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Carol Murphy Clyne is a visiting instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in the Food Enthusiasts program at the Hyde Park campus and the new Manhattan facility, the CIA at Astor Center.  Her passion is teaching young chefs the skills they need to integrate better food choices into their fast-paced lives.  She was the chef-owner of a 70-seat scratch kitchen, café and catering business in New Jersey for 20 years.  For any questions, visit Chef Carol at  


When I was a child, all I would need is one whiff of Grandma’s meatballs simmering in tomato sauce to come running. The aromas alone were as good as three smooches from her. And nothing has ever tasted as sweet.  In this healthier version, we substitute lean ground turkey for the fattier ground beef and add spinach and whole wheat . You can pop them into your mouth, simmer them in tomato sauce or smother them with caramelized onions. Toss with veggies and whole-wheat pasta for a comfort food treat.  Any way, they dazzle.  And they keep in the freezer for dinner in a hurry.  Oh, and I’ve scribbled in some of my cheat notes and included weights for those who like using a scale.

Yield: 7 ½ dozen (10 servings)



  INGREDIENTS                                                        EQUIPMENT     

2 tablespoons canola oil                                             baking sheets     

4 large eggs                                                                chef’s and pairing knife                    

1½ teaspoons kosher salt                                          cutting board       

¾ teaspoon black pepper                                           dry measuring cups  

4 slices whole wheat bread                                        foil       

2 cloves garlic                                                             food processor with steel blade

½ medium yellow onion                                              large bowl       

½ sweet red bell pepper                                             large mixing spoon     

4 ounces spinach                                                       measuring spoons

3 ounces Pecorino Romano                                       scale (optional)

2 pounds ground turkey breast, 99% fat free                                                




1.  Position oven racks in top third and bottom third of oven.  Heat to 450ºF.  Line 2 baking sheets with foil and liberally coat both with a total of:

2 tablespoons canola oil (1 ounce)



2.  In a 4-quart bowl whisk:

4 large eggs (8 ounces)
1½ teaspoon kosher salt *If using fine table or sea salt, decrease to ½  teaspoon  table salt
¾  teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground



3.  In a food processor fitted with a steel blade process:

4 slices whole wheat bread, toasted, cooled, torn into small pieces (6
  ounces untoasted whole wheat bread or 2 cups packed crumbs) 

almost as good.


in batches to fine crumbs, about 30 seconds.  Add to bowl with eggs.  Replace food processor lid and with motor running drop in:

2 large garlic cloves (¼ ounce or 2 teaspoons) If clove has a green sprout, remove it. 

 sprout, remove it.

  It is bitter and can ruin the dish.


Run motor until finely chopped, about 30 seconds.  Turn off.  Add:

½ medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (½ cup or 2 ounces)
½ medium sweet red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, coarsely chopped
   (½ cup or 2 ounces)


Pulse motor until finely chopped but not pureed, about 10 2-second on/off pulses, scraping down sides half way through.  Put into bowl with bread mixture.  


4.  Also add: 

2 cups baby spinach, squeezed dry, finely chopped with knife, packed, (4
  ounces)  If the spinach is too fine, by being chopped in food processor, the meatballs

the meatballs will be green.

  will be green.
¾ cup Pecorino Romano (3 ounces)


Mix well.  Then add:

2  pounds


ground turkey breast, 99% fat free *It must say 99% fat free otherwise


  it could be ground breast and skin


Mix only until combined, about 30 seconds.  Overworking meat can cause tough meatballs.


5.  Gently roll all meat into loosely packed balls and evenly distribute between prepared baking sheets.  Use 1 tablespoon of meat or 5/8 ounce for each mini meatball.  Moisten hands in bowl of water before rolling meat to prevent sticking.


6.   Shake baking sheets back and forth so meatballs are lightly coated with oil.  Place meatballs ¼ inch apart.  Bake meatballs for 16 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking time, from front to back, and top to bottom until they are cooked through and firm to touch (or until instant read thermometer, when placed in center of meatball, registers 165º).


7.  Meatballs can be kept warm in a 200°F oven or simmered in sauce of choice on stovetop or in oven for 45 minutes. 


More Meatball Cheat Notes:


The meatballs can be frozen for 3 months.  To freeze: cool meatballs completely in refrigerator for 2 hours then place in sealed plastic bags or air tight container and freeze.  Warm them in microwave or oven or simmer in favorite sauce. 




Per Meatball: 26 Calories; 1g Fat (36.4% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 17mg Cholesterol; 77mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 0 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fat.


Per Entrée Serving: 230 Calories; 9g Fat (36.4% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 156mg Cholesterol; 694mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1 Fat.


Recipe © 2008 by Carol Murphy Clyne and Vincent Clyne. All rights reserved.

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