Recipe: Ultimate Hidden Veggie Turkey Meatballs

Now that gardening season is in full swing, it’s officially time to clear out my freezer of last year’s frozen zucchini jam to make space for this year’s zucchini haul that will be gracing our garden within the next month or so.  I worked some zucchini jam into some taco meat a few weeks ago to great success, and I wanted to try it again.  This week’s target: turkey meatballs.

Turkey has a tendency to be boring and bland, and can often cook up to a rubbery, bouncy texture.  It’s a great ground meat option if you’re looking for something lean and packed with protein, but not always the best from a sensory perspective due to the lack of fat.  The addition of the zucchini jam adds extra fiber and moisture to the turkey, which resulted in meatballs that were super tender and moist.  These were actually some of the best turkey meatballs that I’ve ever made, and will definitely be keeping this zucchini jam trick in my back pocket for the future.

The recipe down below is full of flavor as well, with a hearty addition of zaatar, sumac, and my Sweet Italian seasoning (which you could sub with either ground rosemary or fennel seeds).  I also added the usual meatball suspects, breadcrumbs and eggs, to help hold it all together.  The meatballs will feel a little soft when you roll them out, which is do to all that moisture we locked in there with the zucchini.  Roll very gently and place in the oven right away to prevent the meatballs from flattening out too much over time.

This recipe made a lot of meatballs, which is perfect for a pasta night one day followed by meatball subs the next (pictured!).  I also really enjoy meatballs plain, straight out of the oven, which is what we had for dinner last night along with some sweet potato fries (an admittedly brown, but tasty dinner!).  This recipe will work great for meal prep since it makes a lot, and should be perfect for picky eaters who need some veggies sneaked into their diets.

Recipe down below, photo up top!  Happy pasta night, friends!

Ultimate Hidden Veggie Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 ½ cups Zucchini Jam
    • Simplified recipe down below for ease, or click on the link to access the original recipe.  You will need 2 raw zucchini for the jam.
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp zaatar
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 tsp ground rosemary
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Method:

  1. If starting with raw zucchini, make the zucchini jam by following the following steps.  If starting with zucchini jam, skip ahead to Step 2.
    1. To make the zucchini jam, grate the zucchini using the large holes of a box grater.  In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat up the 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the grated zucchini when warmed.  Stir to combine, and allow to cook over medium high heat until most of the water has been evaporated, and the zucchini shreds break down and begin to caramelize.  Stir occasionally during the cooking process.  Total cook time should be about 20-25 minutes to be sure that most of the water has been cooked out.  Once completed, remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper to prevent the meatballs from sticking to the pan.
  3. In a large bowl, add the ground turkey meat, zucchini jam, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, egg, zaatar, sumac, ground rosemary, ground fennel seeds, black pepper, and salt.  Using your hands (or a spoon if you prefer) mix the ingredients together until it’s fully homogenous.
  4. Form the meatball mixture into large meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter.  Place on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Once all of the meatballs are formed, drizzle the meatballs with the olive oil.
  6. Place in the oven and bake at 400F for 30 minutes, until golden brown on the outside and registers at least 165F on an instant-read thermometer on the inside.
  7. Once fully cooked through, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing them from the parchment-lined baking pan.  Add to some tomato sauce for some spaghetti with meatballs, or make yourself an awesome meatball sub.
  8. Enjoy!

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