Penne with turkey meatballs

  • 30g plain dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 65g grated Romano
  • 450g turkey mince
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 60ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • 1 pound dried penne pasta
  • For the Simple Tomato Sauce
  • 120ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (900g) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
For the tomato sauce:
1) Heat the oil over a medium high heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes.

2) Add the celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5-10 minutes.

3) Add the tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on a low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove the bay leaves and check for seasoning. If the sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavours.

4) Put half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Repeat with the remaining tomato sauce.

5) If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour portions into freezer plastic bags. It will freeze up to six months.
Yield: About 1.5 litres.

For the meatballs and pasta:
1) Put the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl and mix until well combined. Mix in the eggs and 50g of the Romano cheese. Add the turkey and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into golf-size meatballs.

2) Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat. When almost smoking, add the meatballs and without moving or turning them, allow them to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn the meatballs and brown the other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown, about 8 minutes total.

3) Add 1.2 litres of the tomato sauce and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and allow the meatballs to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep warm. Be careful not to overhandle the meatballs since they are soft and fragile.

4) In a large saucepan, bring 6 litres of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander. Do not rinse it with water since you want to retain its natural starches so that the sauce will cling to the penne.

5) Remove the meatballs from the sauce and place in serving bowl. Pour some tomato sauce over the meatballs, but leave about 240ml of sauce in the pan. Place the cooked penne into the pan with the remaining sauce and toss well. Pour the sauced pasta into a large serving bowl and serve alongside the meatballs, sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

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