Turkey Meatballs with Sage and Apple Recipe

If a football-watching get-together is on the agenda this weekend and in the coming weeks, food is always a big part of the party—and meatballs always score points. Look beyond the usual barbecue sauce-coated classic beef meatballs. These turkey meatballs are not only a great alternative for people who don’t want to eat beef or pork, but with the wonderful seasonings, every little bite packs a delicious punch, says chef and caterer Serena Bass, who created this recipe for Real Food. Plus, if you want to make the meat ahead or form it into patties for brunch, it works well for that, too (see Cook’s Notes). So even if the home team is no longer in the game, or whether your alternative favorite wins or loses, you can win with the food.

Turkey Meatballs with Sage and Apple

Makes about 25 meatballs

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup diced packed shallots
1½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup diced apples (Gala or Golden Delicious)
½ cup packed fresh white breadcrumbs or panko
1/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk
1 pound ground turkey
2 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage (1½ teaspoons dried sage)
2 teaspoons finely minced lemon zest
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
butter for frying
vegetable oil for frying

1. Put the olive oil in a heavy, non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, apples, and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Sauté for about 6 minutes, or until translucent. Tip out onto a plate and set aside to cool.

2. Put the breadcrumbs in a small bowl and add the half-and-half. Stir to mix and set aside for at least 5 minutes and up to 20 minutes.

3. Put the turkey, eggs, sage, lemon zest, remaining salt, and the black pepper in a bowl. Add the shallot mix and the soaked breadcrumbs.

4. Set the bowl in the kitchen sink, and with your hands, gently but thoroughly mix together. It will be quite a wet mixture. (I like to leave the mix for at least 30 minutes before cooking to firm up, but you can proceed to the next step if you are short of time.)

5. Lightly film the pan with equal amounts of butter and vegetable oil. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop up a lightly heaped spoonful and shake it into the pan. If the patty isn’t nicely rounded, just use a couple of wooden spoons to shape it. You will be sautéing these in batches, so they won’t be so close that they start to steam.

6. Sauté for about 3 minutes on each side. The meatballs can be held in a very low oven or, when you get to the party, reheated on a parchment-lined sheet pan at 250°F for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Cook’s Notes:
• To make it interesting, jazz it up with store-bought mango chutney. For ½ cup mango chutney, add 1/teaspoon hot pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons toasted and chopped cashews, and 1 teaspoon finely grated lime or lemon zest. If the chutney has big lumps of mango or peach, you should pulse it a few times in a food processor to chop them up.
• This turkey meat mixture can also be made into about 10 bigger patties for brunch and served with eggs, pancakes, and maple syrup.
• These can be made one week beforehand. Form meatballs or patties and freeze on a tray or cookie sheet. When they are solid, you can store them in a zip-top bag or plastic container. Defrost in the fridge overnight and then cook once thawed.

Nutrition info (per serving): CALORIES 81 (58 from fat); FAT 7g (sat. 2g); CHOL 35mg; SODIUM 176mg; CARB 1g; FIBER 0g; PROTEIN 4g

Hungry for More? If turkey meatballs with Thai flavoring, bacon-beef meatballs, or Korean pork kimchi meatballs sound tempting, check out these recipes I have highlighted:
Thai Turkey Meatballs
Beef and Bacon Meatballs
Korean Pork Kimchi Meatballs


Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.