.

Mar 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBernadette

Looks delicious. Is the turkey fresh ground turkey or cooked turkey leftovers?

Jayne, I used fresh ground turkey.

Nov 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJayne
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