Tender Turkey Meatballs Recipe in Tomato Basil Sauce

How to easily make tender ground turkey meatballs cooked in a quick and easy tomato basil sauce. Jump to the Turkey Meatballs Recipe or read on to see our tips for making them.

Tender Turkey Meatballs Recipe in Tomato Basil 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.

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How to Make Ground Turkey Meatballs Cooked in a Tomato Basil Sauce

You will love this easy recipe. There are no lengthy cooking times and no need to bake or sear the meatballs in advance. Instead, we make a very simple tomato basil sauce, bring it to a simmer then drop the meatballs right into the simmering sauce. After 25 minutes, they are done.

To make the sauce, cook chopped garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in a little olive oil then add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and basil. Then allow the sauce to simmer while you make the meatballs.

For the meatballs, we combine lean ground turkey with breadcrumbs, milk, egg, cheese, and herbs. After forming them into balls, we carefully drop them into the simmering sauce. Simple.

How to Make Ground Turkey Meatballs Cooked in a Tomato Basil Sauce

How to Make the Best Turkey Meatballs

For the most tender and light meatballs (using ground turkey, chicken, or beef) you need to have a light touch when mixing and forming. To help with this, we have two tricks:

  • First, combine all the ingredients before adding the ground meat. 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.

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Making Meatballs Ahead of Time

Meatballs are the perfect make-ahead meal. Here are our tips for making them in advance:

  • Make-ahead sauce: The tomato basil sauce can be made in advance and should last in your refrigerator up to 3 days and in your freezer for about 3 months. We recommend using freezer-safe glass containers, or double layers of freezer bags to store sauces. To thaw, simply leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Make-ahead meatballs: Arrange shaped and uncooked meatballs in a dish or on a baking sheet, without touching. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
  • Freezing uncooked meatballs: Prepare the recipe through the shaping step. Arrange them on a foil-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Place the frozen meatballs in a freezer container or freezer bag, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw meatballs in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.
  • Freezing cooked meatballs: Let the cooked meatballs cool completely, then transfer to a freezer container or food-safe bag. Freeze for up to 1 month. Frozen meatballs can be thawed overnight or reheated directly from the freezer. Reheat them in a simmering sauce for 10 to 15 minutes or in a warm oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

How to Make the Best Meatballs

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Recipe updated, originally posted January 2013. Since posting this in 2013, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne

Tender Turkey Meatballs Recipe in Tomato Basil Sauce

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

There’s no lengthy cooking times, no baking and no searing these meatballs. Instead they are simmered in a simple tomato basil sauce. Have a light touch when mixing and forming the meatballs. Also, when you add them to the sauce, be careful not to stir the sauce for about 10 minutes so the meatballs have a chance to firm up. Once they’ve cooked and firmed up a bit, you can stir normally. Serve these alone with a dollop of ricotta cheese, over spaghetti, or with rustic bread.

Makes 4 servings

You Will Need

Tomato Basil Sauce

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

1 large basil sprig plus handful of torn basil leaves

Salt

Turkey Meatballs

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs or regular breadcrumbs

1/2 cup milk, we use reduced fat

1 large egg

1 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, coarsely grated (generous 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves and tender stems, chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)

Directions

  • Make Sauce
  • In a large skillet with sides and lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes then cook 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until the color turns from bright red to orange, about 2 minutes.

    Pour in the crushed tomatoes and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer. Add the basil sprig then taste for seasoning. Adjust with additional salt if needed. Continue to simmer while you prepare the meatballs.Turkey Meatball Step 1

      Stir breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl, and then let sit 5 minutes. Add the egg, cheese, parsley, oregano, and the salt. Stir until well blended.

      Add the ground turkey and use a fork or your fingers to gently mix everything together until combined. For the most tender meatballs, try your best not to over mix.

      Wet your hands, and then form the mixture into 1-inch balls. You should get about 24 meatballs.

      Gently drop the meatballs into tomato sauce. (It’s okay if some are not completely covered by the sauce). Cover the skillet and cook 20 minutes. Gently shimmy the skillet to move the meatballs around a little and then cook another 5 to 10 minutes or until the meatballs are thoroughly cooked. Just before serving, scatter torn basil leaves over meatballs and sauce.Turkey Meatball Step 3

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Storing leftover meatballs: Store leftover meatballs in a food-safe container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat over low heat in a saucepan or in the microwave.
  • Make-ahead sauce: The tomato basil sauce can be made in advance and should last in your refrigerator up to 3 days and in your freezer for about 3 months. We recommend using freezer-safe glass containers, or double layers of freezer bags to store sauces. To thaw, simply leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Make-ahead meatballs: Arrange shaped and uncooked meatballs in a dish or on a baking sheet, without touching. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
  • Freezing uncooked meatballs: Prepare the recipe through the shaping step. Arrange them on a foil-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Place the frozen meatballs in a freezer container or freezer bag, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw meatballs in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.
  • Freezing cooked meatballs: Let the cooked meatballs cool completely, then transfer to a freezer container or food-safe bag. Freeze for up to 1 month. Frozen meatballs can be thawed overnight or reheated directly from the freezer. Reheat them in a simmering sauce for 10 to 15 minutes or in a warm oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Nutrition Facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutrition Per Serving: Serving Size 6 meatballs / Calories 354 / Protein 37 g / Carbohydrate 28 g / Dietary Fiber 9 g / Total Sugars 14 g / Total Fat 12 g / Saturated Fat 4 g / Cholesterol 114 mg
AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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48 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Larissa May 24, 2014, 7:28 am

    Hubby love them! Best ever

    Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
  • 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……

    Reply
    • Joanne April 23, 2014, 2:10 pm

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

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
    • Joanne April 3, 2014, 11:06 am

      So glad you and your boys loved them.

      Reply
  • 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.!

    Reply
    • Joanne March 24, 2014, 9:43 am

      Thanks for sharing Lisa!

      Reply
  • 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!

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply
  • 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.

    Reply

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