Ever wondered if healthy, easy, homemade turkey meatballs that aren’t dry as cardboard even exist? These tender meatballs oozing with melted mozzarella just may coax even your pickiest eater to make it through dinner without a single complaint.–Renee Schettler Rossi

A patterned bowl filled with turkey meatballs with angel hair pasta, and a piece of bread and glass of white wine next to the bowl.

Turkey Meatballs with Angel Hair Pasta

4.86 / 7 votes
Turkey meatballs with angel hair pasta is a healthy, kid-friendly pasta dinner made with ground turkey and bread crumbs and stuffed with mozzarella. Exactly what you need the next time it’s a weeknight and you’re wondering what’s for dinner.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories557 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour


  • 1/2 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 20 cubes (3 oz) mozzarella cheese (about 1/2 inch [12-mm] cubes)
  • A little olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)


  • In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  • Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the ground turkey, egg, and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Take a pinch of the turkey meatball mixture and sizzle it in a skillet over medium or medium-high heat until its cooked through. Taste and, if desired, adjust the seasoning in the remaining turkey meatball mixture.)
  • Press a small handful of the turkey mixture around each cheese cube to make 20 meatballs.
  • Heat about 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron or non stick skillet over medium heat. Cook the meatballs until golden brown on the outside and cooked through on the inside, 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs and the exact heat of the burner.
  • Toss the garlic, thyme, and butter into the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes more.
  • Add the chicken stock, parsley, and cooked pasta, and cook, gently tossing, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning accordingly and serve immediately.  If desired, sprinkle with cheese.
3 Times a Day Cookbook

Adapted From

Three Times a Day

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 557 kcalCarbohydrates: 49 gProtein: 42 gFat: 21 gSaturated Fat: 11 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gTrans Fat: 0.5 gCholesterol: 156 mgSodium: 284 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2016 Marilou Champagne | Alexandre Champagne. Photo © 2016 Alexandre Champagne. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I’ve found a new way to liven up turkey meatballs! Often I go for heavy spicing to add some zing, or toss them into turkey meatball soup, but stuffing the meatballs with cheese is a different way to change things up. Having the cheese ooze out as you bite into the meatball (just as with arancini rice balls) is a bit of a treat (or a surprise for someone who’s not in the kitchen during the meal prep) makes a simple pasta and meat dish just a little more special.

I tend to go for a thicker pasta to serve with meatballs, but the angel hair pasta worked fine here. It cooks very quickly, so it’s important not to overcook the angel hair pasta on the first go-round in the water since it cooks a little further at the end. It’s also important to center the cheese and seal the meatballs well so the cheese doesn’t come out in the pan as they cook.

I got 13 meatballs that were about 2 inches in diameter. I used all turkey thigh meat and commercially packaged low-moisture part-skim mozzarella. I found it a bit difficult to mix the pasta up with the contents of the skillet with all of the meatballs in there. Next time, I think I will keep all of the meatballs out until everything is combined and then return them to the pan. It could have used more garlic, if it is going to be touted as “garlicky.”

I’m not normally a big fan of turkey burgers, turkey meatballs, etc., but this dish has been smartly constructed to deliver flavor from several components that all come together perfectly in the finished dish. The flavors of the thyme, garlic and parsley really come through and the mozzarella “surprise” inside the meatballs not only makes the dish more interesting but helps to overcome one of the most common flaws of turkey meatballs —the lack of moisture. I also think that using such a small amount of bread crumbs helped, although this made the raw meatball mixture very soft and a bit difficult to handle.

I bought organic chopped turkey meat which appeared to be all white meat, although the package did not specify. I calculated that based on 1 pound of chopped meat, the meat balls should weigh just under an ounce and that yielded exactly 20 medium-size meatballs. I fried the meatballs in 2 batches and added the first batch back to the pan before I added any of the remaining ingredients. The dish only took a few minutes to be thoroughly heated after the stock was added at the end. The angel hair pasta absorbed most of the sauce, so a little of the pasta water or some more stock might help to add a little more moisture to the finished dish. A little more salt and pepper at the end really helped.

The dish will easily serve 4 and takes about an hour of hands-on time from start to finish.

What makes this dish stand out is that it’s not only full of flavor and satisfying but also relatively light compared with other pasta and meatball recipes. It’s a family friendly and affordable meal that you can get on the table pretty quickly.

The meatballs come together easily. I bought 3 mozzarella sticks and cut each into 7 1/2-inch cubes, which gave me the 20 cubes I needed (plus one to snack on). I ended up using 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper to season the meatball mixture. Using a 1 1/2-inch scoop for the meatballs, I got 19 meatballs total. I used my cast iron skillet to brown the meatballs. After adding the rest of the ingredients and finishing with a sprinkle of salt, I served the dish right from the skillet. A generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese would be wonderful.

I’m always on the lookout for a new pasta recipe and this one benefits by including turkey. It was an easy recipe to make and the sauce was light enough to make and consume on a hot summer day. Preparation was quick and only the mozzarella was not already available in my pantry. This would be a good candidate for an unplanned dinner with friends.

Meatballs with a surprise cube of cheese inside are fun as well as tasty.

I had cooked a small meatball to see if I needed to add any seasoning, and I did not need to. Where this fell short for us was the amount of garlic in the “sauce” that covered the angel hair pasta. I took care of this when I reheated our leftovers. I cooked 3 large cloves of garlic that I had chopped and cooked them slowly in olive oil, and then added the leftover pasta and meatballs. This was really delicious. The pieces of garlic had browned ever so slightly and added a lot to the dish. At the table I added Aleppo pepper to my dish of pasta. I loved that variation.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 4 stars
    We had some leftover mozzarella and in searching for something to do with it, I found this recipe. And am I glad I did! The meatballs don’t have a ton of flavor but the mozzarella adds nice creaminess while the thyme and garlic kick the whole thing up a notch. It’s great when you crack into a meatball and the melted cheese oozes out. We found the angel hair to be the perfect pasta. Best of all, the dish was on the table in an hour.

    1. A superb way to use up ingredients, Greg. We are so pleased that you enjoyed this and that it turned out so well. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  2. 5 stars
    I have lost count on which number tonight was in making this dish, which is why I was surprised I had not posted! So thought I best post because it really is yummy! This is easy, delicious, and definitely has been in my rotation for a few years. We are actually mid-June, and it was a rainy Friday night so this was my go-to instead of the grill. My partner LOVES this and could probably eat it a few times a week. But lots of leftovers so he is covered! Thanks as always for the great recipes that keep on giving! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Made this tonight. Wow! For some reason my expectations were pretty low and it was fabulous. I had some campari tomatoes on hand and some baby spinach so I threw the tomatoes chunked up in the sauce to simmer, and the baby spinach I put in the colander before I drained the angel hair so it would steam. Delicious! I did sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan over before serving. Next time, and there will be a next time, I think I’ll pop the meatballs in the oven after browning to finish cooking instead of simmering in the sauce, I like the idea of them keeping their crispy texture. I also think next time I’ll add a squeeze of lemon to the sauce and some lemon zest. I served it with roasted asparagus, but I think next time I’ll cut the asparagus into bite sized pieces, roast it, and add it also. Thank you for the recommendation to sprinkle with salt, I did that before the parmesan, ground some pepper too, very pleased with this recipe.

    1. Terrific! I tend to be very skeptical of any recipe that uses ground turkey in place of beef, so I can understand your low expectations. But we were astounded at just how lovely the recipe turned out. Glad that you feel the same and love that you’re making the recipe your own.

      1. 5 stars
        I made this again tonight. Truly an amazing recipe, I urge anyone considering it to try it. Next time I have to increase the meatball mixture at least 1 1/2 times because my 16 year old and my hubby were bummed there wasn’t leftovers for their lunches. A (mostly) healthy recipe. I am thrilled to have discovered it, thank you so much for bringing it to your readers’ attention.

        1. You are so very welcome, Mom24! Music to my ears! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your kind words. You made my day, my week, my month! Because you and your family and your experience with this recipe are exactly the reason we do everything that we do.