A considerably lighter version of the traditional Italian meatballs, this one takes ground turkey, almond flour and is baked instead of fried. The addition of dates in the meatballs and Middle Eastern spices in the sauce move it even farther away from Italy, but I promise you, it’s very good. You just need a light hand dealing with them, they are very delicate.
TURKEY-SPINACH MEATBALLS WITH CARDAMON TOMATO SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)
for the meatballs:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bag (4oz) baby spinach
¼ cup dates, coarsely chopped
1 lb ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
1/2 cup almond flour
ground nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste
for the tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
6 cardamom pods
2 dried bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground coriander (I used whole the first time, but ground works better here)
1 bottle or can of tomato passata (about 15 ounces)
1 teaspoons ground Kashmiri chiles (or any pepper of your choice)
salt and pepper to taste
Make the meatballs. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large, 12-inch skillet, warm the olive oil over low heat. Add the spinach and dates, sprinkle a touch of salt, and cook until the leaves begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to the food processor and run it a few times to chop a little. Add the ground turkey to the processor, the egg, almond flour and the seasonings. Pulse until everything is starting to get combined, but do not let it turn into a homogeneous paste.
Form the mixture into little balls, keep them reasonably small (about 1.5 in) otherwise they might crumble too much. Place them in the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, turning them over half-way into baking time.
Make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the cardamom pods, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks, and let them get very fragrant, about 1 minute. Carefully pour in the tomato passata. Add the Kashmiri chile, salt, pepper, and stir to blend. Simmer gently on low heat for 20 minutes. Discard the cardamon, bay, and cinnamon sticks.
When the meatballs are ready, place them in the warm sauce and gently simmer everything together for 10 minutes. Keep the heat very low. Serve with your favorite pasta or grain.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: Kashmiri chile is a recent passion of mine. It has a special kind of heat that I like quite a bit, and it gives the food a beautiful red color, deeper than you would get from adding cayenne. I’ve been using it quite often and in this Middle Eastern-inspired sauce it does a beautiful job. I made this sauce twice since preparing this recipe, it is great as a milder substitute for the classic shakshuka, and if you add a bit of fresh orange zest right before serving you will be a happy camper. Passata is my favorite starting point, we have a very nice Italian brand available in town, but any type of crushed tomatoes will do. As to the turkey meatballs, feel free to start the recipe by sauteing onions and garlic before adding the spinach to the skillet. We omit those for food sensitivities but your kitchen, your rules!
The meatballs are super tender, moist, and with just a touch of sweetness from the dates.
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