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finished dish healthy meatballs

Italian-Style Turkey Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

  • Author: Joan Feldman
  • Total Time: 1 Hr. 20 Minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Diet: Low Fat


Mushrooms are the secret to these flavor-packed meatballs, along with your favorite Italian herbs and plenty of Parmesan Reggiano. The turkey meatballs stay moist thanks to a dollop of ricotta cheese in the mix. Make a batch for dinner tonight or freeze ahead in serving-size packets.


Units Scale
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/4 inch squares)
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 8oz. white button mushrooms, whole or sliced
  • 5-oz. package of shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey, preferably a mix of dark and light meat
  • 1/3 cup skim ricotta cheese (plant-based alternative optional)
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk (unsweetened plain plant-based milk optional)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (plant-based alternative optional)
  • 1 cup toasted bread crumbs (gluten-free optional)
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 tbls tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning (I use Bliss’s Tuscan blend)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp of salt(note if the Italian seasoning includes salt, decrease added salt to 1 teaspoon)
  • Marinara Sauce (store-bought or see Joan’s Marinara Sauce recipe)


  1. Clean the mushrooms and place them in a food processor. Pulse several times until the mushrooms are very fine — there should be pieces, just finely ground mushrooms. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté for five minutes until translucent and soft. Do not brown. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute to soften.
  3. Add the ground mushrooms to the pan and simmer over medium heat until most of the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates. You don’t want the mushrooms to be completely dry but you don’t want them to be soggy either. Allow the mushroom mixture to cool to room temperature.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375° and prepare your baking sheet by coating it with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
  5. Place the bread crumbs and milk in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and mix lightly until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Don’t overmix — it’s OK if small pieces of ricotta are visible.
  6. Use an ice cream scoop to shape egg-sized (or golf-ball size) meatballs; you should have between 16 and 18 turkey meatballs. Note if the mixture seems too wet and loose, you can add up to 1/3 cup of dried breadcrumbs. If it is too dry, add milk a tablespoon at a time until you get the right consistency.
  7. Place the meatballs on the greased baking sheet and gently roll them around to coat all sides of the meatballs in oil. Bake for 25 minutes, checking halfway through the cooking time to turn the baking sheet and turn the meatballs over. The temperature should reach 165° to 175°.
  8. While the meatballs are cooking prepare your sauce in a large pot.* Once the meatballs are done, drop them gently into the sauce and allow them to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes so that they absorb the flavors of the marinara.

Serve over your favorite pasta, topped with a sprinkle of parmesan and fresh parsley, if desired.


Special equipment: Food processor or chopper, ice cream scoop, rimmed baking sheet.

*For special diets: use vegan cheeses instead of regular parmesan and ricotta; use JustEgg instead of the whole egg; use gluten-free breadcrumbs instead of regular.

  • Prep Time: 45 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 Minutes
  • Category: Dinner/Lunch
  • Method: Bake/stove top
  • Cuisine: Healthy Italian

Keywords: turkey meatball recipe, healthy Italian, healthy meatballs