Linguine with Italian Turkey Meatballs

CATEGORIES: Italian, Kate, Pasta, Poultry, Stovetop

I discovered this recipe a few years ago when I was kind feeling lost in my life, a few months before Sara and I started this blog. It quickly became one of my favorites, something easy and yummy I could throw together for company and a little different from my old-standby Spaghetti and Meatballs. I’ve tweaked it a little here and there–I’ve made the sauce “saucier” to stretch it out a little further and to increase the whole veggie-to-meat ratio. I’ve also used bacon a few times, which I actually recommend (even if I’m using pancetta in this picture; do as I say, not as I do, right?!). Bacon and pancetta are essentially the same cut of meat (pancetta is not smoked like bacon), but bacon has a lot more flavor, so you can use significantly less bacon, thereby cutting some fat and calories.

This recipe is a little bit of a splurge, but it’s still do-able when you’re trying to watch what you eat. The real culprit is the pasta (shocking, right?), and the sauce is so filling (and the servings that I have measured) are so generous that you could make the meatballs smaller and have the recipe make 10 servings, or go for more sauce and less pasta.

The sauce is super simple–you’ll need canned tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, basil, salt, and pepper. But we can worry about that later.

You’ll start off with the meatballs–you’ll need some of that flat-leaf parsley from the sauce, about 2 ounces of freshly grated Romano cheese, a few cloves of garlic, a small onion, sundried tomatoes (or these roasted tomatoes), salt, pepper, some chopped up bacon or pancetta (like I said, bacon will give you more bang for your buck, plus, speaking of bucks, it’s cheaper), bread crumbs, a couple of eggs, and some lean ground turkey.

It’s really important to be careful which turkey you buy (at least if you’re watching what you’re eating) because not all ground turkey is created equal; if you buy just regular ground turkey, it can be just as bad or worse than regular ground beef in terms of fat and calories. So make sure you’re getting extra-lean turkey (like 93% lean) or even ground turkey breast, which can be up to 99% fat free.

Preheat your oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment. In a large skillet, cook the bacon or pancetta with the onion and garlic and then set it aside to cool. Gently combine the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl with your hands and then shape scant tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet.

Pop those babies in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they’re golden brown.

Can you see that Romano cheese oozing out of the meatball? Does it not make you want one right now?

While the meatballs are cooking, start a pot of water boiling for the pasta and then heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet (you could always use the one you cooked the onions and garlic in earlier). Saute a few more cloves of garlic in the olive oil and then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, water, and seasonings. Simmer until your pasta has about 5 minutes to go and then add the cooked meatballs and heat through. Serve over hot linguine noodles with a little extra shredded Romano cheese on top.




  1. Super recipe. Husband's favourite 'bird' is turkey, favourite cuisine is Italian… so this will be a sure-fire winner all round (plus I am always trying to look for tasty alternatives to beef mince in pasta dishes as it can be fatty in the UK- turkey is the low-fat option for sure).

  2. kate, i made the taco soup for dinner tonight and it is so very good! your father-in-law liked it very much2 i'm having a bowl for lunch tomorrow. thanks!

  3. I can not wait to try this with my family. I will let you know what they think! If it compares to anything else from your website I know they will love it.

  4. Just checking the math… it says the calories are for just the sauce. Doesn't include any meatballs??? Calories seem a little high for just sauce. I'm probably misunderstanding something. Sounds delicious!!

  5. Yum! I just found your site this week and am loving it!! And this recipe is perfect… I had gotten a good deal on some lean ground turkey and needed to come up with something to do with it! I have everything on hand except the fresh parsley, so I think we'll have this tonight!

  6. Did you know that ground turkey isn't as calorie and fat saving as you think when you compare it to lean ground beef? The only way that buying ground turkey is more diet friendly is when you buy ground turkey *breast* meat. If you compare the nutritional facts, unit for unit, ground turkey actually has a few more grams of fat and more calories. Its true! Research it yourself, just make sure you are comparing like to like.

  7. Tara–Yeah, I meant the sauce and meatballs; I just wasn't including the pasta. 🙂

    Carrie–Yep! In the post, it says to be careful which ground turkey you buy because some ground turkey can actually be as bad or worse than regular ground beef.

  8. Thank you SO much for posting all these recipes with the WW info! 🙂 Just to check (I think you said before but I can't remember.) Are these with the new pointsplus system?

  9. How exciting about your cookbook!! I'm so excited for you … and for me to be getting it 🙂

    Thanks for your awesome recipes this month, I'm going to be trying them ALL!! Every. Single. One!!!

  10. LOVE the points & nutrition info thanks!! but they are for the whole recipe or for a serving? if so-whats a serving of the meatballs and sauce? Thanks!!

  11. Kate – those meatballs look fantastic. I'd totally spend extra time with my treadmill for a plate of this.

    BTW – Tried your Black Bean Soup last weekend and it was fantastic. Everyone loved it. I did up the spice by throwing in a half can of jalapenos that were kicking around in the fridge.

  12. Ok so if all your recipes are as tasty as this one, I'm definitely gonna need that cookbook! Made this tonight and it was sooooooooo yummy!!! I didn't have Romano cheese so I used half mozzarella for the melty factor and half grated parmesan for flavor. Delish!!!! Thank you!

  13. I absolutely cannot wait to try this recipe. I'm laying in bed starving now!

    P.S. I love your blog. Yours is the only food blog I even subscribe to! You are the best.

  14. I'm new to Our Best Bites but after looking around I've noticed everything looks so good and easy to make. My favorite kind of recipes! You have a new fan!

  15. I have been following your blog for months now and FINALLY tried one of your recipes – they all seem so delicious! I've had a craving for meatballs lately so I knew when I saw this one that it was the one I should try – WOW! AMAZING! I'm a huge fan of the substitution of turkey (I used ground turkey breast) and I made the oven roasted tomatoes as you suggested as well – they are out of this world! I will never buy jarred sun-dried tomatoes again! Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe – I can't wait to buy your cookbook and try some more recipes! All the best!

  16. Wow this looks good. I wish I had seen this a couple of days ago (I'm behind in my blog reading) as this is pretty much what I was craving and didn't know it!! Adding this recipe to my "make soon" list!

  17. Thank you, thank you, thank you! When I first saw this recipe, it literally made my mouth water! So I whipped it up last night for the fam….they LOVED it and Handsome could not stop raving about it. Definitely a new "add to my rotation" recipe! And I am sure we will be racing home at lunchtime to see who get the leftovers. hehehehe


  18. I tried this recipe last Sunday and it was delicious! I had never made meatballs before. They were so tasty I'm sure I won't ever try another meatball recipe! I used bacon instead of pancetta, which was a stretch for me because I'm not a bacon fan, but I'm really glad I did it. It added a nice smoky note.

    This was a perfect make-ahead dish. I put together the meatball mixture and got the sauce started before church. (I let the sauce simmer for a few hours. I love how it develops the flavors.) Then when I got home all I had to do was pop the meatballs in the oven and cook the noodles.

    Alongside some steamed green beans and dinner rolls, it was a huge hit at dinner with the in-laws. Thanks for a new favorite I can add to my recipe collection!

  19. I excited to make this for dinner tonight! I have a question though–I don't see garlic listed under the "meatball" ingredient list . . . how much should I use?

  20. Made these with bacon. We LOVED them! My husband especially liked having the leftovers the next day in a meatball sub for lunch.

  21. I made this last night when we had the missionaries over for dinner (with the cheesy bread that looks like a “bloomin’ onion”) — huge hit, even with the kids! Seriously, this was soooo very tastey. Thanks for ALL of your AMAZING recipes. I think any time I have any company for dinner, I make something from your site since I know it will taste good. ohhh, so good. 🙂

  22. Can I make up the meatballs earlier in the day (naptime) 🙂 and then pop then in the oven just before dinner? Thanks!

  23. I have the same question as Mary in comment 29. You show garlic in the picture showing the ingredients for the meatballs and you mention it in the directions. But the recipe doesn’t say how much garlic to use in the meatballs. The recipe only says how much garlic goes in the sauce. I really want to make these but I don’t want leave out any garlic:)

    1. I might have the answer. . .If you click through to the “Domestication in Progress” link on which this recipe says it is based, it calls for only two cloves of garlic in the sauce. Since OBB calls for four cloves, maybe two of them are to be minced and added to the meatballs? I’ve made this recipe MANY times and have put in one large clove each time (for the meatballs) and been satisfied.

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