Tag Archives: turkey


Turkey Meatballs with Zesty Marinara

[note: this post has been resurrected from my old website, so the references to “pregnancy” are from 2011 when I was pregnant with my daughter. Don’t mistake this for an announcement. =)]

I’d really like to be able to tell you that I made this recipe for unselfish reasons. That my dear husband requested turkey meatballs randomly one day, or that he had a hankering for some zesty marinara sauce out of the blue. That would be a lie. He is a simple man, and he has only ever requested two things from me: tacos and pancakes. In five years.

Tacos (because they’re kind of like a religion in our house), and pancakes.

It’s actually kind of tragic for someone who loves to feed others as much as I do, that the love of my life only requests tacos and pancakes from me. I’ve learned to cope.

Prior to being pregnant, I would often try to cook things that I knew my husband would want to eat. It was more like mind-reading than anything, since my question “what would you like for dinner?”, was always countered with “ehh…I don’t care”. But at least I tried to cook food with his desires in mind. These days, I cook for me. I have no choice–with the onset of pregnancy came this mind blowing need to immediately cook or procure every food that I get a hankering for. It’s kind of disturbing, actually.

So, although my husband would probably sell his soul for a good taco, I’ve only made tacos once since I’ve been pregnant. And I only feel mildly guilty about this fact.

In a particularly self-serving fashion, I decided last week that turkey meatballs and marinara needed to be added to to the rotation this week. If not, I was convinced that I would die. I’m not kidding you guys. It’s really that bad. I’ve walked around since early last week daydreaming about turkey meatballs in marinara sauce. I really think I might need an intervention. And my husband needs tacos. There is a compromise in there somewhere.


I’m just not ready to find it.

The only thing that makes me feel a little bit better about my selfish menu selection this time is the fact that these freaking meatballs and this damn marinara sauce is so good. So good that even when I was completely full of meatballs, I was still dipping leftover noodles in sauce and eating them. Standing in front of the stove. While doing dishes.

I need an intervention for real.


Turkey Meatballs with Zesty Marinara Sauce

Yields ~40  1.5″ meatballs

[printable recipe]


For the Meatballs:

2 Pounds ground turkey (I’ve found that the best mix is 1.5 pounds of 93/7, and 1/2 pound of 85/15)

1/2 Cup breadcrumbs

1 Cup milk (dairy or non-dairy–any milk will do)

1 Small onion, chopped

2 T Dried basil

2 T Dried oregano

1 T Granulated garlic

1/2 T Crushed red pepper

1/4 t Salt

1/4 t Pepper


For the Marinara:

2-28 oz. cans of Diced tomatoes (I prefer the pre-seasoned ones for a little extra zip)

2 T Dried basil

2 T Dried oregano

2 T Granulated garlic

1 T Crushed red pepper (more or less, depending on your love for the ‘zest’)

6 oz. (1 small can) Tomato paste

12 oz. (2 tomato paste cans) Water

1 T Balsamic vinegar

1/3 C Bread crumbs

3 T Sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Combine bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl and set aside for approximately 5 minutes. It should turn into a mushy-pasty substance. It looks kind of gross, but you need this–it makes your meatballs tender.
  3. Combine remaining meatball ingredients in a large bowl, then add the breadcrumb/milk mixture, and mix with your hands until combined.
  4. Roll meatball mixture into 1.5″ balls (I use a medium ice cream scoop to make it easier), and place on a baking sheet.
  5. When you’ve filled your baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, you can put together the marinara. Combine tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a blender. Blend just long enough to combine the spices with the tomatoes. You just don’t want to turn it into tomato juice.
  7. Place blended sauce in a pan, and bring to a simmer. Add balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, and water, and stir to combine. Bring back to a simmer, and add bread crumbs and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-20 minutes.
  8. When meatballs are finished baking (and sauce is finished simmering), place a small amount of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, then place cooked meatballs on top. Pour remaining sauce over top of the meatballs, cover the baking dish (with a lid or foil), and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

You can serve these delicious meatballs with pasta, atop steamed veggies, or eat them all by themselves. If you want to be like me, you can serve them with egg noodles, garlic bread, and string beans. Even though egg noodles and zesty marinara don’t really ‘match’ from a culinary standpoint.

Why egg noodles, you ask?

Because that’s what this girl wanted. And these days, in a race between culinary sensibility and pregnancy cravings, sensibility loses every single time.

Luckily, this recipe makes enough to serve a small army. If you want to make yourself feel a little better about making selfish menu choices, just put a pan of them together for a friend. That’s what I did, and then I kind of felt like I redeemed myself.

Which means that I’ve now cleared the way for at least one more self-serving menu selection in the near future.

And it probably won’t be tacos.

Screen shot 2013-03-13 at 10.31.42 AM

Stuffed cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Pigs In A Blanket)

One of my least favorite meals growing up was stuffed cabbage rolls. Hated them. In fact, anything with cabbage in it was on my “no thank you” list. It didn’t take my Mom long to realize this fact. Eventually, rather than make my sister and I eat the “cabbage package” of the stuffed cabbage roll, she would lovingly shape only the filling into little rectangles for us so that we could avoid the cabbage.

Another one of my mom’s favorites was boiled ham and cabbage. Doesn’t that sound completely horrendous? Nothing about the name even sells it. Boiled. Ham. Cabbage. Maybe if she gave it a clever name I would’ve liked it better. The one and only time I ever found myself sitting at the table until I finished my dinner was on a boiled ham and cabbage night. It was a very lonely night at the dinner table.

You can imagine my surprise when I immediately started drooling upon seeing Rose’s recipe for Healthy Pigs In A Blanket (a.k.a Stuffed Cabbage Rolls). I get it. I’m extremely food-impressionable at the moment considering my current hormonal state. However, while reading the recipe, I honestly couldn’t believe that I was getting excited about a stuffed vegetable.

[although…stuffed mushrooms…mmm…those are good…]

What initially attracted me to this recipe was the fact that Rose used Swiss chard rather than cabbage. I don’t so much hate cabbage anymore, but it does still seem a little boring and blah-ish. I planned to stick to the recipe on this one and use Swiss chard and ground turkey.

However. The only grocery store that I felt like stopping by after work is kind of ‘inside the box’ when it comes to vegetables, so Swiss chard was not an option. Again considering my hormonal state, I decided I wasn’t driving across town to go to the natural market. I opted for cabbage instead.

You win, Mom.

I had also planned to make these on Tuesday evening while I was cooking Tuesday’s dinner [Shake -N- Bake chicken breasts, fried potatoes, and corn…in case you were wondering like I would’ve been…considering my current hormonal state], but I just ran out of energy. Rather than getting all of the completed rolls nestled into my CrockPot for the night, I ended up only cooking the rice and mixing up the filling, and that was all I had in me.

Last night, prior to going mall-walking (clearly another story for another day), I slapped together all of the cabbage rolls, put them in a baking dish, and baked them at 300 degrees for about 90 minutes while I was mall-walking.

Yes, I’ve gone from marathoner/triathlete to pregnant mall-walker. But I’m not ready…we’ll have to talk about it later.

When I came home from walking, the house smelled amazing. And I drooled.

I wasn’t sure if My Gazelle was going to like stuffed cabbage rolls, so I also sauteed some turkey kielbasa with Fuji apple slices for him…just in case cabbage was also on his “no thank you” list. It turns out that he liked both the cabbage rolls and the kielbasa, so that’s a win/win for the wife.

Although, he did ask for “more ground turkey” next time. Noted.

The great part about this recipe is that I had enough filling and cabbage leaves left over to be able to put together an entire second pan of rolls. I constructed all of the rolls, put them in a disposable baking tin, poured the sauce on top, popped the tin into a Ziploc bag, and now it’s in the freezer. Perfect solution for any future night in which I have another hankering for stuffed cabbage rolls.

Which is very likely, considering my current hormonal state.

Stuffed cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Pigs In A Blanket)


[Printable Recipe]

  • 1.5-2 lb. ground turkey (or, cannellini beans would be a good veggie substitute)
  • 1.5 cups of cooked rice
  • 1T Basil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (or 1T garlic powder if you don’t have fresh)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (or 1T onion powder if you don’t have fresh)
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 20 cabbage leaves (or, swiss chard, purple cabbage, etc.)
  • 2 small cans of tomato sauce (I used the ‘basil & garlic’ variety)
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 2 cups water

1) Cook rice using slightly less water than normal (you’re going to be baking the cooked rice, so you don’t want it to start off soggy).

2) Mix together the cooked rice, ground turkey, basil, garlic, onion, salt & pepper, and Worcestershire sauce and set aside or refrigerate until needed.

3) Boil a large pot of water. Cut off the bottom “stem” of the cabbage, and place the head of cabbage in the water until the leaves begin to soften and come away from the head. As they peel off, set them aside. This took me about 10 minutes to get all of the leaves off (without ripping them).

4) To assemble the rolls, place a small amount of filling in the center of each cabbage leaf, then fold the sides around the filling to make a little “cabbage package”. Here’s a good video that explains how to do it: Cabbage Stuffing Video. If you watch the second video, she also explains that you can put the cabbage in the freezer overnight rather than boiling it. Interesting…maybe next time.

5) Place the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and water into a blender and combine all together (you can also do this by hand, but I’m lazy). Pour a small amount in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan, then begin laying your completed cabbage rolls on top. This keeps the rolls from sticking to the pan.

6) After placing all of the rolls into the pan, cover them generously with the remaining tomato sauce.

7) Cover with foil, and bake rolls until the cabbage is very tender and the sauce is bubbling. For me, this was approximately 90 minutes in a 300 degree oven. Alternatively, you could bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

My Mom always served this with mashed potatoes, and the tomato sauce is so yummy on the potatoes. You can also serve this with pierogies, kielbasa, or a simple green salad and buttered rye bread.


Screen shot 2013-03-13 at 10.31.42 AM