Turkey Kale Meatballs Recipe

Turkey Kale Meatballs Recipe

These meatballs are moist and tender, the tomato sauce takes on a rich meaty flavor and they are just great over noodles with additional freshly grated Parmesan on top.

  • Yield:Makes about 12 meatballs with sauce
  • Active time: 35 minutes
  • Total time:1 hr 15 minutes


  • 1 bunch cavolo nero/lacinato kale (about 4 ounces), trimmed of thick stems
  • 1 pound ground turkey thighs (breasts are too lean)
  • ½ medium onion, minced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg
  • Finely grated zest of one lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • Scant teaspoon kosher salt
  • Several grindings freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, minced
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • Olive oil, for frying meatballs


  1. 1.

    Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Use a knife to trim the stem ends from the kale, and use your fingers to pull the leaves away from any thick center ribs. Rinse the kale in a lettuce spinner, and then roughly chop. Salt the water and blanch kale for about 2 minutes, then drain and cool in a colander.

  2. 2.

    While the kale is cooling, combine the turkey, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, egg, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Use a rubber spatula to press out excess water from the cooled kale, then use your hands to squeeze out as much water as possible—you should end up with a tight, dense ball of kale. Place the kale on a cutting board and finely chop, then add to the turkey mixture. Using your hands, combine the mixture until it’s well mixed but avoid overworking the meat.

  3. 3.

    Use a tablespoon to scoop a golf ball sized meatball. Gently toss the mixture from one hand to the other to gently pack, just until the ball holds together, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Continue with remaining turkey mixture.

  4. 4.

    Chill the meatballs for about 30 minutes (this will help them hold together when you fry them). While the meatballs are chilling, make the tomato sauce. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions, bay leaves (give the fresh leaves a tear or two to release their flavor), a pinch of kosher salt and a few grindings of pepper and sauté until softened, about 5-6 minutes (but do not brown). If the onions start to brown too quickly add a splash of white wine or water). Add the tomatoes and stir to combine, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes.

  5. 5.

    To brown the meatballs, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add about half the meatballs (do not overcrown the skillet) and brown on all sides, using a spoon to turn them for even cooking. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and brown remaining meatballs. Add the browned meatballs to the tomato sauce and simmer gently for about 25 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve the meatballs over short curly noodles like fussili or cavatappi, and top with additional freshly grated Parmesan.