Friday, June 14, 2013

Turkey Meatballs with Spinach, Walnuts and Cheese

The Daring Kitchen Cooks June 2013 Challenge - Meatballs 

It has been a while since I have cooked with this amazing group, but this month's theme was too good to pass up. "The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice." I think June just might be meatball month, since they are popping up all over the internet lately; here, here, here and here... and many more!

Just say "meatball" and boom! I think Italian spaghetti and meatballs, then Swedish meatballs with potatoes and lingonberry jam, followed by Mexican albondigas soup, Greek avgolemno soup with meatballs, and the list goes on. Then my foodie brain slowly wanders off into non-meat territory with Japanese rice balls, Italian arancini, Middle Eastern falafel... Which to choose for the June DC challenge? Even though polpette are not typically served over pasta or even sauced, I decided to prepare Italian spaghetti and meatballs with a red sauce and got busy organizing ingredients. The first sample meatball was just fine naked, all by itself, it didn't need any sauce for flavor. But I continued on with the plan and oven-simmered a batch of 12 meatballs in Spicy Red Bell Pepper Pasta Sauce from my local Safeway store. We loved the result. Go with the sauce.  

My personal challenge was to create a moist, tasty meatball using lean ground turkey, a protein often thought of as bland, often dry and easily overcooked. So why use turkey? "Outside pressures" to cook healthier and cut back on red meat prompted the choice, and I'm delighted to report that this experiment was deeeeee-licious. RL loved the meal and nagged coached me to write down the recipe before I forgot quantities and procedure.

The Daring Cooks Challenge suggested we plan a meal to incorporate the meatballs. My imaginary multi-course Italian menu begins with Fruit and Nut Crisps served with a soft cheese, followed by Spaghetti with Turkey Meatballs, then a salad of Greens with Grapes and/or Italian Pepper Salad, and finished with Almond Cookies  and Nutty Chocolate Apricot Bites. Reality check: instead of that big meal, we will likely dine on a small plate of this recipe, accompanied by a green salad dressed with citrus vinaigrette. I know I will make these meatballs again and again, and continue to marvel at turkey meatballs that are packed with flavor, have a nice crunchy bite and are healthier than any of my previous versions!      

Turkey Meatballs with Spinach, Walnuts and Cheese
(plus homemade or store-bought marinara sauce)

makes approx. 24 meatballs

Add to a blender jar and mix until combined into a very moist, green paste with no big chunks remaining.
·      ½ cup crushed saltines (or homemade bread crumbs)
·      1 small package frozen chopped spinach (thawed but not drained)
·      1/8 cup chopped Italian parsley
·      2 chopped green onions
·      1 clove garlic, peeled & minced
·      ¼ cup feta cheese crumbles (or grated fresh parmesan)
·      ¼ cup walnut pieces
·      1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
·      salt and pepper to taste
·      1 tablespoon lemon zest
·      juice of 1 small lemon (approx. 2 tablespoons)
·      1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Place that luscious green blend in a mixing bowl, add the following 4 ingredients and mix gently but thoroughly by hand or with a spatula.
·      1.25 pounds lean ground turkey
·      1 egg
·      ¼ cup chopped walnuts (yes, in addition to those above)
·      ½ cup dry parmesan (yes, from the green can)

Note: this is a good time to cook a small patty in a skillet, taste and adjust seasonings as needed. You really don’t want to skip this step.

Use a scoop or tablespoon to shape the mix into small meatballs. Brown in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray OR broil briefly until browned.

Add enough of your favorite marinara sauce to surround or even cover the meatballs and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat, covered, on the stovetop OR bake uncovered for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 F oven. Serve alone or over pasta, they are delicious either way.  


  1. Update: I baked half of the meatball mix (without sauce) as a small meatloaf. It was good an a hot entree, and worked well the next day sliced on sandwiches.

  2. Your dish looks delicious. I wouldn't mind joining you for dinner :-) There are so many delicious proposals for this month's challenge! It seems you had as much fun as I did.

    Ingrid @ Kitchen Tales of Sugar & Spice

  3. I was glad to hear of a turkey meatball recipe that is flavorful and juicy. Looking forward to trying yours.

  4. My iPhone just ate the following comment from Andy - do iPhones get hungry too?

    Andy Drouin has left a new comment on your post "Turkey Meatballs with Spinach, Walnuts and Cheese":
    Great job! I love turkey meatballs.

  5. I'd say mission accomplished - you certainly made a delicious looking turkey meatball! I love the spinach and walnuts in there, and anything over spaghetti with red sauce is good in my book :) Thank you so much for cooking with us this month!

  6. I wonder if these will work as well with chicken? Great recipe!


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