One of the challenges I’ve faced by being the sole female in a house full of males has been to provide the guys with the hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of food they crave, but not completely give up my attempt to watch our fat and calorie intake. I’m a firm believer in eating the foods that satisfy — those familiar comfort foods everyone loves. But, with a few simple changes, we can update those classics to make them leaner and more wholesome.
I started to experiment with subbing ground turkey in a lot of my recipes that called for beef, and over the years I’ve discovered some tricks to add tons of flavor and texture to these recipes. In the process I’ve come up with some meals that would satisfy even the most diehard beef fans. These Italian turkey meatball subs are a great example of one of those meat-heavy, but slightly less guilt-inducing meals.
It’s worth the effort to make these incredibly tasty meatballs from scratch, but save yourself some time by using your favorite jarred marinara sauce. I always keep several jars of high quality sauce on hand to make life less complicated. You can also save some time by making the meatballs a day or two ahead and storing them in the fridge until you’re ready for them.
Grab a big mixing bowl and toss in one pound lean ground turkey, a few links of turkey Italian sausage in either the hot or mild variety (casings removed), some grated onion, a couple of diced cremini mushrooms, a couple of eggs, Italian style panko bread crumbs, fresh parsley, a bit of salt and pepper, and lots of grated Parmesan. See the recipe below for the complete directions and exact measurements.
A couple of quick ingredient notes — adding chopped mushrooms adds great texture and body to ground turkey, and seasoned breadcrumbs add plenty of flavor. All you will need is a touch more salt and pepper for a perfectly seasoned meatball. When making any type of meatball, I like to grate my onion with a cheese grater for a finer texture to add onion flavor, with no big pieces protruding out of the sides. Perfect, pretty little meatballs.
Get in there with clean hands and combine the meatball mixture. Trust me, it’s the best way. A spoon just won’t cut it.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and generously coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Form the meatballs and place them on the prepared baking sheet. You should get about 28 meatballs from this recipe.
Pop them into a 425-degree-Fahrenheit oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until completely cooked through.
Meanwhile, get a jar of marinara sauce simmering on the stove. Transfer the cooked meatballs to the sauce and let them simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Pile 4 meatballs on each roll and top with some sliced fresh mozzarella or provolone cheese. Place the subs on a baking sheet under the broiler for a couple of minutes — just until the bread is toasty and the cheese has melted. I like to sprinkle the subs with a little Parmesan for good measure.
If you’ve got meatballs and sauce left over, combine them with any cooked pasta of your choice for a delicious second meal.
Italian Turkey Meatball Subs
Yield: 7 subs (28 meatballs)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
- 1 (1.25-pound) package lean ground turkey
- 3 links (approximately 1 pound) hot or mild Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
- 3/4 cup Italian-style panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup grated white onion
- 2 cremini (brown button) mushrooms, rinsed and finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley or 1 tablespoon dry parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce
- 7 hoagie or sub style rolls
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella or provolone, sliced
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat the foil generously with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a bowl, mix together all ingredients through minced garlic. Use clean hands to combine the meat mixture. Form into meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to broil and warm the marinara sauce in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the cooked meatballs and allow them to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Spoon 4 meatballs with sauce onto each sandwich roll. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and top with sliced cheese. Place the baking sheet under the broiler until the buns are lightly toasted and the cheese has melted. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve.
Photo Credits: Valerie Brunmeier