Turkey Times Two: Turkey Meatballs with Pasta and Arugula

What happens when turkey breast is on sale? All turkey, all the time is what happens. Turkey meatloaf  yesterday? I’ll take your meatloaf and raise you some meatballs. I wanted to use leftover parsley, shallot, arugula, and extra turkey I had, which pointed me in one direction: meatballs!! With the addition of a few staples (bread crumbs, eggs, Parmesan, etc.), a heathy and filing pasta dish was born. Again. In turkey form. Here goes it:




  • 1 lb ground turkey breast (you may halve this recipe easily)
  • olive oil
  •  4 tbsp whole wheat breadcrumbs
  •  2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 2 tsp garlic paste, or 4 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • 2 shallots, grated
  • 4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • a few healthy grinds black pepper
  • jarred tomato sauce
  • two large handfuls arugula (it’s a ve-ge-ta-ble)
  • a handful of basil from your neighbor, cut into ribbons
  • pasta (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 and heat two tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan (stay with me here). In a large bowl, combine egg, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic, grated shallot (just grate them right into the bowl), and Parmesan. Blend them all well, and then add the turkey, stirring until well combined. Don’t worry that the mixture looks green and that the turkey is completely incorporated- the meatballs will be pretty again once cooked. Let this sit for a moment while you start the pasta and sauce.

steps 1, 2, and 3

This sentence is a friendly reminder to start your pasta water and cook the pasta you’ve chosen to use while you take care of the meatballs. I used Tinkyada brown rice spaghetti. You may also take this mindful moment to heat your jar of sauce (or homemade sauce, you creative devil, you) over low heat and toss in the handfuls of arugula and the chopped basil. Just let this quietly heat on a low setting and the sauce will wilt the arugula. Stir if it comes to mind, but it will be fine on a back burner.

just toss it right on top

Back to the meatballs! The easiest way for me to make uniform [meatballs, patties, servings] when cooking is to form the meat mixture into a relatively even-sized ball and divide, divide, divide. Split the ball it in half, then split that half in half, and then split those halves in half. Roll these into meatballs- you’ll have 16. They’ll cook more evenly and please your discerning, compulsive eye.

Place 8 meatballs into the hot pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Remove to a baking dish and repeat with the second half. You may need to add a teaspoon of olive oil; this meat is lean and will stick. When the dish is full, pop it in the oven for 15 minutes to let the meatballs cook. They’ll be crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, and you won’t have to fry the bejesus out of them. Let these rest 10 minutes before serving, and don’t forget to drain your pasta while they cook or rest.


Serve! Pasta, sauce, meatballs. Pass around additional Parmesan. Drink a tasty beer. I think the next variation of these I take a crack at will be Thai turkey meatballs with a peanut and cilantro sauce… stay tuned!!

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