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Hearty Turkey Meatballs

Hungry? Whip up a batch of this recipe for big, tender Hearty Turkey Meatballs. They’re perfect for chilly nights.

Hearty Turkey Meatballs

The first time Paige stepped on the ice on figure skates, she could barely move forward. She inched her skates along the ice, her eyes wide with worry and frustration. I watched her, trying not to make eye contact, and wondered if she’d ever enjoy it.

Will, however, took to the ice right away with a natural skill. He glided awkwardly at first, and then began to speed across the ice and occasionally fall with a smile. It wasn’t long before he spent his free-skate portion of his weekly lessons playing fast skating games with other boys.

To watch them those first few weeks was a study in contrasts. Where Paige was cautious, Will was daring. A friend from school would encourage Paige on the ice, offering pointers, but she still spent much of her time there at the outer rail, holding on. That friend eventually coaxed Paige away from the rail, and showed her how to glide — at least a little.

But while Will only had to hone his technique, Paige had to develop hers from scratch. Slowly, she began to let go without prompting and skate with her friends. As we neared the end of the first session of lessons, I wanted them to continue for the next session, but suspected Paige would disagree. But when the last week came, she and Will both asked to continue. It was one of those proud moments, where you realize that given the opportunity to try, fail and try again, kids will rise to the occasion.

Ultimately though, I was just happy that Paige had finished what she started. She was so nervous, frustrated and uncomfortable on the ice at first — but then she blossomed out there. No matter how much she struggled, it was important that she stuck with it — if only for the weeks of lessons we’d committed to.

What I never expected was to see her love it, but suddenly one day she did.

Barely a week into the second session, Paige declared a love of figure skating — and a desire to hone her skill to compete.

Paige’s experience with ice skating is a lot like my experience learning to cook. I didn’t have a natural skill, and although I’d cooked with my grandmother and aunt as a young child, I really didn’t know much about turning ingredients into meals. In our house, like many families in the 90s, we relied on the convenience of packaged semi-homemade foods. I knew how to mix up boxes of macaroni and cheese and brown beef for tacos. I could, however, make spaghetti sauce from scratch and make scrambled eggs, though I didn’t really like to eat eggs.

But boiling pasta? Any other kind of eggs? Anything that had to do with meat or fish? It was all frightening for me. My biggest fear was that I would attempt to cook something, do it wrong and poison everyone. So, I avoided cooking for a long time. And experimenting? That was out of the question.

At some point, I began to lose that fearfulness. Some of it was born of need — as a journalist, my eat-out-every-night lifestyle didn’t jive with my salary. But there was also something alluring about learning to cook well, so I began trying. At first, it was simple things like pastas and stir-fries. And sometimes, it wouldn’t go well and my experiments would be borderline inedible. But I kept trying and slowly began to venture far from my cooking comfort zone.

By the time I launched Sarah’s Cucina Bella in 2005, I was experimenting in the kitchen a lot. Like Paige, I had let go of the guardrail of semi-homemade packaged foods and was voluntarily venturing into scratch cooking. In the nearly 10 years since then, I have conquered any apprehensions I had by facing them head-on. From yeast doughs to unfamiliar vegetables, I became fearless in the kitchen.

In many ways, I hope Paige’s experience on the ice teaches her to be fearless in life. Both she and Will already know the basics of cooking, having watched and helped me since they were old enough to stand, but there’s so much more to living. As author Neale Donald Walsch said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” And that’s something I think is true both in the kitchen and the greater world at large.

As for these meatballs, they are big, tender and delicious with pasta. You could also serve them with zucchini noodles or on rolls. Making them is simple: Just stir together the ingredients, brown them, cover in sauce and cook until they are cooked through. Since most of the cooking is hands-off, this is perfect for weeknight dinners.

Serve these with a big salad and bread for a delicious, hearty winter dinner.

Hearty Turkey Meatballs

Hearty Turkey Meatballs

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes


  • 1 1/4 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, , minced
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 jar marinara sauce


  1. In a large bowl, stir together the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt, rosemary and pepper. Form large meatballs (about 10 2-inch meatballs).
  2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Pour the marinara sauce over, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.
  3. Serve over pasta, zucchini noodles or on rolls.

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