Turkey Meatballs Recipe with Tomato Sauce

These tender, moist turkey meatballs do not last long in our kitchen. The moment one of us turns away the other quickly sneaks a meatball and before we know it, all that’s left is an empty pan.

Turkey Meatballs with Light Tomato Sauce

The sauce is very simple with crushed canned tomatoes, a little tomato paste and fresh basil. The meatballs are filled with parmesan cheese, parsley and a little oregano. We love these served alone with a dollop of ricotta cheese, over spaghetti or with rustic bread.

Slow Cooker Chicken MeatballsYou Will Also Enjoy these Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Meatballs with lean ground chicken, parmesan cheese, and a simple garlic and basil tomato sauce. Perfect for making in advance!

Make This Tonight – Tasty Turkey Meatballs Recipe

No lengthy cooking times, no baking and no searing the meatballs. Instead, we start a very simple sauce, bring it to a simmer then focus on forming our meatballs. The moment they’re formed into balls, we drop them into the simmering sauce. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. That’s it.

It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s absolutely delicious.

Tricks to the Best Meatballs – Don’t Over Mix

We’re serious on this one. For the most tender and light meatballs (turkey or beef) you need to have a light touch when mixing and forming. To help with this, we have a couple tricks:

First, combine all the mix-ins first. You’ll see that in our recipe we mix breadcrumbs, milk, an egg and herbs together first. That way, when we add the turkey meat, all we need to do is lightly mix.

Second, these meatballs are pretty wet, so they easily stick together when forming. All you need to do is gently form into a ball. From there, just be careful when working with them. For the first 10 minutes of cooking, don’t stir the sauce and let the meatballs be. Once they’ve cooked and firmed up a bit, you can stir normally.

Turkey Meatballs with Light Tomato SauceDid you like our Turkey Meatballs with Light Tomato Sauce? If so, we bet you’ll love these:

4.7 from 12 reviews
Turkey Meatballs Recipe with Light Tomato Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
We love these meatballs. There’s no lengthy cooking times, no baking and no searing the meatballs. The sauce is very simple with crushed canned tomatoes, a little tomato paste and fresh basil. The meatballs are filled with parmesan cheese, parsley and a little oregano. We love these served alone with a dollop of ricotta cheese, over spaghetti or with rustic bread.

Make and enjoy the same day or cool to room temperature cover then keep up to 2 days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze up to 1 month.
Created By:
Yield: 4
You Will Need
FOR Tomato Basil Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 large basil sprig plus 2 tablespoons torn basil leaves
FOR Turkey Meatballs
  • 1/2 cup (30 grams) panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) milk
  • 1 egg
1/2 cup (28 grams) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound (453 grams) ground turkey (93% lean)
  1. In a large skillet with sides, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes then cook 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste then bring to a simmer. Season with salt (we used about 1/2 teaspoon), and then add basil spring. Allow sauce to simmer gently while preparing meatballs.Turkey Meatball Recipe Step 1
  3. To make meatballs, combine panko breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl, and then let sit 5 minutes.
  4. Add egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, parsley, oregano and salt to bowl. Stir until combined.
  5. Next, add turkey then use a fork or fingers to mix everything together until barely combined. For tender meatballs, try not to over mix.
  6. Wet your hands and form mixture into 1-inch meatballs. This should make about 24 meatballs.Turkey Meatball Recipe Step 2
  7. Gently drop meatballs into tomato sauce. (It’s okay if some are not completely covered by the sauce). Cover skillet with a lid and cook 20 minutes then gently shimmy or shake the skillet to move the meatballs around a little. Cook another 5 to 10 minutes or until turkey is cooked through.
  8. Before serving, scatter about 2 tablespoons of torn basil leaves over meatballs and sauce.Turkey Meatball Recipe Step 3
  9. Serve alone, over spaghetti or with rustic bread.

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42 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Shanelle August 17, 2016, 7:21 pm

    I’d really like to make these but I can’t eat cheese. Any suggestions on what I could do instead or if I can just leave the cheese out?

    • Joanne August 18, 2016, 2:05 pm

      Hi Shanelle, You can leave the cheese out. Happy cooking!

  • June February 7, 2016, 10:23 pm

    I already have a go-to turkey meatballs and spaghetti recipe but I was looking for something that cut out the searing step. I was excited to try this out tonight, and I loved it! My husband and toddler also gobbled this up. Definitely easy and will be in the dinner rotation from now on. I’ve really loved every recipe I’ve tried on this website!

  • Alexandra December 21, 2015, 7:12 pm

    Does it matter if you use water instead of milk? If you have 1 1/2lbs of meat, should I add more liquid or an extra egg or leave the ingredients as is?

    • Joanne December 22, 2015, 12:43 pm

      Make the recipe as-is. The extra 1/4-pound won’t make too much of a difference.The milk helps tenderize the meat. Water (or stock) can be used in a pinch, but if you have milk, I’d go with that.

  • Kristal November 8, 2015, 8:10 pm

    These were amazing! Simple, delist, and they turned out perfect- which is saying something coming from me because I’m not a great cook, baking is more my speed.
    A couple of quick questions.
    Can I make these in a crockpot? If yes, how?
    I thought to make the sauce then put it in a preheated crockpot (you know, heat it up with water in it then dump the water out and add your food). I’m helping friends move and it seemed most practical to make and bring something than to order stuff or try and make it in the middle of unpacking.
    Thanks for this recipe!

    • Joanne December 22, 2015, 1:25 pm

      These should work really well in a crockpot. Just add everything to the slow cooker and turn on until the meatballs are cooked through.

  • Jennifer C July 10, 2015, 9:10 pm

    I have made these meatballs so many times that they are now a family staple. They are absolutely the best I’ve ever had! Including any that were from a restaurant. I’m thinking of branching out and trying sausage and beef instead just because, why not?

  • Robyn April 9, 2015, 6:20 pm

    Just wanted to leave a tip that a cookie scoop works perfectly as a meatball shaper. I just combine the meat mixture in a bowl, set it beside my pan of sauce and scoop and dump. So easy! I have made this several times and totally love it – thanks for the great recipe! I’ve tried many different meatball recipes in the past (pre-bake the meat then add to sauce, etc) and these are by far my favorite. So tender and flavorful. Love the light sauce too. Doesn’t hurt that it is so simple and is a one pan dish too! I haven’t made with anything but turkey (love the lightness the turkey brings) but I’m sure they’d be great with plenty of other ground meats.

    • Joanne April 10, 2015, 8:42 am

      Great tip, Robyn! Thanks for sharing.

  • Iris February 6, 2015, 12:57 am

    These were amazing!! My first attempt at making meatballs and anything out of turkey and I was really impressed. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  • Doug September 23, 2014, 5:30 pm

    Do yourselves a favor and try serving these with mashed potatoes smothered in the tomato sauce.

  • Jazmin September 6, 2014, 11:59 am

    WOOWWWWW!!! these were absolutely beyond tasty! I used only a 1/4 cup of milk since I was afraid to put too much but that was the perfect amount. I did make the meatballs bigger which left me with alot of leftover sauce, but I think I’m just going to make a new batch of meatballs!! Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  • Donna August 3, 2014, 7:53 pm

    Delicious and easy!! Just what I was looking for. The meatballs are very light and don’t taste like they are overpowered by the panko or the parmiagiano-reggiano. I will save this to favorites and make it again.

  • sandra July 2, 2014, 12:49 am

    I have mad these three times, my family love them love the texture and the fast thank you.

  • Melissa June 3, 2014, 6:09 am

    Used a fresh chili and an onion with the garlic, and added some diced mushrooms and zucchini to the sauce to boost the veggie content. Also used chicken mince as there was no turkey, but my goodness this recipe is awesome!!

    One thing- in the future I won’t be using milk, they were far too moist and I had to add more panko crumbs to even form a ball.

  • Larissa May 24, 2014, 7:28 am

    Hubby love them! Best ever

  • Steve May 8, 2014, 5:54 pm

    Not very nice at all, I think the milk is a mistake, it was very overpowering and not at all enjoyable!

    • Joanne May 16, 2014, 11:47 am

      We find the milk makes the meatballs a little more tender. If you don’t like it, you could leave it out next time.

  • Bree May 5, 2014, 4:48 pm

    I made this today for tonight’s spaghetti dinner. The sauce and meatballs are absolutely delicious! Only made a few changes, based on what I had on hand. I used water instead of milk, freeze dried basil and dried parsley instead of fresh. Added a little more salt and freshly ground black pepper to the sauce and I used a 20 oz pack of ground turkey. This one is a keeper! Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

  • Amy April 23, 2014, 4:22 pm

    These meatballs are so moist, delicious and light. This recipe is a keeper. Made them for the first time three months ago and have become a goto favorite for my family!

  • Deema Mauladad April 23, 2014, 12:25 am

    Who knew I could cook?! This is the second recipe I selected of yours two days in a row!!
    I usually avoid cooking meat in the chance that I may screw it up and not cook it long enough and give myself food poisoning. These meatballs came out AMAZING!!!!! I made these for a family dinner and it was a hit!! I used store bought Arbiata sauce as a base and then added basil, garlic, peppers as the recipe suggested. Everything else I followed to a T, thank you for posting incredible recipes. hmmmm now what will I pick from this website for tomorrow……

    • Joanne April 23, 2014, 2:10 pm

      Aww, you are so welcome! Of course you can cook 🙂 So happy you enjoyed the recipe.

  • Hilary March 27, 2014, 4:58 pm

    HI tried these last night the boys loved them I didn’t have parsley or oregano but added different flavourings, next time though will make sure I have these on hand to do them. The were so moist and I have never ever had turkey meatballs. Def a great meal. Thanks again for a great recipe.

    • Joanne April 3, 2014, 11:06 am

      So glad you and your boys loved them.

  • Lisa March 23, 2014, 8:05 am

    These were really good. I made them with 99% fat-free turkey breast, and next time I will not. I could tell that the additional fat would have made them way better, which is why I am giving them 5 stars. Mine were 3.5 stars. The flavors were amazing, but they really do need that extra fat. Can’t wait to make them again.!

    • Joanne March 24, 2014, 9:43 am

      Thanks for sharing Lisa!

  • Susan February 27, 2014, 9:59 pm

    I made these for the first time for my birthday party a few weeks ago, and they were fantastic. I’ve made them twice since — once for another party and once just for us. Delicious and tender!

  • Susan M February 15, 2014, 5:12 pm

    These are amazing! And so, so easy! I didn’t even know I could make meatballs and these turned out so well. BTW, this is the second recipe I’ve tried from your collection. The turkey meatloaf is outstanding as well. Up here in Minnesota, we have lots of turkey producers and I can get locally produced and processed turkey. I’m thrilled to find such wonderful recipes for it.

  • LAW December 10, 2013, 10:47 pm

    I made these meatballs– they were simple, quick and delicious. Not too much fuss which makes this a good recipe.

  • mary barber November 20, 2013, 9:18 am

    i just bought ground turkey yesterday. i will be making this the next few days down to the sauce. this is not only a good recipe, but it’s also economical.

  • Gavin November 2, 2013, 5:12 pm

    My son Jake (6) made this recipe with me for our diner tonight and his mum has given a thumbs up; there’s enough for tomorrow; yummmmmmyyy!

  • clare August 30, 2013, 12:58 pm

    So good! I just made them and they are great. Next time im going to make a large amount of meet balls to freeze. I didn’t have an egg but I put a little bit more cheese in and it worked 😀

  • Harriet April 1, 2013, 3:08 am

    Made this meatballs for a pot luck today, and they were a big hit. So light and tasty. I will make them again and again.

  • Linda February 25, 2013, 10:18 am

    I made these meatballs last night and received a 5 star rating from my husband. They were very easy to make and I already had many of the ingredients on hand. I used lean turkey breast so not only were they tasty, but they were healthy as well. Although these can be served alone, I added them to spaghetti.

    The recipe says not to worry about covering the meatballs with sauce and this is true. As they cook the sauce kind of bubbles up over the meatballs. After about 15 minutes I moved the meatballs around a little in the pan with no problem.

    I will definitely make these again. Thanks!

  • afracooking February 6, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Mouthwatering pictures and the recipe sounds just fabulous! Thank you for sharing!

  • Elen Grey | Deep in B-ville Writing Over the Garage February 6, 2013, 11:13 am

    I’m back. I actually made this last night, because I had all the ingredients except the turkey. Sprinted to the meat market for that! Mr. G honey gave it a full compliment of stars. The meatballs are moist. The sauce is flavorful. The red pepper flakes give it a nice little kick. I didn’t have any fresh herbs, so I used dried. Worked just fine. The next time I make this, I want to try to simmer the sauce down a little bit more so that I can have a meatball sandwich the next day. Double yum.

  • Elen Grey | Deep in B-ville Writing Over the Garage February 5, 2013, 11:38 am

    Click and print. I’m always looking for new recipes with turkey. Comfort and #manfood! Bonus.

  • fiona maclean February 1, 2013, 10:00 am

    turkey is such an undervalued meat. I made meatballs this christmas with a whole load of left over turkey meat and they are delicious. I’ve frozen mine without sauce and heat them up in something like your light tomato sauce for a quick and easy supper!

  • Bev @ Bev Cooks January 31, 2013, 2:37 pm



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