No. 280: Turkey-Spinach Meatballs in Marinara

Up til now I have been pretty nonchalant about the whole twin experience, taking pride in my ability to stay calm about having two at once.

But in the past few days a couple things have changed dramatically. One is my lower back - it's stretched, stressed, tired, and over it. And it's letting me know.

The other change is my ability to sleep. This is in direct correlation to the lower back situation. Last night I went to bed with three pillows wedged in all sorts of places. By golly, it really helped!

In other words, reality has started to hit. I'm also dealing with the realization that I'll be dealing with these things for another couple of months. Boo.

Due to my new reality, I was feeling a bit grumpy going into my doctor's appointment this morning. But then I found out some amazing information:

  • My babies are about 2 pounds each, wow
  • They are each the size of a head of cauliflower
  • Their hearts are chugging along at about 150 beats per minute
  • While I may be 27 weeks pregnant, I'm measuring where singleton moms are at 37 weeks (this is normal and exactly where I should be)

This last fact was incredibly validating. Oh, so that is why I'm so uncomfy. That is why I measure up there with the 30+ week mamas in my baby class.

So, still a long way to go, about 10 more weeks. But we can do it!

Turkey-Spinach Meatballs in Marinara

I'm a sucker for a good meatball. I also love meatloaf. Basically, give me ground meat and lots of herbs/spices and I'm a happy gal.

These fantastic little guys from Bon Appetit sounded like a perfect Sunday night meal with a hefty load of veggies.


Serves 4

For the marinara
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

For the meatballs
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1/4 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 1/2 pound ground turkey
1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed in paper towels to remove excess moisture
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

To make

Begin with the marinara. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring often, until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and 1 tablespoon of water and cook, stirring, until tomato paste coats onion and begins to darken, about 3 minutes.

Onions and paste

Add tomatoes to saucepan, crushing with your hands or a spoon as you add them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and gently simmer until slightly thickened, 25-30 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

(We love a thick and hearty sauce that is almost a side in itself, so I reduced the sauce for more like 35 minutes.)

While the sauce thickens, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with nonstick spray.

Using your hands or a fork, gently mix egg, onion, garlic, turkey, spinach, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, fennel seeds, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl just until combined. Scoop out turkey mixture by the 1/4-cupful and form into balls (you should have about 15-20). Place on prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart; brush with oil.


Bake meatballs for 30 minutes. Cut into one to check for doneness and cook additional 10-15 minutes if needed. When meatballs are cooked through with no pink in the middle, add to marinara sauce.

Do Ahead Option: Meatballs with marinara sauce can be made 2 weeks ahead. Let cool completely and freeze individual portions in resealable plastic bags. Run under tepid water to loosen from bag and gently reheat, covered, until meatballs are warmed through and sauce is bubbling, 15–20 minutes.

The results

Um, delicious.

I really loved the fresh and zesty additions of fennel and lemon in these meatballs. So good.

Final plate

And baking meatballs without the usual oil spatter and browning? Genius.

The best part is how subtle the spinach is. These meatballs and sauce are a great way to sneak a couple great veggie servings in without your kids (or husband) being any the wiser.

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Amelia McCormick

Kansas girl transplanted to Asheville, North Carolina. Smiler, lover of great food and wine, facilitator, runner, storyteller, wife, optimist, and mother of sweet twins:)

Asheville, North Carolina