Throughout our first year of marriage, Cole and I ate a lot of pasta. We were still in college and each of us was only working ten hours per week while we completed our student teaching and internships. This meant that groceries were on a tight budget, and of course time was tight too. Once per week I would make up a whole box of rotini noodles with a jar of Alfredo sauce and half a bag of frozen broccoli. This would leave us with enough for a couple meals of leftovers throughout the week.
After graduation, when we were first starting our careers, we took a little break from the Alfredo. I suppose we were pretty sick of it, but after about a year I found myself craving it. However, this time, we had both the time and the budget to amp it up a little with some meat. Initially I would just add in some shredded up chicken breast but, after discovering that we loved ground turkey I began to wonder if I could make a meatball to mix into my pasta.
After a little research, I discovered that to make my meatballs I would need the ground meat, whatever seasonings I desired, and something dry to bind it all together. It seemed like many people that made turkey recipes were all about the specialty diets, and preferred to use a gluten-free binding, but obviously I wasn’t concerned about gluten usage since I was looking for a great meatball to throw on top of pasta. Of course I chose to try my regular favorite binding, panko bread crumbs.
Since I prefer all of my food with a little bit of spice, I decided that buffalo flavoring would be the perfect combination with an Alfredo dish, but I wanted to make sure I was being careful. Over time, I have tweaked this recipe again and again, each time decreasing the amount of sauce used in it. You see, the goal of this was not to make a spicy buffalo meatball, but actually the opposite, to make a “not-so-spicy” meatball that had just a touch of warmth and flavor to it. After multiple cutbacks, I was able to concoct a perfectly warm meatball that tasted delicious mixed into a plate of Alfredo.
1lb Ground Turkey
½ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Garlic Powder
¼ tsp Black Pepper
¼ tsp Onion Powder
¼ tsp Chili Powder
3 tbsp Buffalo Sauce (I always use Franks Hot)
Overall, meatballs are a fairly easy dish to make, which is pretty awesome considering how much they can “fancy up” a plate of pasta. It seems like there is just something so sophisticated about eating pasta with meatballs, but maybe that is just childhood nostalgia of watching Lady and the Tramp.
The first thing you need to do is preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prep a cookie sheet by spreading tin foil over it. You need to lightly spray the tin foil with cooking spray, and I mean very lightly. You do not want more than a slight coating of grease across the foil. This layer of grease prevents your meatballs from sticking, but if you put it on too thickly, it can cause the balls to get very brown on the bottom. Because you are baking them, the bottom side will already get browner than the rest, but you can prevent too much darkness by avoiding overgreasing your pan.
Once your pan is prepped, you can begin the process of making the meatball mixture. My favorite tool to use for this process is a large serving fork. You can use a regular fork, but the larger gaps between a serving fork allow the ground turkey to mix together more easily. By looking at the picture, you can see how the serving fork would allow for less resistance when stirring through food that has thick consistency.
The first two ingredients to mix together are the ground turkey and the egg. Once that is fully incorporated, you are going to add in all of your dry ingredients, both the seasonings and the panko, and mix everything together, still relying on your fork.
After all the dry ingredients are combined, you are going to add in your final ingredient, the buffalo sauce. I prefer to stir this in one tablespoon at a time.
Once all of the ingredients are combined together, it is time to start forming the meat mixture into ball shapes. This is the time to use a spoon. Most silverware sets come with two different sizes of spoons. I prefer to use the larger of the two spoons for this recipe.
Using a spoon, scoop out some meat and gently form it into a ball shape. Once it is formed, drop it onto the greased pan. Continue this process, making sure to leave some space between each of the balls on the pan. This recipe usually makes about 20 meatballs depending on how large you are rolling them.
Roast the meatballs in the oven for 20 to 22 minutes. I usually start with 20 minutes and then break one of the meatballs apart to see if it is done. The interior of the ball will no longer be pink if it is finished. No matter what, you do not want to cook these for more than 22 minutes. Turkey is a meat with a very low fat content and overcooking them will definitely dry them out. I almost always take them out at 20 minutes instead of 22 because of my fear of them drying out.
When the meatballs are done cooking you have two choices for serving them. My favorite way to eat them is served on top of any Alfredo dish, but you could easily serve these as an appetizer and dip them in ranch, or more buffalo sauce if you want to add some kick to this recipe. I could definitely see these being a delicious option to bring to a potluck or party.
If you are eating them on pasta, you are probably only going to use four meatballs per plate of pasta. When you are a family of two, like I am, the good news is that these freeze super well. At the end of summer, I make a point of making a batch of these meatballs just so I can freeze them for a future date. It’s always nice to have pre-made meals saved up in the freezer in case I have an extra long day at school or have some meetings after work that would cut into my cooking time. Whether you are serving these on top of pasta or on their own, I hope you enjoy these not-so-spicy buffalo meatballs!