Rotini With Turkey Meatballs

Ever since my son was a little boy, he would curl up with me and watch a marathon of Food Network on Sunday afternoons. It has been our little thing for years. He will bury his head into the crook of my arm, snuggle under the blanket, and talk food with me. Will these days end? I hope not for a long time!

One day as we watched episode after episode of Everyday Italian he looked at me and said, “Mommy, can we make that?” The dish was relatively healthy and could be adjusted with ingredients in our pantry so our version of Giada’s dish was recreated in our kitchen together. I can think of no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than cooking with my son.

This is our version of Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs– our new family favorite that is gobbled up by all!

Rotini With Turkey Meatballs

1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon ketchup
3/4 cup grated Romano (or Parmesan)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Italian turkey sausages (remove the casings)

Pasta & Sauce:
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock, hot
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pound rotini pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine. Using a melon baller (or a teaspoon measure), form the chicken mixture into 3/4-inch pieces. With damp hands, roll the chicken pieces into mini meatballs.

In a large (14-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the meatballs over and brown the other side, about 2 minutes longer. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tomatoes are soft and meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and add the Parmesan. Toss to lightly coat the pasta, adding reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Add the meatball mixture. Gently toss to combine.

Alternative to Pan-Frying Meatballs: Make your meatballs the standard size and put them on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes. Heat chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Let them cook as directed and then drop in the baked meatballs for a few minutes. This is less mess and less calories!

Published December 15, 2008 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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