Turkey Meatballs and Pasta in Marinara Sauce

Posted on Jun 26, 2019
2 Comments

Easy ground turkey Italian meatballs simmered in marinara sauce and tossed with penne pasta for a delicious and healthy dinner.

Overhead in white bowl with serving spoon and grated cheese.

I used to make these turkey meatballs all the time for a relatively quick and easy family weeknight dinner.  Made with ground turkey, they are tender, delicate and bouncy, and perfectly simmered in my favorite jarred marinara and tossed with some penne pasta.  All on the stovetop, practically in one pan.

Closeup in serving bowl.

How to make turkey meatballs

Start with ground turkey, a mixture of white and dark meat.  All white meat and you’ll end up with a dry and flavorless meatball.  We don’t want that!

Then add some standard ingredients, no overthinking here, just classic meatball stuff:

  • seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • milk
  • egg
  • grated Romano or Parmesan
  • onion
  • garlic
  • oregano, basil and crushed red pepper

Pretty easy and straightforward, shape into about a dozen golf ball size meatballs using an ice cream scooper for uniformity.

Meatballs simmering in sauce in skillet.

Can I use ground beef instead?

Well, you can but then they’re not turkey meatballs.  What I like about using ground turkey is how tender and light they are, even the flavor is lighter but not at all bland.  Save the beef for another time and try them this way, I think you’ll really like.

Close up simmering in marinara on stovetop.

How to cook turkey meatballs

On the stovetop in a skillet with olive oil.  They brown so nicely and then those browned bits end up simmering in the sauce while the meatballs finish cooking.  So much flavor!!  All in one pan.  Okay, so the pasta cooks in another pot but everything else finishes in the skillet.

Can I used jarred marinara sauce?

Of course!  I choose to use my favorite store-bought marinara sauce when I make these meatballs.  You do you, so if you prefer your awesome homemade marinara then by all means go for it!  I love Rao’s pasta sauces and always have some in my pantry.  It also makes this meal super easy and quick which is kind of the point for me on weeknights.

Meatballs stacked on rectangular white platter.

What kind of pasta to serve with turkey meatballs?

I usually use penne but spaghetti works, so does most any type of pasta.  Just remove your meatballs to a bowl with some sauce and then toss your cooked pasta in the skillet with the sauce.  You can serve it straight from the skillet with the meatballs on the side, or with the meatballs on top in the skillet, or all in one big serving bowl or platter.  There is no wrong way to get this to the table.

Tips and Notes for making Turkey Meatballs

  • Use a blend of light and dark turkey meat for best flavor and tender, moist meatballs.  All white meat will yield dry meatballs lacking in flavor.
  • Try not to over mix the meatball mixture, just mix until combined.  This also ensures a more tender meatball.
  • These are very delicate when frying, just brown carefully on all sides so they don’t fall apart.  You can chill the meatballs for a bit before browning to help them hold their shape in the pan.
  • I think it’s best to toss the pasta with sauce to coat before serving, with the meatballs then on top or on the side.  Tastes best this way, it’s also the Italian way of doing things.
  • Don’t forget to pass more grated cheese when serving, so necessary and so very good.  And in my house, more freshly cracked black pepper.
  • These turkey meatballs are great on their own, no pasta, with some crusty bread and a green salad.  Also very tasty as a meatball sub ~ place three meatballs in a split french bread roll, spoon on some extra sauce and top with a slice or two of provolone and heat in oven until cheese is melted.  Yum!!

Close up in white serving bowl.

These turkey meatballs make a great dinner anytime, including Sunday supper or for entertaining.  I mean, seriously tho, who doesn’t love a plate of homemade spaghetti and meatballs?  I’m making them again for just the two of us ~ so easy and delicious and the leftovers are my jam.  Enjoy ~ Kelly

Turkey meatballs and penne, side view in serving bowl.

Looking for some other quick and easy pasta dishes for dinner?  Here you go, also popular in the hungry bluebird kitchen:

If you’ve tried these Turkey Meatballs, please rate them below in the comments and let me know how it went ~ I love hearing from you! HUNGRY FOR MORE?  Subscribe to my Newsletter and come hang out with me on PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK.

Turkey Meatballs

Easy ground turkey meatballs simmered in marinara and tossed with pasta.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner, Main Course/Meat
Cuisine: Italian/American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Kelly Wildenhaus

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup grated Romano or Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons onion, minced/grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced/grated
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound ground turkey light and dark mix
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • cups marinara sauce I use my favorite store-bought 28-ounce jar
  • ½ pound penne pasta

Instructions

  • In large bowl, combine bread crumbs and milk, mix with fork to moisten.
    Add egg and cheese and mix to combine.
    Add onion, garlic, spices and ground turkey. Using clean hands, mix just to combine, trying not to over work.
  • Using an ice cream scoop, shape into golf-size balls, about 12-14 meatballs. Heat olive oil in large heavy bottomed skillet until shimmering. Brown meatballs on all sides, about 8-10 minutes total, being careful when turning, they are very fragile!
  • Add the marinara sauce and stir up any brown bits and bring to a boil, turning meatballs to coat. Lower heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water per package instructions. Drain. Remove meatballs to serving bowl with some sauce, leaving about 1 cup behind in skillet. Toss penne in sauce in skillet to coat thoroughly.
  • To serve, place sauced pasta in serving bowl or platter, and either top with meatballs or serve meatballs on the side. Or just put meatballs on top of pasta in skillet and serve. And pass more grated cheese, please! Enjoy!!

Notes

  • Use a blend of light and dark turkey meat for best flavor and tender, moist meatballs.  All white meat will yield dry meatballs lacking in flavor.
  • You can use fresh basil and oregano instead of dried, if you have it, about 1 tablespoon finely chopped each.  Or more to taste.
  • I prefer Romano cheese for these meatballs but Parmesan definitely works, too!
  • Try not to over mix the meatball mixture, just mix until combined.  This also ensures a more tender meatball.
  • Makes about a dozen meatballs (12-14).
  • These are very delicate when frying, just brown carefully on all sides so they don't fall apart.  You can chill the meatballs for a bit before browning to help them hold their shape in the pan.
  • That said, use a non-stick pan to make your life easier.
  • I think its best to toss the pasta with sauce to coat before serving, with the meatballs then on top or on the side.  Tastes best this way, it's also the Italian way of doing things.
Keyword: turkey meatballs, turkey meatballs and pasta, turkey meatballs in sauce, turkey meatballs marinara
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2 thoughts

  1. Avatar

    Meathead

    July 2, 2019


    Who doesn’t love a plate of homemade spaghetti and meatballs?

    Reply

  2. Avatar


    A whole bowl of flavor going on here. Looks really delicious

    Reply

Reply