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Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Turkey Meatballs


“In prison, dinner was always a big thing,” Henry, the Goodfellas narrator, explains. Pauley does the prep work: shaving garlic with a razor of all things, so it melts like butter the second it hits a hot pan. Vinnie does the tomato sauce for the pasta, making his meatballs with veal, beef, and pork. Unfortunately for Vinnie, his fellow inmates give him flack for using too many onions. We like the idea of leaving behind the all-beef meatball, but we do think that using three onions per two cans of tomatoes is a little… much. As is having that much red meat (sorry, fellas). Accordingly, our rendition of the classic prison meal features another meat: turkey. Vinnie says “all the flavor” is in the pork, but we think these meatballs might be able to change his mind.   

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For the ricotta turkey meatballs

  • 1 1/2 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed and cubed
  • 1/2 Cup whole milk
  • 1 Pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 yellow onion, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon minced basil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons whole milk ricotta
  • 1 Tablespoon grated parmesan
  • 2 Teaspoons salt
  • 2 Teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 Cup olive oil

For the tomato sauce

  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion, grated
  • Two 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 4 basil stalks, leaves still attached


For the ricotta turkey meatballs

In a small bowl submerge the cubed bread in the milk. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Toss the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. When the bread is appropriately soggy, squeeze out the excess liquid from the bread, and add the bread to the rest of the ingredients. Using your hands, mix everything together.

Form the meatballs into whatever size you like (I made each about 3 tablespoons). 

Put a couple sauté pans over medium heat. Add a few glugs of olive oil to each. When the oil shimmers and a bread crumb dropped in fizzes immediately, add the meatballs. Brown well on each side until just cooked through, about 15 minutes total. 

For the tomato sauce

Heat olive oil in a stockpot with the red pepper flakes over medium heat. When the oil begins to sizzle, add the garlic and swirl in the pan for a minute or so. Add the onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Empty in the tomato cans, stir to combine, and add the basil stalks. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot every so often. Add in the cooked meatballs and cook for at least 10 minutes more.

Serve tomato sauce and meatballs with hot whole wheat spaghetti.

Nutritional Facts
Calories Per Serving664
Total Fat54g83%
Vitamin A135µg15%
Vitamin B121µg24%
Vitamin B60.9mg46.1%
Vitamin C17mg28%
Vitamin D1µgN/A
Vitamin E7mg36%
Vitamin K61µg76%
Folate (food)44µgN/A
Folate equivalent (total)44µg11%
Niacin (B3)9mg44%
Riboflavin (B2)0.4mg21.9%
Thiamin (B1)0.2mg13.8%