A lighter alternative to regular meatballs, these turkey meatballs are tender and delicious! They're all cooked in one pan, along with the rich tomato sauce and courgetti (zoodles), so we're keeping excess washing up to a minimum!
A fantastic lighter Summer dinner.
I'm very fussy when it comes to meatballs. Not only have they got to be juicy and flavourful, but they've also got to be perfectly browned, with a light crust on the outside.
I thought the only way to do this was to either fry them separately or cook them in the oven.
When I finally realised (with this meatballs recipe) that I could save myself a ton of time and washing up by cooking them in the same pan as the sauce AND the courgetti, I was delighted! Anything to save time at the dreaded sink.
What do we need?
- For the meatballs, we need turkey thigh mince, onion, olive oil, parmesan, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Turkey mince is more delicate than beef mince, so the egg is important to bind it all together. We're using the oil to make the meatballs more juicy (as turkey is very low in fat) and the bread to make them more tender. The salt, pepper and parmesan adds some lovely extra flavour.
- For the tomato ragu we need celery, garlic, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree (paste), thyme, honey and stock.
- We also need 2 medium-sized courgettes (zucchini) - for the courgetti
Try swapping out the courgetti for other spiralized veggies - such as butternut squash, carrot or bell peppers.
Swap out the tinned tomatoes for passata, and/or you could add a couple of tbsps of sriracha for a spicy kick.
How to make turkey meatballs
Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Place the turkey mince, olive oil, parmesan, egg, onion, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Mix together and form into meatballs.
- Brown the turkey meatballs on all sides in a little oil, then carefully push the meatballs to one side of the pan and add in onion, celery and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until the onion starts to soften.
- Add tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, thyme, honey and stock. Stir everything together and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- Add spiralized courgetti (zoodles). Gently stir into the sauce and place a lid or some foil on the pan. Cook for a further 3 minutes until the courgette has softened.
Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan, black pepper and chopped parsley.
What if you don't like courgetti?
If you're not a fan of courgetti (or zoodles I think they're called in the US), you can replace with regular spaghetti.
If you want to cook the spaghetti in the pan with the meatballs, then add 600ml (2 1/2 cups) just-boiled water or chicken stock to the meatballs and sauce, then add 200g (7oz) dried spaghetti. Ensure the spaghetti is fully submerged, then simmer with the lid on for 12-13 minutes to cook the pasta.
If you want to add in spaghetti that's already cooked, just replace the courgetti with some cooked spaghetti and stir it through the sauce before serving.
Of course, this will change the calorie count and nutritional information.
I sometimes do a mixture of half and half - cooking the spaghetti in the meatball pan and adding the courgetti at the end.
Watch how to make it:
One-Pot Turkey Meatballs With Courgetti
- 500 g (1.1 lb) turkey thigh mince
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 1 medium egg
- 1 large onion - peeled and finely chopped
- ½ slice of wholemeal bread - grated
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 celery stalks - thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic - peeled and minced
- 400 g (14 oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree/paste
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp honey
- 120 ml (1/2 cup) chicken or vegetable stock - water plus half a stock cube is fine
- 2 medium-sized courgettes (zucchini) - spiralized
- Freshly grated parmesan
- Black pepper
- Small bunch flat leaf parsley - roughly chopped
- In a large bowl, place the turkey mince, 1 tbsp of olive oil, parmesan, egg, half of the chopped onion, the grated bread, salt and pepper.
- Mix together with your hands and form into meatballs – about the size of a walnut. You should get around 20-24 meatballs.
- Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a very large, non-stick frying pan.
- Add the meatballs and lightly brown on all sides. This should take around 6-8 minutes. Be careful when turning the meatballs over, as they’re quite delicate.
- Move the meatballs to one side of the pan, then in the space, add the remaining onion, celery and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until the onion starts to soften.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, thyme, honey and stock. Stir everything together, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- Add the spiralized courgetti (I like to add this to one side of the pan). Gently stir into the sauce and place a lid or some foil on the pan. Cook for a further 3 minutes until the courgette has softened.
- Serve the courgetti and meatballs topped with freshly grated parmesan, black pepper and chopped parsley.
Reheat with a lid or foil on the pan (add the courgetti at this point) on a low-medium heat until piping hot throughout - this will likely take 12-15 minutes. Can I freeze it? Yes, but I would recemmend leaving out the courgetti until you come to reheat it.
Make the meatballs and tomato sauce, then cool, cover and freeze. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
Reheat with a lid or foil on the pan (add the courgetti at this point) on a low-medium heat until piping hot throughout - this will likely take 12-15 minutes. How to scale up or scale down this recipe You can halve this recipe (to serve 2 people) using the same ratio of ingredients. Just halve all of the ingredients and cook in the same way.
It would be difficult to double the recipe, as it's unlikely you'll have a frying pan (skillet) big enough for all of the meatballs. So you make have to make in two pans. Therefore you would double all of the recipe ingredients, but make it in two pan. Can I make it in the slow cooker? Yes. Make as per the recipe, then at the end of step 6 - just as it comes to the boil, transfer to the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours or high for 2-3 hours. Add the courgetti for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Nutritional Information is per serving, excluding toppings.
This post was first published in May 2017. Updated in August 2020 with new photos, tips and video.
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