Italian Turkey Meatballs in Marinara Sauce is one of the easiest and my favorite weeknight dinner recipes.
This recipe is extra special for me, because I like to use my Grandma's tricks (listed later in the blog) to make an authentic Old-Fashioned Italian Meatballs.
Serve over polenta or spaghetti or stuff into hoagie bun for a perfect meatball sandwich.
I like to serve my italian baked turkey meatballs smothered in my 5-Star rated homemade marinara sauce. You can serve this with store bought marinara sauce or tomato sauce or lemon butter garlic sauce or alfredo sauce or bbq sauce or vodka sauce or mushroom sauce.
Don't miss my most popular recipe - Meatloaf that will knock your socks off!
Tender, Springy, Meaty, & Absolutely Delectable
Italian recipes are one of my favorite. From those cheesy Turkey Lasagna nights to my husband's favorite One Pot Italian Sausage Pasta to my weeknight comfort food Rigatoni Bolognese and Date Night Fra Diavolo.
Why I like this recipe?
- Easy Cleanup.
- Healthy alternative to traditional italian meatballs that uses veal, pork, and beef.
- Can be frozen and reheated in no time.
- Ground Turkey Breast
- Panko breadcrumbs
- any italian bread or artisan bread
- fresh parsley
- fresh basil torn
- freshly shredded parmesan cheese
- fresh garlic
- red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
How to Make Authentic Italian Turkey Meatballs?
Step 1: Soak bread slices in milk
Take a medium-sized mixing bowl with milk. Add your bread slices and let them soak in the moisture.
Step 2: Mix ingredients
In a bowl combine ground turkey breast, panko breadcrumbs, egg, a generous amount of fresh chopped parsley, freshly minced garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, freshly torn basil and just squish the bread to make it look like breadcrumbs.
Combine the ingredients for the meatballs with your hands. Give in time. Be Patient. Massage the meat. Allow the heat from your hands to break down the meat.
STEP 3: Make Meatballs
Use a bowl of water and water your hands every single time you make a new meatball. This will help you shape the best meatballs. Keep the size even. Each meatball should be a little larger than a golf ball.
STEP 4: Preheat Oven & bake
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the meatballs on a greased baking dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the inside of the meat reaches an internal temperature of 180°F.
Do You Put Egg in Turkey Meatballs?
Eggs are a MUST when making Turkey Meatballs. You might ask why? What does eggs do for meatballs? The answer is pretty plain and simple. Eggs holds everything together. Eggs acts as a binder keeping your turkey meatballs from falling apart.
How do you make Turkey Meatballs not fall apart?
Meatballs might look just combining everything and baking. But, the truth is there are a few tricks that won't make your turkey meatballs fall apart.
- Always use eggs - as you know eggs acts as a binder.
- Make panade - It's easy, simple, and so inexpensive. Just place any artisan bread or italian bread in milk for some time. Squish the bread and add it to your meatball mixture. The starch from bread will keep the bread from falling apart.
- Breadcrumbs - Panko or regular breadcrumbs, but, don't skip breadcrumbs.
- Mix with your hands - This is so important. Most of the times we use a spoon to combine ingredients. But, always use your hands. The heat from your hands will break the protein structure in the meat, preventing them from falling apart.
- Avoid Veggies - You might want to add some bell pepper for crunch or some sautéed onions for sweetness. Don't! Save them for the sauce.
- Get the size right - Too small or too large is a big no, when it comes to Meatballs. So, make them just a little larger than golf balls.
- Don't Crowd the Pan - Whether you are sautéeing them in a skillet or simply baking them make sure you don't crowd the pan.
Are Turkey Meatballs Supposed to be Mushy?
Turkey Meatballs can become mushy. Unlike Beef and Pork, turkey meat has a finer texture meaning it doesn't holds the moisture well.
Further, we add eggs which is more moisture.
But, almost always Turkey Meatballs turn out mushy because of one common mistake.
STICK IT IN THE FRIDGE - This one tip from Cooks Illustrated saved my life!
Just 10-15 minutes in the fridge gives times for protein to bind everything together. And, then transfer it directly to the preheated oven.
Are turkey meatballs supposed to be pink inside?
To check the doneness of your meatballs use a meat thermometer. It's one of the most essential kitchen gadgets that you'll ever buy. For a Turkey Meatball, check if the meat has reached an internal temperature of 180°F. So, don't worry if your meatball looks pink on the inside. Just use a meat thermometer to check the doneness. That's the safest and the most accurate way to figure out if your turkey meatballs are cooked.
Why is my Turkey Meatball tasting dry?
Turkey is a leaner meat than Beef. Therefore they can become dry. So follow these tips to make sure your Turkey Meatballs doesn't taste dry.
- Don't use ground turkey which is very lean. Ideally you should go with 90% lean. More than that or less than that is not recommended.
- Always make Panade - breads soaked in milk and combined in the meatloaf mixture. The starch from bread soaks in the milk and forms a gel. This lubricates and provides moisture to the meat.
- Don't over bake your meatballs. Check at 15-minute mark. Don't eyeball it. Use a meat thermometer to check the doneness of your meatballs.
7 Tricks My Grandma taught me to make the BEST Italian Meatballs
- Use Fresh Basil, Fresh Garlic, and a Generous amount of Parsley to make the filling.
- Soak bread in milk and squish the bread. FYI: This is called Panade.
- Don't skip cheese. Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino works best.
- Always use your hands to combine the ingredients.
- Stick the balls in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
- Adjust Salt and Pepper as per taste.
- Be patient. Meatballs takes time. Don't crowd the pan. Don't rush the process.
- Raisins - Traditional Sicilian meatballs are made with golden raisins.
- Celery, Onions, Carrots - You can mince them and make a paste. Cook it in the skillet with some extra virgin olive oil. Then add it to the meatball mixture.
Make Ahead Instructions
- You can keep the uncooked turkey meatballs in the fridge (tightly wrapped in a foil or plastic wrap) for 2-3 days.
- You can freeze your uncooked turkey meatballs (safely stored in an airtight container) for 2-3 months. Thaw it before cooking and bake for a little longer duration.
- You can always store your cooked turkey meatballs in the fridge for 2-3 days.
7 Most Common Mistakes while making Meatballs
- Skipping Panade - We avoid soaking bread in milk and then mushing it. Panade adds structure and shape to the meatballs making them extra firm.
- Using stale ingredients - You cannot underestimate the value of fresh ingredients especially (fresh parsley, garlic, basil) when making meatballs.
- Using a spoon to make the meatball mixture - Always use your hands to massage the meat and make the meatballs.
- Use just one egg. Two eggs might make you think that it will make your meatballs firm. But, it'll just make it more moist.
- Don't skip cheese. Whether you are using Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, make sure you don't skip cheese.
- Don't fret about making all balls of the same size. Just focus on the texture and taste.
- Rolling them with dry hands - Wet your hands every single time you make a new meatball. This will help you shape them evenly and the meatball won't stick to your hands.
More Meatballs to try:
- Sweet and Sour Chicken Meatballs
- Vegan Chickpea Meatballs (Make Ahead Vegan Meatballs)
- Sticky Thai Meatballs with Peanut Sauce
- Salsa Chicken Meatballs
More Leftover Turkey Recipes
- Leftover Turkey Mushroom and Wild rice soup (Deliciously Creamy!!)
- Garlic Sesame Turkey Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Instant Pot Turkey Breast
- Turkey Tetrazzini
- Turkey Enchiladas Recipe
- Air Fryer Turkey Meatballs
- Turkey Chili in a Crockpot
Italian Turkey Meatballs in marinara sauce
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz) milk
- 4 slices any italian bread or artisan bread i like sourdough bread
- 1.3 lb Ground Turkey breast 90% lean
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 1½ Tablespoons garlic fresh minced/pressed
- ⅓ cup parsley fresh chopped
- ⅓ cup basil fresh torn
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and Pepper as per taste
- extra virgin olive oil
- Marinara sauce to serve
- Place bread in a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour 1 cup of milk or more if needed until the bread is covered.
- Allow bread to soak milk for at least 10-15 minutes or until the bread absorbs most of the milk and becomes mushy.
- Pour off any excess milk and mash the bread with a fork. Make sure there are no dry spots.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200°C). Grease a 13x9 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Line it with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl combine all the ingredients for meatballs along with the panade (mushy bread paste). Use your hands to combine the ingredients. Massage the meat with your hands.
- Wet your hands and then make the meatballs. Wet your hands every single time you make a new meatball.Make meatballs which are slightly larger than golf balls and place them in the prepared baking dish. Brush the meatballs with some extra virgin olive oil.
- IMPORTANT - Transfer the baking dish with uncooked meatballs into the fridge. Refrigerate for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the inside of the meat reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees F.
- In the meantime make marinara sauce or tomato sauce or any other sauce you want to serve with.
- Drizzle your baked turkey meatballs with the sauce (of your choice). Sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese (for more flavor). Serve over polenta or spaghetti or in a hoagie bun. Enjoy with a side salad or some cauliflower rice.