This recipe came about as many do: in an effort to clean out the fridge before a little getaway. We had a bit of ground turkey in the refrigerator, some leftover feta and ricotta, and some Italian parsley. I remember reading about lentil meatballs on Sprouted Kitchen months back and have been dying to add lentils to my meatballs ever since. So, here we are:the Mediterranean turkey meatball was born.
Truthfully, while these meatballs are a perfect appetizer with the yogurt sauce, they'd be just as comfy soaking in a big pot of tomato sauce and eaten with pasta, or served with farro and greens for a more well-rounded meal. The salty olives, capers, and feta balance out the lentils, creamy ricotta, and fresh herbs. While they're certainly not traditional and you can't compare them to your Italian grandmother's, these are my new favorite meatball – hands down.
A few notes on the recipe: I never buy bread crumbs in the store because they're expensive and so easy to make at home; use any bread you have laying around (even slightly stale bread) and toast it in the oven at 400°F. Then pulverize it in the food processor until a fine crumb forms. I find four to five slices of sandwich bread will equal about 2/3 cup bread crumbs. If you prefer other herbs than what I've used in the dipping sauce, by all means substitute away! The point of the recipe was really to use and celebrate what we already had at home.
Mediterranean Turkey Meatballs with Herbed Yogurt Sauce
Makes 20 (2-inch) meatballs
For the meatballs:
1 cup cooked lentils (black or green work well)
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons red onion, minced
2 tablespoons chopped black olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the herbed yogurt sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried chives
1 teaspoon fresh or dried dill, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a food processor, quickly grind up the lentils until they become mush. Put them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add all of the remaining meatball ingredients to the bowl and mix well. I use my hands here, but if you're more comfortable, use a good, sturdy mixing spoon. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray generously with non-stick spray. Form 2-inch balls and place on the baking sheet. The meatballs keep their shape nicely and don't spread much, so don't worry about giving them too much space.
Bake on the middle rack for 20 to 22 minutes, until the meatballs are golden-brown. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
While the meatballs are baking, make the yogurt dipping sauce by simply whisking all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve. Keep both meatballs and yogurt sauce covered and refrigerated; meatballs will keep for 3 to 4 days, yogurt dip will keep for 7 to 10 days.
Updated from recipe originally published April 2012
Related: Totally Tender Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
(Image credits: Megan Gordon)