Easy Turkey Meatballs

My favorite turkey meatballs are cooked in the easiest, most delicious homemade tomato basil sauce. Our easy recipe does not require lengthy cooking times, baking, or searing. These easy turkey meatballs are cooked right in the sauce!

Easy Turkey Meatballs Recipe Video

Ground turkey meatballs can sometimes be tough and dry, but that’s not a problem with my recipe! You’ll make our easy 5-minute tomato basil sauce, add your raw meatballs, and gently simmer until cooked in the middle. They turn out so tender and juicy!

These easy turkey meatballs in tomato basil sauce are high on my favorites list! For more meatball recipes, see our slow cooker chicken meatballs or my Swedish meatballs.

Easy Ground Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Basil Sauce

Key Ingredients

  • Ground turkey: I use 93% lean ground turkey when making these meatballs, and I find leaner ground turkey drier. The extra 7-10% fat helps to keep our turkey meatballs moist and juicy in the middle.
  • Milk, breadcrumbs, and egg: Help to keep our meatballs together and soft and tender in the middle.
  • Parmesan: Add some shredded parmesan cheese to the meatball mixture for really flavorful meatballs. I also use parmesan cheese when making these Italian meatballs made with beef and pork.
  • Spices: I love fresh parsley in these, and I stir in a little dried oregano and salt.
  • Tomato basil sauce: I make my quick and easy homemade tomato sauce with crushed canned tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil. If you want a shortcut, you can use 2 jars of your favorite store-bought spaghetti sauce in this recipe.

How to Make Turkey Meatballs

You’ll need a side skillet with sides to make my favorite turkey meatballs. It will do all the heavy lifting for this recipe, so it must be large enough to fit the sauce and the meatballs.

Start with the sauce, which is so simple to make. Heat olive oil and cook some garlic. Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and a big sprig of basil. The basil sprig infuses the sauce with basil flavor, and we will finish with more basil leaves later.

Cooking turkey meatballs in tomato basil sauce

Make your meatball mixture and form it into balls. I use wet hands when forming them, which keeps them from sticking too much. Drop the turkey meatballs into the gently simmering sauce and leave them without moving until they’ve firmed up a bit.

After 10 minutes, you should be able to move them around in the sauce, which will help them cook more evenly. When the meatballs are firm and cooked throughout, you can serve with basil leaves scattered on top.

Easy Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

What to Serve with Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Serve these incredible turkey meatballs with a dollop of ricotta cheese spooned over spaghetti or rustic bread. I love this homemade focaccia, which would be wonderful for scooping up the tomato basil sauce.

To round out the meal, add a vegetable or salad. I love this Italian chopped salad or fresh salad greens tossed in this easy balsamic vinaigrette. Roasted vegetables are lovely, too. I especially love this roasted broccolini or roasted cabbage (which I use as a bed for the meatballs, just as you would pasta).

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Basil Sauce

Easy Turkey Meatballs

  • PREP
  • COOK

We love these easy turkey meatballs cooked in our homemade tomato basil sauce. Instead of searing or baking the meatballs in this recipe, we simmer them in our simple Italian tomato basil sauce, making them incredibly tender and delicious.

Use a light touch when mixing and forming the meatballs. When adding these to the sauce, be careful not to stir it for 10 minutes so the meatballs can firm up. You can stir them once they’ve cooked and firmed up a bit.

Makes 4 servings

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

Turkey Meatballs

1 pound (450g) ground turkey, 93% lean

1/2 cup (50g) panko breadcrumbs or homemade breadcrumbs

1/2 cup (118ml) milk

1 large egg

6 tablespoons (1.5oz) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

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

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon salt

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 (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes, 2 large cans

1 large basil sprig plus a handful of torn basil leaves


  • Make Sauce
  • 1Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet with sides and lid. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, then cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

    2Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until the color turns from bright red to orange, about 2 minutes.

    3Pour 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.

  • Make Meatballs
  • 1Add the breadcrumbs, milk, egg, cheese, parsley, oregano, and salt to a large bowl. Stir until well blended.

    2Add the ground turkey and mix everything until combined, using a fork or your fingers. Try not to overmix for the most tender meatballs.

    3Wet your hands, and then form the mixture into 1-inch balls. You should get about 22 to 24 meatballs.

    4Gently drop the meatballs into tomato sauce. It’s okay if the sauce does not cover the tops of the meatballs.

    5Cover the skillet and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, the meatballs will have firmed up, so you can gently shimmy the skillet to move the meatballs around in the sauce.

    6Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked in the middle. Just before serving, scatter torn basil leaves over meatballs and sauce.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Storing: Leftover meatballs with the sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
  • Shortcut: Use 2 jars of your favorite store-bought spaghetti sauce.
  • Make-ahead sauce: The tomato basil sauce can be made in advance and should last in your refrigerator for up to 3 days and in your freezer for about 3 months. We recommend using freezer-safe glass containers or double-layer freezer bags to store sauces. To thaw, leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Make-ahead meatballs: Arrange shaped and uncooked meatballs in a dish or on a baking sheet, leaving some space between them. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
  • The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
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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88 comments… Leave a Review
  • Ydhelca February 1, 2024, 7:46 am

    Can I use ground chicken instead of meatballs?

    • Joanne May 24, 2024, 1:57 pm


  • Sherry P. January 8, 2024, 8:27 pm

    WOW! This was soooooo good! I usually follow recipes for the first time, exact. Read this recipe and watched the video a few days before I went to the grocery. Ended up getting the higher fat ground turkey (couldn’t remember to get the lean) and it actually turned out delicious! Flavors are not overpowering and the meatballs were so tender and flavorful. Sauce is quick and easy. Will be making this again for sure! Made a triple batch and have some set aside for my son and daughter in law to provide a meal for the arrival of their third child!

    • Joanne May 24, 2024, 1:57 pm

      Hi Sherry, I am so happy that you enjoyed it so much! Honestly, the more fat with ground turkey, the better. When shopping in my local stores, the highest at content I can find is 7%. If you found higher than that, the meatballs will just be even more flavorful and juicy inside.

  • Meredith Mastromauro October 23, 2023, 8:50 pm

    This recipe was AMAZING! I had some leftover turkey and was hankering for a yummy pasta dish. This did not disappoint. I was amazed at the depth of flavor created in only an hour. I ended up adding a tad more red pepper flakes and some black pepper and salt to taste, and it was delightful! I also cooked the meatballs about 18-20 min total in the sauce beyond the first 20 min (after tossing) instead of the directed 5-10 due to my mistiming of the pasta, but it was SO YUMMY! Next time I might sear the meatballs, just for a different texture, but my husband loved them just the way they are! Will definitely be making again.

  • June Gallo August 8, 2023, 4:52 pm

    Can I use ground turkey breast 99 percent lean? Whenever I use ground turkey breast, I add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the meat. Ok to do the same with this recipe?

    • Joanne August 8, 2023, 4:58 pm

      Yes, the recipe still works, although I prefer ground turkey with a bit more fat left.


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