I have been trying to like ground turkey more these days! Everyone nowadays, (including me) is making the effort to substitute red meat with turkey or chicken; proteins which are leaner and lower in everything that is bad for your body for one reason or another (for me, it is not part of my Blood Type Diet but for others it might be part of their fight against cholesterol). It has been a struggle because there is no substitute for a good juicy lamb or beef burger! I have always been disappointed when I order a Turkey Burger when eating out. More often than not, it tastes like a bland white sponge!
Yesterday while humming and hawing at the meat counter at the supermarket, I began to eye the ground organic turkey, and it was on sale. That was it; I decided to challenge myself and make a little turkey meatball and pack it with pungent and traditionally stong-tasting fresh herbs. I didn’t want to make plain old spaghetti and meatballs as I wanted the meatballs to be so good that masking their flavor in a thick red sauce would have been a crime. When I spotted the luminously green asparagus, my mind was made up to make something that looked like Spring. Yes; I WANT SPRING!
This dish was the perfect introduction to Spring. It was light and delicate, and the colors were amazing. My little turkey meatballs were alive with flavor and I would have been content with just a big mound of them in a bowl for dinner. Anyway, this is a fantastic dish and I guarantee you, if you feel like I do about turkey and it’s lack-lusterness in the tasty department, I think this recipe will sway you too!
*this is also a Blood Type A Diet recipe – omit the butter and black pepper. Soak the bread in a little water and you are good to go!*
For the Herby Meatballs:
2 tbs olive oil
1 large egg
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1/2 tbs finely chopped rosemary leaves
1/2 tbs fresh thyme leaves
2 sage leaves – finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 slices white bread
1/3 cup milk
all-purpose flour for rolling meatballs
For the Rigatoni & Asparagus Dish:
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots – sliced (If you don’t have shallots, use 1 medium onion; any kind)
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 whole sage leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
1 bunch asparagus spears (about 2 doz) – sliced into 2 inch pieces
1 cup matchstick carrots (or 2 medium carrots – thinly sliced)
1 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp sea salt (less salt if it is very fine) – more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb rigatoni pasta (or other big tubular pasta)
Make the Meatballs:
Preheat oven 400*
1 – Soak the bread in the milk. While the bread is soaking, put the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl, except the olive oil and flour. When the bread is soaked, add it to the mixture squeezing out the milk as you go. Mix everything together until it is well-combined.
2 – Put about 1 cup of flour in a shallow bowl and put a little olive oil on the palms of your hands and start making little meatballs. Roll into a ball between your palms (the oil will keep your hands from getting tacky with meat) and then roll in the flour. Place on a plate as you go.
3 – Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on a large baking tray and grease the whole surface using your finger tips. Place in the hot oven for about 3 or 4 minutes (this will stop the meat balls from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove the hot tray from oven and add a single layer of meatballs, remembering not to crowd the pan. Place in the oven for about 18 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. Remove and set aside (covered) until ready to add to pasta dish.
Make the Pasta Dish:
*put the water on for the rigatoni. This pasta cooks in about 10 to 12 minutes so try and time it to be ready to add to your dish when it is cooked. In other words, put the pasta into the boiling water at step 3 (below). Do not rinse pasta, but rather add the drained noodles directly into your finished dish*
1 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil (extra-virgin is good here). Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 4 or so minutes. Add the fresh herbs. Cook for another minute or two.
2 – Add the carrots and asparagus and continue to saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
3 – Turn up the heat and add the wine. Cook until the wine is reduced by half (about 3 minutes), and then add the broth. Bring to a boil. Add the butter and Turn pan down to a simmer. Cover with lid and cook for 4 minutes.
4 – Add the meatballs and continue to simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste.
5 – Add the cooked rigatoni (or whatever pasta you are using) to your pan and stir gently.
Serve in warmed shallow bowls and if you have hot pepper flakes or a little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese available, then pass it around too!