Baked Turkey Meatballs with Polenta Cakes

Baked Turkey Meatballs with Polenta Cakes |

Meatballs! Meatballs! Now imagine me saying that like my very Italian grandmother.

I pretty much always say it that way (you know all accent-like and making crazy hand gestures) and completely crack myself up every time. Is it weird to find yourself hysterical? Don’t answer that.

Besides, it’s just fun to say it that way, so you know. It has to be done.

And while these little guys may not be exactly like the meatballs my grandma always makes, they are pretty darn delicious if I do say so myself.

Baked Turkey Meatballs with Polenta Cakes |

Added bonus? There’s polenta involved. And we all know I am a polenta junkie. Although I feel like I’ve been cheating on polenta with lentils. And farro. But this dish. This dish finally brought it back to the forefront.

Totally reignited the spark. That’s kind of a strange thing to say about polenta. Don’t judge. I get very excited about food in general.

So let’s chat about food … I mean, this meal. Simple, classic baked turkey meatballs. Which you’ll serve on crispy baked little polenta cakes. And finally you’ll top it all with a quick and easy homemade sauce and of course plenty of shredded parmesan and fresh basil.

If you’re not in the mood for a slightly crispy polenta base, I think this would also be awesome over some creamy polenta. Except for whatever reason I associate creamy polenta with the fall and winter. And it’s still super hot and humid right now. So I just. can’t. do. it.

Although … now that our air conditioning is all fixed up (yay!), I feel like I could absolutely go put on some boots and a scarf and sit on my couch…

Baked Turkey Meatballs with Polenta Cakes |

And totally pretend that it’s fall. Take that summer heat!

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Baked Turkey Meatballs with Polenta Cakes

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Recipe for healthy baked turkey meatballs served over crispy polenta cakes and with a quick homemade tomato sauce!

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For the polenta:

  • 1 (18 ounce) tube polenta, sliced ½ inch thick

For the meatballs:

  • 1 ¼ pounds ground turkey (I use 93% lean)
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I use fire-roasted)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley

For serving:

  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • chopped fresh basil


  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. To make the polenta – line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the polenta rounds on the prepared baking sheet and mist the tops lightly with nonstick cooking spray (I use an olive oil spray). Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until slightly crispy on the outside.
  3. Meanwhile, to make the meatballs – line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and then spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. In a large bowl, add the ground turkey, onion, panko, egg, salt, pepper, dried basil and dried parsley. Mix to combine (but don’t overwork the meat). Form into meatballs, about 1 ½ inches in size and place on the prepared baking sheet (I get around 22 meatballs). Bake in the same 375ºF oven for about 17 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through (165ºF on an instant-read thermometer).
  5. Meanwhile, to make the sauce – set a medium-large skillet over medium heat. Add in the olive oil. When hot, add in the onion and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add in the crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt, red pepper, basil and parsley. Let the sauce simmer gently for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the salt and red pepper as needed.
  6. Set a few polenta slices on each serving dish. Top with a few meatballs, spoon on some of the sauce and top with parmesan and fresh basil.

I think this would also be fantastic with ground chicken instead of turkey!

If you want to make your own polenta rounds instead of buying the tube, you can follow the instructions in this recipe —> Polenta Bites with Ricotta and Shaved Asparagus.

To avoid buying an extra onion for this recipe, use a small portion of the onion for the sauce for the 2 tablespoons needed for the meatballs.

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