Baked Turkey Zucchini Meatballs

/// July 20th, 2015

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES.

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. When we lived in Brooklyn one of our happiest Sunday afternoon traditions was to schlep a few miles south, find a seat at the bar, and order a good part of the menu at our favorite little pizza shop. Icy cold draft beers, pipping hot Neapolitan pizzas, and one or two small plates to start. My definition of heaven on earth.

One of my favorite starters was the meatballs in sauce. No pasta; no bread; just perfectly plump and juicy meatballs delicately surrounded by a few spoonfuls of spicy marinara sauce.

Simple, sensational, and so so satisfying. The way real Italian food is and should always be.

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. Last week I awoke with a fierce craving to once again call those meatballs my own, and decided to take matters into my own hands. <—- Recipe testing beats a 3 hour drive to Brooklyn every time πŸ˜‰

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. Knowing many of you love quick, healthy, family friendly meals inspired me to take my dreamy Brooklyn meatball memories and transform them into a recipe we can all make at home – and fast! P.S. If you’re only here for the sweets and treats – don’t worry- I have something just for you coming up next (hint: cherries + brown butter are involved!).

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. Today I’m sharing with you my new favorite dinner-on-the-fly recipe: Baked Turkey Zucchini Meatballs in Homemade Marinara Sauce. These meatballs are dairy and grain free ( Yup! No Parmesan or Breadcrumbs), baked in the oven, and finished off with a slightly spicy // super flavorful marinara sauce.

This recipe is:

Quick √

Easy √

Healthy √

Hearty √

Big on flavor √

Low in calories √

Sure to please √

Seriously you guys, this simple Italian meal has me ready to book a one-way trip to Rome! Hey, a girl can dream… right? Keeping my savings account in mind I’ll just have to settle for a second helping and a few glasses of red wine. Not a bad compromise πŸ˜‰

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. Alright. So let’s get down to the recipe nitty gritty.

First thing you’re going to need to do? Grate some zucchini!

You’ll want to grate two whole cups (about 1 large zucchini). Measure it first, then transfer it to a fine mesh strainer, a piece of cheesecloth, or a verrry clean and lint free dishtowel. You’ll want to let the zucchini rest a few minutes so it can begin releasing moisture – this will happen almost immediately – then squee(eeeeeeeeee)ze as much liquid out of the shredded zucchini as possible. There will be a lot of excess liquid, so this may take two or three tries. When you’re done squeezing your zucchini it will look more like 1 cup than the the two you started with.

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. Once your zucchini is prepped, grab a large mixing bowl and toss in your meat, onions, garlic, eggs, zucchini, seasoning, and olive oil.

Then the fun // gross part: smash it all together with your hands!

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. Once you’ve combined all of the ingredients, you’ll simply roll and bake. I like to make my meatballs around 2 tablespoons in size (1/8 of a cup) but you can make them a little bigger if you’d like; just remember to increase the bake time accordingly. I find my two tablespoon meatballs are perfectly cooked right around the 25 minute mark. Be sure not to over bake yours or they’ll loose their juiciness and taste “tough”.

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. Now, while the meatballs are in the oven doing their thing, we make the sauce!

This is the simplest of simple marinara sauces. Crushed tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, and seasoning. I also add a hearty pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, but if you’re not into heat – or feeding children – you can skip this ingredient, or use a smaller amount. The sauce only needs to simmer for 15 minutes, meaning it’s ready to go the second those juicy meatballs emerge from the oven.

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. Final step: Toss meatballs in sauce and DIG IN.

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. You can eat these meatballs on their own, add some crusty bread, place them over a bed of spaghetti, top them with cheese, etc. The ways to enjoy are endless β™‘β™‘β™‘

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES.

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES. My favorite way? Extra sauce, cold beers, handsome face sitting across the table. We both go crazy for this meal every-single-time.

Juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs swimming in a sea of homemade marinara sauce. Baked and ready in about 30 minutes. YES.

Baked Turkey Zucchini Meatballs

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 44 meatballs with sauce

Serving Size: 5 meatballs with sauce; 8 servings

Juicy and flavorful Turkey Zucchini Meatballs ready in just around 30 minutes! Top with homemade marinara sauce for a delicious dinner.

Ingredients

  • For the Meatballs:
  • 2 pounds ground turkey meat (ground beef will work too!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste (I suggest starting with 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper)
  • 2 cups zucchini, finely grated and drained (it will look more like 1 cup once it's been drained of excess liquid; see post if you need more clarity on this)
  • 1 small red onion, grated
  • For the sauce:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine ground turkey meat, olive oil, minced garlic, eggs, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, zucchini, and onion. Using your hands mix the meat mixture until the ingredients are evenly combined; the mixture should be very moist but still hold its shape when rolled into balls.
  3. Scoop two tablespoon sized balls of meat from the mix, roll into a firm ball, and place on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining meat.
  4. Place the baking sheet in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they're evenly brown and cooked though.
  5. While the meatballs bake, make your marinara!
  6. Warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Add in the garlic and sautΓ© for one minute, or until the garlic is just golden (careful not to burn it here) and fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar, seasoning and crushed red pepper flakes, mix well to combine. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  7. When meatballs are done baking, add them to the sauce, stir to coat, and serve.

Notes

Nutrition Facts: (Based on my estimate on SparkRecipes) Amount Per Serving (about 5 meatballs with sauce) Calories 170.1 Total Fat 2.9 g

http://bakerbynature.com/baked-turkey-zucchini-meatballs/

You may also enjoy:

30-Minute Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

30-Minute Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs with Homemade Marinara Sauce Double Cheddar Stuffed BBQ Turkey Burgers

Double Cheddar Stuffed BBQ Turkey Burgers Extra Crispy Rosemary and Sea Salt Sweet Potato Fries

Extra Crispy Rosemary and Sea Salt Sweet Potato Fries



28 thoughts on “Baked Turkey Zucchini Meatballs

  1. Branna

    These look fantastic! I’m trying to find stuff I can stock the freezer with before my second Lovie arrives. Do you think these would freeze well? I’m new to freezer meals, so would you recommend cooking fully and then just storing in the freezer? My two year old is a meatball fanatic so these would be wonderful to have on hand!

    Reply
    1. bakerbynature Post author

      Hi Branna. Congrats on the upcoming arrival of your second little one :) So exciting! I think these will freeze just fine. You could even cook them fully, toss them in the sauce, let the entire thing cool, then transfer to a freezer safe container and freezer. I think they’ll be good in there for at least a month, maybe two.

      Reply
      1. Branna

        I had to come back and tell you that these freeze perfectly! I did freeze the in the sauce like you suggested and they were fantastic. Also – these are hands down the best meatballs I have EVER had. They are so tender and seasoned so well. My husband isn’t a fan of ground turkey because he says it’s always so dry, but he loved these too! And my oldest son (almost 3) devoured his. He kept saying, “These are so yummy for me!” I didn’t tell him about the veggies hiding in there, I’ll keep that as another (secret) reason why I love these so much. I haven’t been able to get him to eat anything green for about 3 months now!

        Okay, I’m finished obsessively raving about your meatballs now. I hope you can tell by my over excitement just how much I love these and how perfect they are for our family. THANK YOU!

        Reply
  2. Corrie

    I’m on the Ideal Protein diet tonight and made this tonight…just leaving the sugar out of the sauce. Amazingly yummy!!!!

    Reply
    1. bakerbynature Post author

      Hi Corrie. So happy you enjoyed the meatballs! They have been one of my favorite meals this Summer. Thank you for letting us know you liked the recipe – and that leaving the sugar out will work for those interested in trying it the same way πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  3. Joanne

    I have had a turkey zucchini meatballs at a local shop, but they use sourcream as a topping with sumac. I have some homemade sauce I would rather use then I found your recipe which sounds great. I am thinking of using egg white instead of the whole egg, any thoughts? thanks

    Reply
  4. Andrea

    Hi! I made these last night and loved the flavor and how they came out overall, but when they came out of the oven they could best be described as “leaky.” Any ideas why or what it was? I assumed it was fat but I used 93% lean turkey. Either way, thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
    1. PD

      I salted, squeezed the zucchini 3-4 times…got as much liquid as I could…mixture was really wet but they formed into balls for the most part…10 mins to go and they look “leaky.” Was thinking to add breadcrumbs to get them drier and wish I did. Hoping there is a way to salvage them!

      Reply
      1. Ashley

        I made these last night and when I baked them there was a lot of moisture in the pan, but I put them on a cooling rack and baked longer until golden, maybe even another 10 minutes. They were delicious, I did not make the sauce but I did pop them into the freezer to use later, after I tried one of course :) Probably the best turkey meatballs I’ve ever had, this recipe is definitely going to be a regular for me. Thanks!!

        Reply
  5. Trish

    I just made these! Tastes really good and I made doodles to go with it. Mine also appeared “leaky” as the above comment when coming out of the oven. Any way to avoid this next time?

    Thanks for the great recipe!

    Reply
      1. Anna

        Yep I just had the same experience– Baked these but when I took them out of the oven, the entire sheet was covered with leaked-out liquids (I assume whatever fat was in the meat and liquids from the veggies). It was a little gelatinous so as I took each meatball off of the sheet, I scraped the extra “stuff” off the bottom of each meatball. Not the sexiest thing in the world but it worked! I like your suggestion of baking them on a cooling rack– I think that would have solved the problem. Thanks!

        Reply
  6. Michelle

    Amazing! Just cooked these but; I made half the ratio of the turkey meatballs, while cooking the amount of sauce as listed above and tossing in some wheat penne pasta. It was a hit and the red pepper flakes added thee perfect kick πŸ˜› Thank you!

    Reply
  7. Katie

    These are so tasty! I made them tonight with the sauce and some spaghetti noodles and we had some good ole spaghetti and meatballs. They took me a lot longer than 10 minutes to assemble, though.
    I don’t think I drained my zucchini very well because I was kind of in a rush to finish up and the zucchini was still pretty juicy, so my meatballs were a little juicy and they leaked onto the paper when they were in the oven. I think I made my meatballs a little smaller than 2 tbsp each (just kind of eyeballed them), and they shrunk a little more in the oven, but what I’m trying to say is that despite my imperfect cooking abilities, these turned out amazing. Will definitely make these again and again!

    Reply
  8. Linda

    I absolutely LOVE these meatballs, I got 2 thumbs up from my Italian hubby. I have made the sauce 3 times now….easy and so delicious!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!

    Reply
  9. Jen

    Mine turned out yummy but super runny (so runny, they were difficult to mold) and leaky when I took them out of the oven. I thought it may be because of the onions—did you strain those like you did the zucchinis? I ended up adding Panko bread crumbs and that helped quite a bit.

    Reply
  10. Elise Huet

    These meatballs were delicious! I made them for dinner last night and ate them on a bed of rice with some veggies on the side. I followed the recipe exactly, using a tea towel to squeeze out the zucchini, and they turned out perfectly! They held their shape and went along with the sauce very nicely. I will certainly be making these again :)

    Reply
  11. christina

    Great recipe. That said, if I try to view the recipe on my phone it keeps going to a click ad page and it’s impossible to go back to the recipe. I understand the need to monetize your site, but honestly, whatever it is on the page that goes to the ad makes it impossible to view the recipe, you have to redo the search and go to your site again. I gave up trying to use my phone and had to use a desktop. Just thought you should know.

    Reply

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