We’ve all had them, turkey meatballs or burgers that were inedible, hard and dry, especially when using the almost fat-free ground. But’s no use making something lighter and healthier if no one wants to eat it. Even when I lighten a recipe, it has to taste good and be satisfying.
Satisfy the craving
Although we were eating a healthy and balanced diet, since my husband’s heart attack last fall, we’ve had to make more changes. We have to think twice about those little treats, or try to find a way to reduce the saturated fat. While I usually make a plant-based meatball and am perfectly happy not eating any meat at all, my husband had a real craving for spaghetti and meatballs with real meat. Since he has been trying hard to stay on track, I set out to make a meatball that wouldn’t kill him.
Oh that hidden saturated fat
Use the lowest fat turkey you can find, 99%, and be really careful about the rest of the potential fat carriers in a traditional meatball; the Parmesan, the egg yolk, and milk usually tucked inside. My mother always made her panade from fresh bread crumbs and milk, but I actually left the dairy it out because I didn’t have any in the house. I’ve learned in the past that water is really all you need for a moist meatball or meatloaf! The bread here was a thick slice cut from a whole wheat boule. If you have sliced bread, you might need two slices.
Boost the flavor
Without the fat, ground turkey can be fairly bland and dry. Here, I used a healthy amount of fennel seeds and garlic to lend lots of flavor. You could add other herbs that you like, or a simple Italian blend. The mushrooms and onions add a lot of moisture. I also used the baking soda trick to keep moisture in meat and aid in browning. All you need is a quarter teaspoon, and it really makes a big difference, especially with so low fat a ground turkey.
Bake and save yourself some time
The mix is a bit soft, and I was afraid they would fall apart if I fried them, so I opted to bake them. This saved even more fat and time at the stove, and kept them intact. Yes, they had a flat side, but no one cared about that at all. I guess you would technically call these meat hemispheres. I used a two-tablespoon cookie scoop, but you could use a one-eighth measure cup or coffee scoop.
Will make again
The result was a really delicious meatball that was tender and moist, full of flavor, and pleased everyone. Four balls contain 108 calories, 5 grams of carbs and 1 of fiber, and less than a gram of saturated fat. My sister said it was one of the most tender and moist meatball she ever had.
If you don’t eat meat, you can easily make this vegetarian by using a plant-based product, there are lots of good ones out there.
(Really moist) Turkey Mushroom Meatballs
- 1 thick slice hearty whole wheat bread
- 2 -3 tbsp. or so, water
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 ½ cup minced crimini mushrooms
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
- 2 egg whites, beaten
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. water
- 1 lb. ground 99% lean ground turkey, local, organic if possible
- Salt and pepper
- Favorite pasta or marinara sauce
- Favorite whole grain spaghetti or other pasta
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Liberally grease a rimmed baking sheet.
Heat your pasta sauce and have it simmering, ready for the meatballs.
Trim off the crust from the bread and pulse in a food processor for a few seconds to make fresh bread crumbs. Place in a small bowl and add the water, mixing well until moistened and adding a bit more water if needed.
Mince the onion and mushrooms and sauté in the oil until very soft. Add the garlic and fennel seeds. Continue to sauté for a minute or so until the garlic is fragrant. Place mixture in a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.
Add the egg whites and the bread crumb mixture, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.
Gently break up and add the turkey on top of the mixture. Mix the baking soda and water and sprinkle over the meat along with another pinch of salt, then using your hands gently combine everything. It will be a bit loose.
Using a small 1/8-cup cookie scoop, form the balls by filling the scoop and pressing against the side of the bowl to kind of pack it in. This made 30 balls. Release the scoop right on the cookie sheet, you won’t need to form or roll. Drizzle or spray with a bit more oil and bake for 10 minutes. Check the temperature, you a looking for 160. Do not overcook the balls.
Place in your hot pasta sauce, cover, and remove from the heat. Let this sit for about 10 minutes for the flavors to mingle.
Serve over spaghetti or any other pasta delight where meatballs will be the star.
And yes, you can of course use a plant-based ground meat substitute.
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