Sometimes I crave spicy Italian sausage. And in the interest of full disclosure, “sometimes” means at least once a week. But I can rarely bring myself to gamble the high caloric intake and possible fat-ingestion bellyache for the elusive rewards of sausage. Especially if I happen to choose a sausage that’s just ok, but not mind-alteringly delicious. Then I’m feeling heavy and disappointed, which I can’t recommend to anyone.
Thank goodness for ground turkey. I just get a pound of it, season it with lots of fennel, red pepper, rosemary, and garlic, and form it into little balls. I usually brown the meatballs then simmer them gently in sauce to finish cooking. This whole meal takes less than an hour to make and eat, which is perfect for the middle of a workweek. Ian and I made these a few days ago to go with our pasta and garlic bread, and we’ve been taking the leftovers to work ever since. I can’t say they satisfied my spicy sausage craving, exactly, because (again, full disclosure) when I know they’re waiting in the fridge, I want them even more.
Turkey Meatballs with Pasta and Sauce (and garlic – basil bread!):
- 1 pound ground turkey (if you can only find the pre-packaged 1.3 pound turkey, just use the whole thing.)
- 6 small garlic cloves
- 2 tsp fennel seeds, ground
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp ground oregano
- 1 tsp ground sage
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbs oil (for browning)
- 1/2 loaf Italian Bread
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1/4 c basil leaves
- pinch of salt
- 2 Tbs olive oil
Pasta and Sauce
- 1 pound pasta (we used fusilli)
- 1 jar tomato sauce (we used 365 Organic Tomato & Basil – it was just ok, so we added basil leaves and chopped garlic)
Mix meat and spices thoroughly but gently with your hands. If you over mix, your meatballs will be tough. Roll into 24 balls.
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350. Slice Italian loaf in half, then split lengthwise (like you would if you were making a sub). Drizzle olive oil all over the inside. Spread garlic on one half, sprinkle with salt, and cover with basil leaves. Close bread, wrap in foil, and put into the oven for 15-20 minutes, until warm and fragrant.
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Put the sauce in a medium pot and heat on low. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large skillet on medium. Brown the balls in two batches, 2 minutes per side, turning so three sides are browned. Once browned, add the meatballs to the tomato sauce. When the pasta water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente, usually 10-13 minutes. Drain the pasta, but not too thoroughly. You need a little bit of water clinging to the strands to help distribute the sauce. Mix pasta, meatballs, and sauce, and serve with warm garlic bread.