Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta is one of the tastiest recipes you can have in your weeknight toolbox. Pop these juicy meatballs into the oven and they’ll be done in twenty minutes– as long as it takes to get the rest of the dinner together. This fun and exciting weeknight meal is ready in under an hour, but is definitely company-worthy.
Lemon slices roast alongside the meatballs, then are chopped and added to the sauce with briny chopped olives to give this simple dish huge flavor for the amount of effort it takes.
Our household is not yet ready to make the shift to an entirely plant-based diet, but we make incremental steps in that direction. This turkey meatball and roasted lemon pasta is chock full of zucchini. The turkey meatballs hold a lot of zucchini which lightens the meatballs. Reduce and replace the volume of turkey with even more zucchini if that’s where your dietary choices are taking you. In the future I’ll be experimenting with replacing the turkey with mashed beans for a completely meatless “meatball.”
Making the Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta
First, form the meatballs and lay them out on a sheet pan with the sliced lemon which will go into the sauce after it roasts. The meatballs and lemon roast together while a pot of water boils for the pasta and a simple robust mediterranean sauce sautes. Then toss together the pasta and sauce with some of the pasta cooking water. Then top it off with the meatballs, and viola– dinner is served.
What Wine Shall I Serve?
The mediterranean flavors in the sauce– garlic, condensed roasted lemon, and Kalamata olives– were perfect with the Willamette Valley wine producer Anne Amie 2019 Pinot Gris. 15% of the Pinot Gris barrels in this vintage were fermented in neutral barrels and aged on the lees, giving it a soft, round mouthfeel not often found in a Pinot Gris. This very enjoyable wine is found within our 101-mile sourcing radius!
In general, a dry white wine with some citrus and minerality will be a perfect match. Experiment and have fun finding those that you most enjoy.
Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta
For the Meatballs
- 1 cup panko or purchased bread crumbs both are available in gluten-free options
- ¾ cup milk, dairy or plant
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ cups grated zucchini squeezed of moisture in a clean kitchen towel
- 1 pound ground turkey 94% lean will be juicier than 99% lean
- 1 ¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese reserve ¼ cup for serving. For dairy-free, replace this with 1-2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast.
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder, optional
- 1 large or two smaller lemons, sliced ⅛" thin
For the Pasta and Roasted Lemon Sauce
- ¾ pound spaghetti or bucatini or gluten free pasta
- extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 cups zucchini, diced in about ⅜" pieces
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flake
- ⅔ cup Kalamata olives or other black olives, roughly chopped
- roasted lemon slices, above, chopped into small pieces the lemon slices will roast at the same time at the meatballs, so they are included in the above ingredient list
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley or basil for garnish
Make the Meatballs
- Line a sheet pan with foil and spray it with oil spray. Preheat the oven to 375°.
- In a large mixing bowl stir together the panko and milk and let rest for 5 minutes while the crumbs absorb the milk. Add the squeezed grated zucchini, turkey, 1 cup parmesan, garlic salt, and onion powder, if using. Mix everything together with you hands until thoroughly combined.
- Use an ice cream or cookie scoop to form the meatballs, rinsing your hands in cold water to smooth the balls and place them on the sheet pan. (This makes 12-14 meatballs, depending on the size of your scoop.) Place lemon slices around the meatballs on the foil-lined sheet. Bake the meatballs for about 20 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and the lemon slices have softened. Some of them may have browned edges.
- When the lemon slices are cool enough to handle, stack them up on a cutting board and cut them into quarters. Set aside for the sauce.
Make the Pasta and Roasted Lemon Zucchini Sauce
- While the meatballs are in the oven, bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve one cup of pasta water.
- While the water is boiling, place enough olive oil to amply cover the bottom of your largest skillet over medium-high heat. It may seem like a lot, but the oil will become your pasta sauce so be generous. When the oil is hot add the zucchini, shaking the pan to settle the zucchini in to the pan. Leave it to brown without stirring for 2 – 3 minutes. Stir the zucchini around and shake the pan again, and add the shallot, garlic, salt, and red pepper flake on top. Adjust the temperature if needed to allow the browning to continue without burning, stirring every 2 minutes or so until all the vegetables are lightly caramelized and cooked through, about 8 minutes total.
- With the heat still on the skillet, add the Kalamata olives and reserved roasted lemon to the zucchini mixture. Use tongs to lift the al dente pasta into the skillet with the sauce. Add ½ cup of the pasta water and use tongs to mix the sauce and pasta together. As the water absorbs you may want to add the rest of the water, tossing the pasta and sauce together as it becomes silky and coats the pasta.
- Serve the pasta and sauce on plates or bowls, and the nestle in meatballs on top. Garnish with the remaining parmesan and parsley or basil. Drizzle with additional olive oil if desired.