Comfort Food, Lightened Up

By Diane Rossen Worthington
Diane Rossen Worthington
Diane Rossen Worthington
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at SeriouslySimple.com. Copyright 2021 Diane Rossen Worthington. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
September 21, 2021 Updated: September 21, 2021

Meatballs are a comfort food around the globe. Consider the Swedish kottbullar, Mexican albondigas, Indian koftes, Israeli ktzitzot, or French boules. They all use ground meat and are rolled into balls. From there, the meatball varies according to different tastes and available ingredients.

These airy, fluffy meatballs are an easy-to-prepare weeknight dish. They’re lightened up with ground turkey instead of beef and baking rather than frying. Much of their flavor and juiciness come from shredded carrots and zucchini that replace the usual fat or cream. Make sure to shred or grate the vegetables finely.

Grated Parmesan cheese, herbs, and a simple tomato sauce give them an Italian touch. Use a good-quality marinara sauce, and add some thyme and basil for a fresh touch.

Serve these meatballs alone, with your favorite pasta, or on a baguette with the tomato sauce spooned over them. This recipe can also be adapted to make meatloaf. Form the mixture into a large loaf shape, place it in a baking pan, and bake it for 1 hour at 400 degrees F. For extra flavor, spoon over some of the sauce while the meatloaf is cooking.

Roasted Turkey Vegetable Meatballs

Makes about 30 meatballs

Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely shredded
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely shredded
  • 2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup fine dried breadcrumbs or panko crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups favorite good-quality marinara sauce

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, and sauté them for about 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently until they’re soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the carrots and zucchini, blending with the onion mixture, and cook for about 2 minutes. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large mixing bowl and let cool.

Add the remaining ingredients except for the sauce and parsley garnish to the mixing bowl. Blend well, using a large spoon, potato masher, or your hands to mix all the ingredients together.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.

With your hands, gently roll the mixture into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the meatballs for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce.

To serve, arrange the meatballs in serving bowls and spoon the hot sauce over them. Serve immediately.

Advance Preparation: These meatballs can be prepared one day ahead and refrigerated. Reheat in a 350-degree-F oven for 20 minutes, occasionally basting with tomato sauce. The cooked meatballs can also be frozen.

Diane Rossen Worthington
Diane Rossen Worthington
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at SeriouslySimple.com. Copyright 2021 Diane Rossen Worthington. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.