Turkey Meatballs with Homemade Tomato Sauce

A couple of weekends ago, my lovely parents, awesome brother, and cute as a button dog Coco packed into the car and drove down from Connecticut to visit yours truly.

As anyone in my position would do, I took full advantage of my parents wanting to explore the DC food scene. Friday night it was a fun group dinner at one of my favorites, Cava in Clarendon, then possibly the best brunch experience ever at Farmers Fishers Bakers, and Sunday a delicious dinner at Tallula.

Coco Making Herself at Home

Coco Making Herself at Home

I decided to break up the eating out, by inviting everyone to my house on Saturday night for dinner.

My culinary educated father is pretty much the reason I have such a love of cooking. He showed me how to chop without losing any fingers, deglaze without starting a fire, and cook from the heart. While other children were watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was tuned in to PBS watching Graham Kerr, Jacques Pepin, and Julia Child, with my father.

Julia and her chickens

Julia and her chickens

So, while in no way is my father an overbearing person, you can slightly understand why anytime I have the opportunity to cook for him, I put a slight bit of pressure on myself to make sure it comes out perfectly (or as close to it as possible).

Close to perfection meant cooking up my never-fail turkey meatballs with a homemade tomato sauce. Any Italian American will tell you, that their personal recipe for sauce is a reflection of themselves and thus amazing. I was raised to believe that if someone ever questions your sauce making abilities, essentially they are saying you can’t be in a kitchen.

Just for the record, my sauce is awesome (as are the turkey meatballs).

Moving on ….

I continued my experimentation with gluten-free products by making three pounds of brown rice penne pasta to accompany the turkey meatballs and sauce. Yes, this seems like an excessive amount of food, but mind you, I had seven people at the dinner table (along with a canine waiting for any falling food, under the table).


The homemade tomato sauce simmering on the stove filled the entire house with the always heavenly aroma of garlic, basil and tomato. And when we sat to the table, the smile on my father’s face as he tried a complete bite of sauce, turkey meatball and pasta made me finally sigh with relief.

It was good.

Even more exciting was that everyone at the table agreed the gluten-free penne pasta was just as good, if not slightly better than semolina based pasta. Some gluten-free brands in the past have had a tendency to turn out slightly mushy, but this pasta had an amazing texture and wonderful flavor that paired well with the sauce and meatballs. image

At the end of the evening, the dishes were quite easy to clean (Always a good sign!). And even better, the slight amount of leftovers were quickly gobbled up by a group of friends, post bar outing.

Turkey Meatballs and Tomato Sauce


1 lb ground turkey meat (thigh)

1 lb ground turkey meat (breast)

1/4 cup chopped basil

1/4 cup chopped parsley

4 cloves garlic chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, plus more if needed

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon italian seasoning

salt and pepper

olive oil

tomato sauce (recipe below)


Combine everything in a bowl with your hands (yes get dirty). Form golf-sized meatballs and set aside on a plate.

In a large saute pan or shallow pot over medium heat, pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook the turkey meatballs in batches (generally for this amount takes two), browning on all sides and then place in a large bowl to the side (don’t worry if not fully cooked through, they will cook more in the sauce).

After you’ve cooked all the turkey meatballs, add in a slight bit of dry red wine to the pan, stirring with a silicone spatula to grab up the bit from the bottom of the pan. Add in several ladles of the tomato sauce, then add back in the turkey meatballs. Top with another ladle or two of the tomato sauce and cook for 10 minutes on low-medium heat.

Toss the rest of the sauce with the pasta and serve aside the turkey meatballs.

Tomato Sauce


2 (28 ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon italian seasoning (oregano,parsley,basil)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and pepper

3 lbs brown rice penne pasta (tinkyada is the brand and comes in a blue bag with gold writing -Whole Foods)


In a large pot over medium heat, saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Stir in the fresh basil, parsley, salt and pepper and cook for another 3 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, including the juice, but discard the large basil leaves that sometimes come in the cans. Using a wooden spoon, stir around the mixture, crushing the tomatoes with the spoon.

Let the sauce come to a boil and then stir in the red wine, italian seasoning and garlic powder. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for salt and pepper and other seasoning needs.


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