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I’m in a manly house now that my daughter has ventured offto college. Competitions over who can make that shot, replays of Geico commercials, exploding fist bumps, Peter Griffin impressions. What better way to get into all things guy than with some balls?

Everything about these meatballs is surprising.

Made from white meat, and they’re not dry. Homemade, and not taxing. Healthy, and not bland. With tweaks to a recipe called nirvana, this one delivers all we hope for in a comfort food without any of the fat-laden trappings or an afternoon in the kitchen. Confession: 1/8 cup of cream or half & half is a game changer adding creamy juiciness and a hint of sweetness to the meatballs. Learned this from the wildly successful Pitfire Pizza joint in our neighborhood whose chicken meatballs are to die for. Why is it that every secret ingredient leads back to fat, sugar, or salt?

Not so with the sauce, the secret to Mario Batali’s marinara success: shredded carrots. I loved this sauce and encourage you to make huge amounts and freeze it, but admittedlyRao’s flavor intensity is hard to replicate in rapid-fire pace of our dinnertime. I suggest making double Mario’s sauce and letting it brew all day in a crockpot for a truly potent marinara.


turkey meatballs simmered in mario’s marinara

preptime: 25 minutes (both balls & sauce) 4-6 servings

cooktime: 25 minutes for meatballs& 45 for sauce


  • 1 pound ground turkey white meat
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • fresh herbs (about 1/4 cup overall) – basil, parsley, thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/8 cup cream or half & half
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (parmesan reggiano is always best)
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs (gluten free friends omit and add in one egg for binding)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Place roughly chopped onions, garlic in food processor, pulse a few times.
  3. Add in herbs and seasonings to food processor and pulse a few more times. You want to create a finely chopped mixture so that it distributes well throughout each meatball.
  4. Place the turkey into a mixing bowl and add the milk & cream, Parmesan cheese, and panko crumbs. Mix until evenly blended.
  5. Form into 1 1/2-inch meatballs, and place onto a baking sheet. I don’t make these too tight.
  6. Bake 20-25. While baking start sauce.
  7. Place meatballs into the sauce and cook on low for another 30 minutes.

Marinara Sauce

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved (this is a messy proposition)
  • Salt
  • Grated Parmesan, (optional)
  1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often.
  5. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. If adding the meatballs, place them in sauce at about the 15 minute cooking point and cook for another 30 minutes.
  6. Season with salt and serve with pasta.


  • Use 1 1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning instead of fresh herbs (or combine your own using some or all of: oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and cracked rosemary). Or have my favorite spice store send you a hand mixed batch.
  • Tweak the ingredients for what you have on hand.
  • Let the grocer do the work for you. Buy: crushed tomatoes, chopped onions & garlic, shredded carrots, grated cheese.
  • Make balls on weekend and simmer into a jar of Rao’s for dinnertime.
meatball recipe inspired by allrecipes.com, sauce recipe from Mario Batali and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com


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