Summer Meatballs

Jonathan Player for The New York Times


  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 stalk celery, trimmed
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  •  Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  •  Salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3 cups passata (available at specialty food markets) or puréed canned tomatoes
  • ½ cup  coconut milk


  • ½ pound ground turkey
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 3 tablespoons gluten bread crumbs or ground flaxseed
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup freshly grated pecorino Romano
  • ½ cup finely chopped basil leaves
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • ½ cup chopped basil leaves
  •  whole basil leaves


    1. To prepare sauce: in bowl of a food processor, combine onion, garlic, celery, carrot and lemon zest. Process until minced. Place large saucepan or flameproof casserole over medium-low heat, and add oil and butter. Add minced vegetables and salt to taste. Sauté gently until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes.
    2. Add sugar, passata and 2 cups water. Cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Add milk, and cook, uncovered, 15 minutes more. Meanwhile, begin preparing meatballs.
    3. To prepare meatballs: in a large bowl, combine ground turkey, ground pork, bread crumbs, garlic and egg; mix well. Add pecorino, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until thoroughly blended.
    4. Line a large baking sheet with plastic wrap. Dampen hands with cold water, and roll rounded teaspoonfuls of meatball mixture, placing meatballs on sheet; there should be about 80. Add meatballs to simmering sauce, shaking pan gently to make room as they are dropped in; do not stir. Simmer, partly covered, until meat is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
    5. To serve, transfer meatballs and sauce to a serving bowl, and sprinkle with pine nuts and whole basil leaves. Serve, if desired, with cooked rice, garnishing each serving with more pine nuts and chopped basil.