3 June 2011

Turkey meatballs in tomato & fennel sauce

Prior to being doused with a whole heap of Parmesan!
This recipe is nothing short of a triumph - for many reasons.

I chose it because I was intrigued by the idea of tomato & fennel sauce and reckoned that if it worked, it'd be worthwhile the pain of making the meatballs.  However, it proved to be not only extremely cheap to make, but extremely easy to make.  It was also our first go at wholemeal pasta (delivered in error) for years - and the final accolade was that everyone enjoyed it!

I had scheduled it for a Wednesday, as because I don't work on Wednesdays, I'd be free to make & cook the meatballs in advance, so ensuring it didn't turn out to be a long haul in the making.  This was important, as having been out the day before, my energy levels were fairly low.

The meatballs are almost a pleasure to make, as they are simply a matter of combining the turkey mince with breadcrumbs and garlic.  I had a flash of inspiration and added a teaspoonful of grated lemon zest and some seasoning, which was oddly missing from the original recipe.  They didn't require chilling, as everything had come straight from the fridge in the first place and the little meatballs were hanging together perfectly.

So, I just fried them off and left them under the grill (covered with silver foil so that they didn't dry out) until the sauce was made, later on.

The pasta was a happy accident.  I'd ordered just ordinary fusilli, but what was delivered was wholemeal fusilli.  I was about to send it back, when hubby suggested we try it, just in case the quality has improved over the years.  I have horrible memories of nasty gritty pasta that went under the name of wholemeal, so I was a tad dubious.  However, it was perfectly fine.  Not gritty and for once actually tasted of something.  I have found that most supermarket pasta doesn't taste of a great deal, but this had a bit of a nutty flavour which was very acceptable.  It's also better for hubby, as being slightly diabetic, it's good to have carbohydrates that release slowly, which wholemeal does.

So, with some grated parmesan for sprinkling over (and cheddar for son & heir, who isn't a parmesan fan), it made a great mid-week dinner for the family.

I like Willie's idea of adding a little cube of cheese to the meatballs, and might try that next time - but I reckon I'll leave the lemon zest out, in that case!  lol


Ingredients :

400g turkey mince (I made mine with 350g which was fine for 3 people)
25g fresh breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, grated
zest of half a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced small
1 tsp fennel seeds
400g chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2-3 splashes of Worcestershire Sauce
400g fusilli, cooked, to serve
grated parmesan or cheddar, to serve.

Method :

1.  Put the mince in a mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and half the garlic.  Season and mix well to combine.  Using your hands, shape the mixture into small balls, around 15-16 or so and chill for 10 minutes if necessary.

2.  Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a pan and add the onion, carrot and remaining garlic.  Cook for 5-6 minutes or until softened.

3.  Pop the fennel seeds into a pestle & mortar and grind them lightly to just break them up a bit.  If you don't have a pestle & mortar, just put them in as is.  Add the fennel seeds and cook for a few seconds, stirring to combine.

4.  Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.  Add a half a can of water, season and stir to combine well.  Allow to simmer for some 15 minutes or so until thickened and reduced.

5.  Using a non-stick frying pan, fry the meatballs for 8-10 minutes until cooked through.  Transfer them to the sauce and simmer until piping hot.

6.  Serve with the fusilli and with cheese sprinkled over.



  1. Great...Wonderful dish, this. Even the kids can get involved, meatballs and all.
    And, if you do try them with cheese Jenny. Don't brown the meatballs, make the sauce, in the frying pan, and place the polpette, (hate the word meatball) :), into the sauce, and cook from there.
    Well, l went downstairs this morn'in at 7:30. Opened up the back door, put the kettle on for my first lemon tea of the day. And, who comes trott'in down the path with a bunny in his chops, Bertie. Followed by John, with a couple more.
    So, on with the apron, as they have to be paunched, and, it's a bad time of year really for rabbits, as they have young, or at least carrying them. I'll say no more......! :(.
    So....looks like rabbit, on Sunday again.....!
    Think, l'll fire the Barby up, and have a few friends round......! :).

  2. Oh, poor old Mummy bunny! I expect that's why Bertie is able to catch them so easily at the moment, if they can't run so fast.

    The turkey meatballs would be great to cook in the sauce as you're directing, Willie. It occurs to me that a little wine in the sauce would be good, in that case, too. The frying of the meatballs lends extra flavour which you wouldn't have doing them that way, so perhaps a little wine would help matters along!

  3. Oh! Yes....A little wine (red) is a must, l use it in all my pasta sauces. As you know it gives the sauce...body....! And, if you use just a glass of red, the rest has to be drunk.....! :)

    Poor old Mummy bunny.....Yes....!
    I remember,when my daughter was about six, John, next door dropped a bag of bunnies round, about 10-12. I tipped them out onto the floor, and George, pussy-cat, up there on the left, used to climb in among them for a kip.....Silly Sod....! :).
    So, there l was, with my daughter at my side, l pulled a large lady bunny out, put it on the bench, stuck the knife in, and eight babbies fell out. Fur and all, so she was ready to 'calf' down. My daughter, bless her, said, "What are you going to do with them, Daddy".
    I said, "Dip them in batter, and deep fry them". And, she said....."Oh! alright then".
    We've told that story loads of times over the years, and, still chuckle about it. :).
    And, in conclusion, that is why my daughter is a Psychiatrist. As a lot of people will tell you, with an eccentric Dad bringing her up, that's the only profession she could undertake to do......! :)

  4. I have loads of turkey in the freezer I never know what to do with, including turkey mince. It's always in the end-of-day markdowns pile, so I pick it up, freeze it, then have naff all idea what to do with it.

    This week the turkey mince shall be coming out!
    and it's meatballs ahoy!

  5. Are you going to be cooking the fennel & tomato sauce, too? It's well worth doing!

  6. Must of been a week for meatballs - I made turkey ones on Tuesday night for the first time and was very happy with them!

    Like the sound of your tomato and fennel sauce with them! Not managed to convert before to wholemeal pasta but will try again!

  7. Anne, I find it amazing how us food bloggers seem to coincide on recipes so often - and you can't always blame "being in season" for it, either. At one stage everyone seemed to be making lemon desserts, now it's meatballs!


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