Meatballs are always a crowd pleaser. These Italian Turkey Meatballs happily wallow in a pan of easy, homemade tomato sauce. Healthy comfort food at its best!
These Italian turkey meatballs earn me more hugs than almost any other meal. No matter how much older my boys get, meatballs are always a perennial favorite. And who can blame them?! It's comfort food that never gets old.
Meatballs happen in all forms around here. Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs are a long-time birthday dinner request, Honey Garlic Turkey Meatballs are a weeknight favorite and Salmon Meatballs with a Creamy Avocado Sauce are the food that made my boys falls in love with salmon. There's just something magical about meatballs.
Typically when I make meatballs, I roll them into morsels that can be consumed in one or two bites. But these...these are serious meatballs. For light eaters, one meatball will probably suffice, two meatballs for heartier eaters. They bake in about 20 minutes, which gives you just enough time to whip up the tomato sauce.
If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's this...take a few extra minutes to make a homemade sauce to serve with these Italian turkey meatballs. The flavors of freshly sauteed onion and garlic, the richness of simmered crushed tomatoes and the brightness of fresh herbs makes all the difference in the world. Homemade sauce always tastes as though you finished off the meal with a pinch of love.
💙 WHAT'S TO LOVE ABOUT TURKEY MEATBALLS:
▪️ FLAVOR: The meatballs and tomato sauce are filled with onion, garlic and oregano. And you can't beat the flavor of a homemade tomato sauce. It beats store-bought every day of the week!
▪️ TENDER: Ground turkey meatballs get a bag rap for being dry, but these ones are anything but dry. Tender and rich in flavor.
▪️ FREEZER-FRIENDLY: These meatballs can be frozen and quickly reheated in the microwave.
WHAT YOU NEED FOR THESE ITALIAN TURKEY MEATBALLS:
These are the main components of this recipe (affiliate links included):
- GROUND TURKEY: Use 93% lean ground turkey for these meatballs. While it’s tempting to use extra lean (99%) to cut back on the fat further, it results in dry meatballs.
- AROMATICS: Onion and garlic add tons of flavor. Grated the onion on the largest holes of a box grater. Grated onion blends well into the ground turkey without leaving chunks of onion.
- BREADCRUMBS: I prefer whole wheat breadcrumbs for the extra fiber, but regular breadcrumbs work just as well. You can also use panko breadcrumbs or a gluten-free version, if desired.
- EGG: One egg for binding.
- HERBS: Fresh parsley and dried oregano. Be sure to measure the parsley AFTER mincing it.
- THE SAUCE: Homemade sauce is REALLY easy to make and you just can’t beat the flavor. You’ll need onion, garlic, canned crushed tomatoes, herbs and red pepper flakes (optional).
See recipe card below for full ingredients list & recipe directions.
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How to make turkey meatballs in sauce:
This recipe comes together in two parts: The meatballs and the sauce. Start with the meatballs, then make the sauce while the meatballs are baking.
- Mix together all of the ingredients, then divide the mixture into 8 portions.
- If the meatballs aren’t sticking together well, mix in additional breadcrumbs, one tablespoon at a time.
- Roll the 8 portions into balls and place them on a baking sheet coated in cooking spray. Bake until cooked through and firm to the touch.
- This is a basic marinara sauce – nothing difficult about it. Start by sautéing some chopped onion in a little olive oil.
- Once the onion is soft, add the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Only 1 minute cooking time here – you don’t want to burn the garlic, otherwise it will become bitter.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bring it all to a boil, then simmer. Last but not least – stir in the fresh herbs.
How to serve turkey meatballs:
Our favorite way to serve these meatballs is over pasta, but you can change things up by serving them over rice or quinoa. If you like to freeze quinoa like I do, you can microwave a few portions of frozen quinoa in a minute or two.
For lower carb options, serve the meatballs over spaghetti squash (like in this puttanesca spaghetti squash recipe), cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles.
Grate a little Parmesan cheese over top and sprinkle with extra minced parsley, if desired.
Can I substitute ground beef for ground turkey?
Turkey meatballs can also be made with ground beef. I recommend using lean ground beef. This helps to lower the saturated fat grams.
Can I use oats instead of breadcrumbs?
Oats can be used in place of breadcrumbs to bind meatballs. If the recipe calls for seasoned breadcrumbs, be sure to adjust the seasonings when substituting the breadcrumbs with oats.
How to freeze:
Turkey meatballs freeze very well and will last in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bake the meatballs as directed in the recipe, then cool to room temperature. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pop the whole thing into the freezer.
Once frozen, peel the meatballs off the paper and place them in a resealable freezer bag or freezer-safe airtight container.
When you're ready to serve the meatballs, take out as many as you need and microwave on HIGH until reheated. If it seems as though they're drying out while reheating, add a few drops of water.
What to serve with Italian turkey meatballs:
Salads and bread are always popular side dishes for turkey meatballs. Here are a few favorites...
- Green salad with the best balsamic vinaigrette!
- Tomato Focaccia Recipe - with caramelized onions
- Apple Pecan Salad
- Warm Kale Salad - with caramelized onions & mushrooms
Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, stir together the ground turkey, onion, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, egg, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Divide the mixture into 8 portions, form into balls and place on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake until the meatballs are firm to the touch and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, bring the sauce to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and basil.
- Nestle the meatballs into the sauce and spoon sauce over to coat the meatballs.
- Serve over pasta or rice, or on their own.
Other healthy ground turkey recipes:
This recipe was originally posted on March 2, 2015, and was updated on April 27, 2022.
Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.