I love turkey and was quite delighted when Detwiler’s Farmer’s Market started carrying farm raised turkey products. After Thanksgiving, I can now find ground turkey, smoked turkey, turkey legs and breasts available. For me turkey isn’t just a Thanksgiving entree. Slow roasted or smoked, medium-thin sliced turkey breast is my go to sandwich or lettuce wrap for lunch. I could eat smoked turkey legs all year long and ground turkey is my preference over ground beef, which the better half absolutely disagrees with. But since I’m on a quest to lighten up some of our favorite recipes, she’s willing to embrace a few changes. So I took it a step further even and persuaded the use of spiralized noodles for this recipe as well. To save myself from turning on the oven, I utilized my slow cooker to make my sauce and braise the meatballs. Since the slow cooker was doing most of the work for me, I decided to make enough sauce and meatballs to have leftovers for the week ahead. The zucchini was annihilated though so I think my slight alterations to this favorite recipe weren’t too much of a disappointment.
Note: the turkey meatballs turned out super sticky on me so I used an ice cream scoop to place them on a wax lined baking sheet and then molded them as best as I good. Then I let the meatballs sear a good 4 to 5 minutes without touching them, to insure they didn’t fall apart on me, before trying to flip them. This method worked for me, but you could always add more breadcrumbs. It will simply produced a slightly denser meatball.
Additionally, if you don’t have a slow cooker this recipe can also be achieved in a 350 degree oven by covering a cast iron pan with aluminum foil or by cooking them in a covered dutch oven for about the same amount of cooking time below.
Braised Turkey Meatballs with Spiralized Zucchini
1 lb good quality ground Turkey
1/4 cup Sweet Onion, diced
1/4 cup Breadcrumbs
2 to 3 tbsp Milk of choice
1 farm fresh Egg
1 sprig fresh Rosemary, stem removed and leaves chopped
1 sprig fresh Oregano, stem removed and leaves chopped
1 sprig fresh Thyme, stem removed and leaves chopped
1 to 2 tbsp EVOO
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 lg Zucchini, trimmed, cut into thirds, and spiralized per the manual’s instructions
2 to 3 cups Fresh Tomato sauce, recipe follows
Garnish: fresh Basil
If using 3 to 4 cups of your favorite tomato-based jarred pasta sauce bring sauce to a boil in a slow cooker set to high then reduce slow cooker to low. Prepare the turkey meatballs.
In a large mixing bowl, add the breadcrumbs, herbs, and milk. Allow to soak until milk is absorbed into breadcrumbs. To that, add the egg and whip slightly with a fork then add salt and pepper. Add the sweet onion and ground turkey next and mix with your hands until all ingredients are fully combined. If your turkey is sticky, please refer to note above. Measure out 12 evenly sized meatballs and set aside on a wax paper lined casserole dish or baking sheet.
Preheat a cast iron skillet over med high flame. Add the EVOO and continue heating until the oil begins to shimmer. Add in 4 to 5 meatballs ensuring the meatballs are not too close together. Once oil is hot again, reduce to med flame and sear the meatballs 3 to 5 minutes. Once the meatballs easily release from the pan, flip them and sear for another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove to a sheet pan and continue with the remaining meatballs.
Once all meatballs are seared, add them into the slow cooker insuring that the meatballs are almost completely submerged in the tomato sauce, adding more sauce if needed until only the top of the meatballs are above the sauce. Simmer in the slow cooker 45 minutes to an hour, flipping once if desired.
In the same skillet the meatballs were seared in, with 1 tsp pan drippings reserved, over med high flame, toss the spiralized zucchini until desired texture is reached.
Serve the turkey meatballs and sauce over the spiralized zucchini, or with a side of your favorite bread or pasta, and garnish with basil, if desired.
Slow Cooker Fresh Tomato Sauce
5 to 6 fresh Tomatoes (depending on size), quartered
3 to 4 fresh Garlic Cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh Rosemary, stem removed and leaves chopped
3 sprigs fresh Oregano, stem removed and leaves chopped
2 sprigs Fresh Thyme, stem removed and leaves chopped
1 tbsp EVOO
2 tabs butter, reserved
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes, optional
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat a slow cooker to high. Add in all of the above ingredients, except the butter. Cook tomatoes on high for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Reduce slow cooker to low and cook an additional 2 hours. Once the sauce has reached your desired consistency, finish with the 2 tabs of butter. Continue to the above recipe.