Turkey meatballs with spinach strozzapreti

Ready for turkey and strozzapreti?

Originally appeared in the June 23, 2011 edition of The Southside Times.

Ah, the humble meatball—steadfast in its penchant to please.  Meatballs have an enduring dossier:   easily identifiable, satisfying, and unpretentious.  It’s a technique that cuts across all culinary boundaries.  But during the summer, you may not be associating this ubiquitous comfort-food with warmer climes.  No worries.  Substituting turkey is a delicious (and leaner) deviation from the traditional trio of beef, veal, and pork.  Read more after the jump:To preserve a velvety texture during preparation, a typical kitchen trick is incorporating milk-soaked bread to the meatball mix; afterwards, when shaping your savory spheres, use the leftover milk to coat your fingers and palms—this produces a moist barrier, preserving the delicate exterior.  Also, I’m using a gentle simmering method as opposed to pan-searing.

Pair these meatballs with your favorite starch (or serve them singly as hors d’oeuvres); but I suggest something to contrast the silky interior.  A culinary cousin of cavatelli, strozzapreti literally translates to “priest choker.”  One batch of food fables has it that the pasta was so delectable, that Italian clerics would eat too fast and well…you get the picture.  Apocryphal chronicles aside, the noose-shape twirl of the pasta makes it an ideal accompaniment to the tender turkey.

Turkey meatballs with spinach strozzapreti

Serves 4

  • 1 onion (½ minced, ½ sliced thin)
  • 4 cloves garlic (2 minced, 2 sliced thin)
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 20 ounces ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup day-old bread, ripped into pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • ¾ cups white wine
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups dry strozzapreti
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach, sliced thin
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Soak bread in milk.  Meanwhile, sweat minced onion in a small pan over medium heat until soft; add red pepper, minced garlic; cook until aromatic (don’t burn).  Remove from heat, set aside.  In a large bowl, combine turkey, egg, dry seasonings, and parm.  Squeeze milk from bread pieces and add bread to mix.  Reserve in fridge.

2.  In a wide sauté pan, sauté sliced onion with small amount of oil; add sliced garlic.  Add wine and allow to reduce slightly; add tomato sauce, water.  Bring to simmer, reduce heat.  Afterwards, shape meat into 2 -3-ounce balls.  Gently distribute meatballs throughout tomato sauce, cover and bring to a lazy simmer.  Cook for twenty minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

3.  Boil strozzapreti until al dente; drain and reserve.  In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil; add pasta, spinach, butter, and lemon zest.  When spinach has wilted, serve with meatballs.

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey Clint! Remember me? I was so surprised & excited to see your article! I’m excited to try it! I was wondering if it’s ok to leave the fennel seeds out & substitute something for the white wine. Hope to hear from you! MW

    • What? Of course I remember you! How did you find out about the column? If you saw it in print, I’m guessing you still reside on the southside of Indy. How about work? Family? And as for the food: yes: you can just omit the fennel seeds (they contribute flavor, but it’s only subtle); and instead of the white wine, my suggestion would be to utilize the zested lemon–in other words, after you zest it, squeeze out the juice and use that as your aromatic acid. Sound good?

      Thanks for the pleasant blast from the past (our little crew had some good times during the early ’90s, not to mention all the revenue we contributed to Movies 8). More than anything, thanks for your kind words and your readerly support!

  2. Yummo….you have outdone yourself again….Chef…..the Haghouse enjoyed this incredibly easy dish to prepare, with outstanding taste for dinner tonight!!! Keep those recipes coming!! It is nice to have our own personal chef!!!!!

    • Susie: I’m pleased you enjoy this one (and you’re right: it’s insanely easy). You’re getting to be such a reliable subscriber; maybe you can trade me a few days in the kitchen this schoolyear—I’ll cover your class, you cover mine.

      • Well, that IS a thought, but I fear my students would get the better end of the deal…thanks for thinking of me!!

  3. Oh my, that looks so yummy! I made baked meatballs the other night for dinner! I did a post on it, please check it out and let me know what you think! I’m new to this blogging thing and I love checking out foodie blogs!

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