Penne with Turkey Meatballs

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 20 min
  • Prep: 30 min
  • Cook: 1 hr 50 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs

2 tablespoons whole milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup grated Romano

1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows

1 pound dried penne pasta

Simple Tomato Sauce:

1/2 cup 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 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

2 dried bay leaves

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

Directions

  1. In a large bowl add bread crumbs milk and mix until well combined. Mix in eggs and 1/2 cup Romano cheese and mix well. Add turkey and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into golf-size balls.
  2. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown, about 8 minutes total. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow meatballs to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm on stove. Be careful not to overhandle the meatballs since they are soft and fragile. 
  3. In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse pasta with water since you want to retain the pasta natural starches so that the sauce will cling to the penne.
  4. Remove meatballs from sauce and place in serving bowl. Pour some tomato sauce over meatballs, but leave about 1 cup of sauce in skillet. Place the cooked penne into the skillet with the remaining sauce and toss well. Pour sauced pasta into a large serving bowl. Serve alongside the meatballs.

Simple Tomato Sauce:

Yield: 6 cups
  1. In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors. Add half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce. If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to six months. 

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