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Failed Meatball Bolognese

March 2, 2007

Turkey Bolognese

So far, Giada and I are 0-2 as far as the Everyday Italian recipes go. I have not yet relayed my ricotta cakes story here, but the problem I had with her turkey meatball recipe was similar, and I was left feeling sorely disappointed. And meatball-less. Yes, the bolognese-like sauce that resulted was delicious, but it was not meatballs.

I’ll be honest and say that I only half followed her arancini recipe to make ricotta cakes, so the failure could very well have been mine. But the meatballs? I followed Giada’s lead to the letter. And instead of cooking up into beautiful bites of meaty goodness, they fell apart completely in the pan. It was useless trying to cajole them into retaining their round shape. Completely useless. They were determined to become bolognese. What went wrong, Giada? What went wrong?

Ground turkey does tend to be wetter and less sticky than ground beef or pork, and I did wonder, as I was reading it, whether she’d really compensated for that enough when writing her turkey meatball recipe. But she’s a trained chef, and I trusted her. I went about whisking my eggs, and measuring out breadcrumbs, and gently, gently mixing it all up with the mushy turkey. Even as I was shaping them into meatballs, I suspected they were too wet. And I was right.

They might have been ok had they been baked, but no. No, Giada recommended pan-frying them in a bit of olive oil, so that’s what I did. And after they’d only bee in that hot oil for a minute or two, I knew it was going to be a disaster. They stuck to the pan, and any attempt on my part to turn them and cook them all over just resulted in halved meatballs. Some of them seemed to think they might be able to tough it out, but eventually, they all fell. At one point, I think I just decided it was a lost cause, and crushed the remaining holdouts into the marinara, relinguishing my meatball dreams at last.

Failed Turkey Meatball Bolognese

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 c. breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 c. romano cheese
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped parsley
  • 2 T. milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 5 c. marinara sauce

I had the marinara sauce I made last week, which I almost considered a non-failed Giada recipe, until I remembered that I doctored it up and a bit, so it’s not really her recipe, after all. No, Giada, we’re still on the outs.

Mix the eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, and milk in a large bowl. Gently fold in the turkey, incorporating everything as much as you can without bashing the meat around too much–something about not damaging the proteins or something else sciencey and smart like that. Form the meat mixture into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the meatballs. Don’t crowd them too much, if you can help it. Let them brown, and gently turn them around in the oil to cook each side well. This is where I had problems. They were completely stuck to the bottom of the pan, and didn’t want to go anywhere at all. But the meat wasn’t packed together tightly enough, or it wasn’t sticky enough, so when I tried to turn them in the oil, the tops came off and mushed apart and generally stopped behaving like meatballs. After awhile, I just gave up trying and broke it all apart in the pan. If this happens to you, just let the meat cook a bit more, until it’s not pink anymore, then add in the marinara, and stir it all up. Let it cook for about 5 or 10 minutes more, while your pasta cooks, so the meat cooks all the way through and the marinara is warm.

Meaty meat sauce

As a meat sauce, this was actually really tasty–much better than just adding some ground up meat into a marinara, for sure. The texture is very soft and thick, which maybe sounds weird, but is actually lovely. In the future, I would very like make a bolognese with a meatball or meatloaf mix to start, because I like it. But I was still disappointed.

I do have three leftover uncooked meatballs in the freezer, which wouldn’t fit in the pan. These, I will throw into the oven, to see if another cooking method might not have suited them much better.

Giada, I haven’t given up on you yet. Your cookbook is so lovely, and I adore the simplicity and elegance of your food. But I’m getting a little frustrated here. I think I’ll give it another shot, maybe with the grilled seafood salad, or the beautiful chicken saltimbocca. But I can’t take many more failures. You might end up another cookbook that never comes down from the shelf.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. shelley permalink
    February 11, 2010 6:09 am

    The “bolognese sauces” looks great. But just a little thing I noticed…Giada used shredded “cooked” turkey in her recipe. Oh well, we learn from experimenting. Good luck.

    • March 2, 2010 8:59 am

      I think we were looking at different recipes. The recipe I have definitely uses uncooked ground turkey. I’m not really sure how meatballs using cooked turkey would turn out, but now I’m curious.

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