Spinach and Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

This recipe for Spinach and Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce is one I make on repeat and its crowd-pleasing and foolproof qualities mean I roll out for company without a second thought. The flavors are 11 out of 10 stars, plus it’s a little lighter than a classic beef meatball dish.

Huge credit goes to Susan Spungen’s cookbook, Open Table, (affiliate link) for providing the base recipe to which I made minor adjustments to suit my palate, life, and energy level. I can’t say enough good things about this book — it was also behind the Giant Dinner Salad I make all the time and has been the source for many, many great meals in our house. I love it!

The recipe below details the many (too many?) small appliances I use to pull this recipe together. But, if you prefer not to engage with a food processor, a stand mixer, and an air fryer, there are alternative options noted for the mixer and air fryer. The food processor is a must for me personally, but not a necessity if you’re happy to chop the spinach and bacon by hand.

Make it a meal

prepared pans of desserts, polenta, meatballs, and salad

In case you’d like ideas on how to round out this meal, here’s how I did it for the gals I cook for at the inn (listed in order of top left to right from photo above):

  • Gooey Blondies with Toasty Pecans and Chocolate x 3 from Snackable Bakes by Jessie Sheehan (affiliate link). I am thankful to have the Kindle version of this book since I’m sure I’d have made a total mess of the physical copy by now — I enthusiastically use this book at least a couple times per month. It has gorgeous pictures, the measurements are by weight, and the recipes require just one or two bowls and come together lightning-fast by hand (no equipment needed other than a whisk and/or rubber spatula).
  • Oven-Baked Polenta also from Susan Spungen’s cookbook, Open Table, (affiliate link). Cooking polenta on the stovetop is a no for me — it never works out well. As far as I know, it’s my stove burner’s fault but it no longer matters because this oven-baked version is here to stay.
  • A broccoli and kale Caesar salad that I scribbled notes down for an will post here eventually.
  • Spinach and Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
  • Brownies from a box!
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Spinach and Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

white plate with polenta and meatballs with sauce

This recipe for Spinach and Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce is one I make on repeat and its crowd-pleasing and foolproof qualities mean I roll out for company without a second thought. The flavors are 11 out of 10 stars!

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Ingredients

Scale

for the meatballs

  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 10 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 C panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 lbs ground turkey

for the tomato sauce

  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1/4 C vegetable stock (or any other kind of stock or broth, or water)
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 12 tsp Better Than Bouillion (I used the vegetable version)

topping

  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls
  • 1 C finely grated Parmesan
  • 12 TBS finely chopped fresh parsley or a handful of basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Instructions

for the meatballs

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion and 1/4 tsp of salt. Saute for 4-5 minutes until it softens, then add big handfuls of the spinach, letting it wilt a bit until you can fit it all in the skillet. Continue to cook until almost fully wilted, add the grated garlic, and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside for 10-15 minutes to cool slightly.
  2. When the spinach mixture has cooled off, transfer it to a food processor along with the panko breadcrumbs and pulse it to combine. If there was liquid left in the spinach, the panko will absorb it and that’s what you want. Transfer this mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (see notes). Don’t clean your food processor yet.
  3. Add the bacon to the food processor and pulse until it’s very finely chopped (almost a paste), then transfer it to the bowl with the spinach/panko mixture.
  4. Add the eggs, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, oregano, and remaining 1 tsp of salt, then turn the mixer on low until the ingredients have combined (about 1 minute).
  5. Add the ground turkey to the bowl and turn the mixer on low again, mixing until just combined – don’t over-mix but you do want to see a good distribution of the spinach throughout the turkey.
  6. Shape the mixture into about 40 2 oz meatballs using a #40 cookie scoop (see notes).
  7. Air fry the meatballs in batches at 390 degrees for 7 minutes (see notes for other cooking methods).
  8. Transfer the meatballs to a 9×13 baking dish.

for the sauce

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, stir for about 30 seconds, then add the stock, bring it to a boil, then simmer until reduced by half.
  2. Add the whole tomatoes, crushing them by hand as you add them to the pan, the diced tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Taste, add 1 tsp of the bullion, plus more if needed.

assembly and cooking

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour the sauce over the cooked meatballs and cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and increase the oven temp to 425 degrees. Add the mozzarella pearls to the top of the meatball/sauce mixture, then sprinkle on the grated Parmesan. Return the dish to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the cheese has melted – about 10 minutes. Turn the broiler on for another few minutes to brown the cheese. Garnish with chopped parsley or torn basil leaves.

Notes

  • Stand mixer: you can mix these meatballs by hand but I prefer a mixer and I wash the bowl and the paddle attachment in the dishwasher afterward.
  • Shaping the meatballs: for me, the most efficient way is to cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, use a cookie scoop to portion out all the meatballs onto the baking sheet first, then put the scoop down and roll/smooth them out by hand.
  • If you don’t want to air-fry these, you can cook them in a skillet with 2 TBS of oil until they are brown on all sides – about 8-10 minutes, or on a baking sheet in the oven at 375 for about 15 minutes. No matter which method you use, the internal temp should be 165.

Keywords: turkey spinach meatballs, turkey meatballs

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