Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (2024)

Published: by Dara · This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. · 45 Comments

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Meatballs are always a crowd pleaser. These Italian Turkey Meatballs happily wallow in a pan of easy, homemade tomato sauce. Healthy comfort food at its best!

Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (1)

These Italian turkey meatballs earn me more hugs than almost any other meal. No matter how much older my boys get, meatballs are always a perennial favorite. And who can blame them?! It's comfort food that never gets old.

Meatballs happen in all forms around here. Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs are a long-time birthday dinner request, Honey Garlic Turkey Meatballs are a weeknight favorite and Salmon Meatballs with a Creamy Avocado Sauce are the food that made my boys falls in love with salmon. There's just something magical about meatballs.

Typically when I make meatballs, I roll them into morsels that can be consumed in one or two bites. But these...these are serious meatballs. For light eaters, one meatball will probably suffice, two meatballs for heartier eaters. They bake in about 20 minutes, which gives you just enough time to whip up the tomato sauce.

Why make a homemade sauce?

If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's this...take a few extra minutes to make a homemade sauce to serve with these healthy turkey meatballs.

The flavors of freshly sautéed onion and garlic, the richness of simmered crushed tomatoes and the brightness of fresh herbs makes all the difference in the world. Homemade sauce always tastes as though you finished off the meal with a pinch of love.


▪️ FLAVOR: The meatballs and tomato sauce are filled with onion, garlic and oregano. And you can't beat the flavor of a homemade tomato sauce. It beats store-bought every day of the week!
▪️ TENDER: Ground turkey meatballs get a bag rap for being dry, but these ones are anything but dry. Tender and rich in flavor.
▪️ FREEZER-FRIENDLY: These meatballs can be frozen and quickly reheated in the microwave.


These are the main components of this recipe (affiliate links included):

  • GROUND TURKEY: Use 93% lean ground turkey for these meatballs. While it’s tempting to use extra lean (99%) to cut back on the fat further, it results in dry meatballs.
  • AROMATICS: Onion and garlic add tons of flavor. Grated the onion on the largest holes of a box grater. Grated onion blends well into the ground turkey without leaving chunks of onion.
  • BREADCRUMBS: I prefer whole wheat breadcrumbs for the extra fiber, but regular breadcrumbs work just as well. You can also use panko breadcrumbs or a gluten-free version, if desired.
  • EGG: One egg for binding.
  • HERBS: Fresh parsley and dried oregano. Be sure to measure the parsley AFTER mincing it.
  • THE SAUCE: Homemade sauce is REALLY easy to make and you just can’t beat the flavor. You’ll need onion, garlic, canned crushed tomatoes, herbs and red pepper flakes (optional).

See recipe card below for full ingredients list & recipe directions.

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Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (2)

How to make turkey meatballs in sauce:

This recipe comes together in two parts: The meatballs and the sauce. Start with the meatballs, then make the sauce while the meatballs are baking.

The meatballs:

  • Mix together all of the ingredients, then divide the mixture into 8 portions.
  • If the meatballs aren’t sticking together well, mix in additional breadcrumbs, one tablespoon at a time.
  • Roll the 8 portions into balls and place them on a baking sheet coated in cooking spray. Bake until cooked through and firm to the touch.

The sauce:

  • This is a basic marinara sauce – nothing difficult about it. Start by sautéing some chopped onion in a little olive oil.
  • Once the onion is soft, add the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Only 1 minute cooking time here – you don’t want to burn the garlic, otherwise it will become bitter.
  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bring it all to a boil, then simmer. Last but not least – stir in the fresh herbs.
Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (3)

How to serve turkey meatballs:

Our favorite way to serve these meatballs is over pasta, but you can change things up by serving them over rice or quinoa. If you like to freeze quinoa like I do, you can microwave a few portions of frozen quinoa in a minute or two.

For lower carb options, serve the meatballs over spaghetti squash (like in this puttanesca spaghetti squash recipe), cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles.

Grate a little Parmesan cheese over top and sprinkle with extra minced parsley, if desired.

Cut open a baguette and line up the meatballs with extra sauce in the bread. Top with grated Parmesan and/or mozzarella and pop under the broiler until the cheese is melted (just a minute or two). Watch carefully so the bread doesn't burn!

Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (4)

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I substitute ground beef for ground turkey?

Turkey meatballs can also be made with ground beef. I recommend using lean ground beef. This helps to lower the saturated fat grams.

Can I use oats instead of breadcrumbs?

Oats can be used in place of breadcrumbs to bind ground turkey meatballs. If the recipe calls for seasoned breadcrumbs, be sure to adjust the seasonings when substituting the breadcrumbs with oats.

Can I make these meatballs egg-less?

Sure. Substitute the egg with a flax egg. Mix together 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes, until it because gelatinous. Stir it into the ground turkey mixture along with the other ingredients.

How to freeze:

Turkey meatballs freeze very well and will last in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bake the meatballs as directed in the recipe, then cool to room temperature. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pop the whole thing into the freezer.

Once frozen, peel the meatballs off the paper and place them in a resealable freezer bag or freezer-safe airtight container.

When you're ready to serve the meatballs, take out as many as you need and microwave on HIGH until reheated. If it seems as though they're drying out while reheating, add a few drops of water.

What to serve with Italian turkey meatballs:

Salads and bread are always popular side dishes for turkey meatballs. Here are a few favorites...

  • Green salad with the best balsamic vinaigrette!
  • Tomato Focaccia Recipe - with caramelized onions
  • Apple Pecan Salad
  • Warm Kale Salad - with caramelized onions & mushrooms

If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and comment underneath the recipe card below. Thank you!

Printable Recipe

Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (5)

Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe

Meatballs are always a crowd pleaser. These Italian Turkey Meatballs happily wallow in a pan of easy, homemade tomato sauce.

4.73 from 54 votes

Print Pin Rate

Course: Entrees

Cuisine: Italian

Keyword: Healthy Dinner Recipes

Prep Time: 20 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes minutes

Servings: 4

Calories: 336.2kcal

Author: Dara Michalski | Cookin' Canuck


The Meatballs:

The Sauce:


The Meatballs:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

  • In a large bowl, stir together the ground turkey, onion, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, egg, oregano, salt and pepper.

  • Divide the mixture into 8 portions, form into balls and place on the prepared baking sheet.

  • Bake until the meatballs are firm to the touch and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

The Sauce:

  • Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

  • Stir in the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.

  • Add the crushed tomatoes, bring the sauce to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and basil.

  • Nestle the meatballs into the sauce and spoon sauce over to coat the meatballs.

  • Serve over pasta or rice, or on their own.



Please note that I am not a medical or nutritional professional. I provide nutritional information for my recipes as a courtesy to my readers. It is calculated using the LoseIt! calculator. While I attempt to provide information that is as accurate as possible, you should calculate the nutritional information independently before relying on it.


Serving: 2Meatballs + ¾ Cup Sauce | Calories: 336.2kcal | Carbohydrates: 31.3g | Protein: 30.1g | Fat: 12.5g | Saturated Fat: 3.4g | Cholesterol: 126.5mg | Sodium: 946mg | Fiber: 7.4g | Sugar: 16.1g

Tried this recipe?If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it on Instagram! Just use the hashtag #COOKINCANUCK and I'll be sure to find it.

Other healthy ground turkey recipes:

Southwestern Turkey Rice Casserole

Turkey Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Pesto Turkey Tortellini Soup

This recipe was originally posted on March 2, 2015, and was updated on February 10, 2023.

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (6)

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Reader Interactions


    Leave a Comment

  1. Paula

    Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (11)
    Really great tasting and easy to prepare!


  2. Spring L.

    How do I make these with cooked rice instead of breadcrumbs and cheese? We have 4 hungry teenage boys and gluten free breadcrumbs or panko aren't budget friendly at this time.
    Also, when I've made traditional Italian meatballs in the past, we've always just added them to the sauce to cook instead of frying or baking them first, could we do that with these as well?


    • Dara

      Hi Spring, I haven't tested this meatbqll recipe using rice instead of breadcrumbs, so I'm not able to give a recommendation on that. If you prefer to cook the meatballs in the sauce, you're more than welcome to try that. There is a chance that the meatballs will fall apart if you cook them that way. If you prefer the sauce method, you could try pan-frying them partway first so that a crust a formed, which would help keep them together. In addition, take care not to burn your sauce if you choose to cook the meatballs in the sauce. I recommend cooking at a lower heat.


  3. JR

    Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (12)
    I made these tonight, next time I would cut back on the oregano (way too much for my taste) and make the meatballs smaller. I would also use chopped tomato’s and cook the sauce for 20-30 minutes. Only changes were gluten free panko bread crumbs and a little red wine.


  4. GMarie

    Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (13)
    Loved this recipe! Easy to make and great for food prep for the week.


  5. Melinda

    Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (14)
    Fantastic & so easy! Next time I make it though I will exclude the chili flakes. Made it a little to fiery and overwhelmed the herbs.


  6. Trevor

    Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (15)
    Amazing recipe!


  7. Susan

    Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (16)
    I made these meatballs and sauce for last night's dinner. Very good. I did make the meatballs smaller and used gluten free breadcrumbs. Baked them for 20 minutes and they came out perfect. Had to use dried parsley since mine got eaten up in the garden by the slugs! Ugh!! Will be making again.


    • Stephanie

      Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (17)
      I made these Turkey meatballs tonight and we all loved them. Tasty, moist and lovely texture. Definitely will be making them again.


  8. Ria

    Recipie calls for red pepper flakes but instructions don't say when to add. I just added in sauce and you have crushed tomatoes twice..we add 2 cand?


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Italian Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce Recipe | Cookin' Canuck (2024)
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