(best damn) turkey meatballs with fennel and cream cheese

I’m never giving up Italian food. Ever.


Not sure if that’s why I married an Italian, seeing as I’m the one doing all the cooking (insert an off in the distance gaze – pondering life choices <here>) but, he does find his way into the kitchen whenever an Italian dish is being made. Just to be sure I’m doing it right.

Even after all these years.

I must have done something right because he yelled from his office just after my handing his hungry outstretched hand a still piping hot meatball fresh from the oven: “If these aren’t the BEST DAMN meatballs I have EVER HAD!”

For these Best Damn Meatballs You Will Need:

  • Ground Turkey – 16 oz (some fat is good here, though I like to control where the fat is coming from so we use 93% Lean – 7% Fat turkey)
  • An Egg per container of ground turkey
  • Cream Cheese (not low fat: low fat is full of chemicals)
  • Grated / Shredded Cheese Mozzarella
  • Salt, Fennel Seed (very important this is fennel seed)
  • Olive Oil
  • Pastry Brush (optional)
  • Muffin Pan
  • Measuring Spoons (optional)
  • Fettucine Noodles (we use this brand)
  • Rao’s Pasta Sauce (any that is your favorite; we like the Bolognese or Italian Sausage with Mushrooms)

First thing you want to do is break open your turkey container and pull out the underneath moisture packet (is that what it’s called?). Use the container as your mixing bowl; no sense in dirtying more dishes. Get a fork or spoon and break up the meat a bit so it’s more malleable.

Add a half a teaspoon of salt (more can always be added later), a full two tablespoons of fennel seed, a full two tablespoons of olive oil, crack one egg and add two heaping tablespoons (or three level tablespoons) of cream cheese.

Please remember these measurements are for the one package of 16 oz ground turkey. If you have less or more please measure accordingly.

And stir. You may find it a bit difficult to incorporate the cream cheese into the mixture and that’s ok. It will soften and smooth throughout as it becomes more room temperature and you work it.

Add your cheese : three handfuls (or let’s be honest, who’s counting lol). Put as much or as little you’d like but remember, this brings a lot of flavor and moisture to the meatballs so you may want to be a bit more heavy-handed than you’d think.

And stir again. You will notice (and absolutely want) a soupy kind of consistency after you get all the cheese incorporated. This is good.

Take your muffin tin(s) and simply fill a little bit of each hole with some olive oil and wipe the insides with your finger or pastry brush (this part is important; do not use a cooking spray – I have some pictured and did try it. It failed miserably…), take two spoons and fill each cup, using one spoon to get the meat out of the container and the other to get the meat off the spoon. Alternatively, you could use the measuring spoon you’ve been using and an additional spoon.

Please note the different sized tins – use the middle tray. I have never used the one on the left; the extra large cupcake sized… But they should turn out fine and act as an entree size meatball. The minis become too dry… They gain back moisture from sauces or soups but, the middle sized tins really are the best for the flavor and consistency.

You can do a mixture of sizes as well:

Note the foil lined rack

Make sure if you’re not able to get your tins into a baking dish that you do coat the bottom of your countertop oven (we use the Breville Air) with aluminum foil or at least foil the racks. This WILL drip over as it cooks.

Place these in the oven on 350 degrees for a half hour.

As they cook, start to heat your sauce.

Prep your noodles. If you did decide on the low carb version shown below, you only need to rinse and drain them.

Place your noodles directly into the pot if they’re store-bought and you just finished cooking them or, if Livia you can drop them in immediately. Leave the stove on medium / medium low with the lid cocked a bit to let some steam out. Stir periodically. You’re not trying to cook anything or let the sauce reduce – you just want to bring the sauce to temp.

When the meatballs are done, pull them out and let them cool just long enough to get them out of the tins. They should pop out just fine. I suggest using a slotted spoon – if you have one. Taste!!!! You’ll know then, if in the future you’ll want more tang: add more cream cheese, if you want more salt: add more. You can then, kind of play with these a bit.

Place them in the pot with your noodles and sauce and stir just enough to make sure the sauce is covering everything as much as it can.

When plating, I threw some parsley over everything and you can always add some parmesan and a drizzle of finishing oil (olive oil) if you’d like.

Now, you may be a purist and only eat beef meatballs and I don’t blame you. If I’m out to dinner at an Italian restaurant – a proper Italian restaurant where they make their noodles fresh – and there’s a meatball on the menu, I know it’s not ground turkey. I know it’s beef.

And I know I’m ordering it.

If you decide after you make these that you just want the meatball (which is not going to be surprising), try it with a bit of sauce over each one, and place them on a bed of ricotta with a little parsley.

I had them the next day, sans sauce with just some egg whites and veggies. The fennel seed gives them a turkey sausage taste while the cream cheese gives this amazing consistency and savory aftertaste. The fennel does leave a bit of crunch which is surprising and welcome, actually. (Incidentally, fennel seed is an an antihistamine for us allergy prone folks.)

You really can’t go wrong no matter how you plate these.

Bon appetit!

Or rather, Buon appetito!

7 Comments Add yours

  1. The larger of the muffin tins could be used for a mini-meatloaf style. (Same thing you said, but sometimes taking a family-size meatloaf and making it in smaller portions makes it “easier” (insert “more fun”).

    Looking forward to trying the meatballs!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good idea!!! Try this with the largest size and let me know! I think that would be good! I had written they would work as an entree… One giant meatball on a plate is my idea of heaven 😇


  2. Anonymous says:

    Trying them tomorrow with angel hair pasta and aglio y olio. I’ll serve Rao’s tomato sauce on the side. Can’t wait!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So yummy!!!!! Definitely a different, almost sausage like taste to them with the fennel. We love them!!!


  3. Geri Lawhon says:

    The finish product from your post looks so good. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Geri!!! 🌷

      Liked by 1 person

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