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.
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!).
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:
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 😉
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.
Then the fun // gross part: smash it all together with your hands!
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”.
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.
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 ♡♡♡
Baked Turkey Zucchini Meatballs
Yield 44 meatballs with sauce
Juicy and flavorful Turkey Zucchini Meatballs ready in just around 30 minutes! Top with homemade marinara sauce for a delicious dinner.
- 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
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they're evenly brown and cooked though.
- While the meatballs bake, make your marinara!
- Warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Add in the garlic and sauté 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.
- When meatballs are done baking, add them to the sauce, stir to coat, and serve.
Nutrition Facts: (Based on my estimate on SparkRecipes)
Amount Per Serving (about 5 meatballs with sauce)
Total Fat 2.9 g
Serving Size 5 meatballs with sauce; 8 servings
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
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