One of the best recipes that I’ve made for Budget Bytes so far is the Italian Meatballs. They were unbelievably flavorful, they froze beautifully and were extremely versatile. I’ve wanted to make them again for some time but have shied away due to their high saturated fat content. This weekend I was really in the mood for some meatballs so I decided to challenge myself to make a more healthy version.
I think I did a fairly good job… First, I reduced the fat content by using lean turkey Italian sausage (the same, surprisingly good sausage used in the Sausage and Lentil Stew). Rather than using a whole egg for the binder, I used just the whites and I reduced the amount of oil used to cook the meatballs to the absolute minimum needed. As an added bonus, I made mini meatballs which were small enough to cook completely through in the skillet so no extra time was needed in a hot oven. If you want larger meatballs, cook them for about 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven after browning in the skillet. Because you are using ground meat, it is very important to make sure they are fully cooked.
The Italian Sausage is pre-seasoned which lends quite a bit of flavor to the meatball mix. I cranked up the flavor with a little sriracha sauce, worchestershire and red pepper flakes. If you are leery of spicy dishes, just skip the sriracha and red pepper flakes, there will still be TONS of flavor in your meatballs.
- 1 small yellow onion ($0.32)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.14)
- 4 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided ($0.12)
- 1.25 lbs turkey Italian sausage ($3.89)
- 1/4 bunch fresh parsley ($0.17)
- 3/4 cups breadcrumbs ($0.24)
- 1 large egg white ($0.16)
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese ($0.24)
- 1 Tbsp worchestershire ($0.07)
- 1 tsp sriracha sauce, optional ($0.05)
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, optional ($0.03)
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour ($0.04)
- to taste cracked black pepper ($0.05)
- Start by dicing the onion and mincing the garlic. Cook them both in a small skillet with 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil over medium heat until they are soft and transparent.
- While the onions and garlic are cooking, prepare the rest of the meatball mix. Squeeze the turkey sausage out of its casing into a large bowl. Rinse and shake dry about 1/4 bunch of parsley. Remove the leaves from the stem and roughly chop. Add the chopped parsley to the sausage along with the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, egg white, sriracha sauce, worchestershire sauce, red pepper flakes and cracked black pepper (about 20 cranks of the pepper mill). When the onions and garlic are soft, add them as well. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until it is an even, homogeneous mixture.
- Using your hands, form the meatball mixture into small balls (about 1 Tbsp) and line them up on a clean surface. You should be able to make about 56 small, 1 tablespoon sized meatballs. Once all of the balls are shaped, place 1/2 cup of all purpose flour in a bowl and coat each meatball in the flour.
- Heat about 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot (but not smoking) add about half of the meatballs. Let them brown on one side then carefully roll to another side and let brown. Continue to cook and roll the meatballs around until they are deep brown and crispy on most sides (they won’t be perfect spheres). If necessary, break a meatball open to make sure it is cooked all the way through before removing from the pan.
- Transfer the cooked meatballs to a plate covered with paper towel to drain. If necessary, add another tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan before cooking the second batch.
Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.
TO SERVE: Serve with toothpicks as an appetizer, toss into a pot of marinara and serve over pasta, tuck inside of an Italian roll with mozzarella and marinara, slice and use as a pizza topping or add them to vegetable soup. Meatballs are delicious any way you eat them!
Step By Step Photos
Dice the onion, mince the garlic and cook both in 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil over medium heat until soft and transparent.
This is the turkey sausage that I used and I swear to you, it is DELICIOUS (and I hate other turkey subsitutes, like turkey bacon… yuck). Make sure you get Italian turkey sausage because it already has a ton of seasoning in it.
While the onions and garlic are cooking down, get the rest of the mix ready. Squeeze the sausage out of the casing into a bowl. Add the cleaned and chopped parsley, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, egg white, sriracha, worchestershire, red pepper flakes and cracked black pepper. When the onions and garlic are cooked, add them too.
Use your hands and mix it all together until it’s an even mix. If it’s still really soft and sticky, you can add more bread crumbs. I started out with 1/2 cup but added 1/4 more because it was way too soft and sticky to form into balls.
Using about one tablespoon of meatball mix at a time, shape into small balls. Place the meatballs on a clean surface until they are all shaped.
Place a half cup of flour in a bowl and roll the meatballs around in it until they are all coated in flour.
Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, add half of the meatballs. Allow them to brown and crisp on one side then carefully roll over to another side and cook in the same manner.
Continue to roll and cook the meatballs until they are deep brown and crispy on at least three sides. Break one open to make sure that they are cooked all the way through. They should take about 10 minutes total to cook on all sides.
Transfer the cooked meatballs to a paper towel lined plate, add more oil to the pan if necessary and then cook the second batch.
There are so many ways to serve meatballs but I was super content just eating them plain as I took these photos (oops, there go eight of them!).