Tapas-style turkey meatballs call for a mix of light and dark meat. They’re healthful and lean, but also quite moist and tender. (Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post)

Tapas-style turkey meatballs call for a mix of light and dark meat. They’re healthful and lean, but also quite moist and tender. (Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post)

These tapas-style turkey meatballs make great party nibbles

They are so good and so versatile, you might want to make a double batch.

A batch of these saucy, Spanish-style meatballs could serve you well this week in multiple ways. They can be made several days in advance so they are ready in the refrigerator, waiting to answer any number of calls for good food fast, with just a quick reheat.

Their mini size makes them a toothpick-friendly party food — one that is enthusiastically embraced at a potluck or as a casual nibble for friends who drop in for drinks. They are a lip-smacking dinner-at-the-ready served in a bowl with a simple side salad and some crusty bread for sopping up their smoky, tangy tomato sauce. And when you can’t stop to sit down, you can pile them — hot or cold — into a whole-grain roll, maybe topped with some fresh spinach leaves, and wrap it up to go.

Also, I have been known to pregame by nibbling a few before an event when I am unsure if or when food will be served. Using a mix of light- and dark-meat turkey keeps these meatballs lean and well in the healthy zone, but insures they are also quite moist and tender. They are so good and so versatile, you might want to make a double batch.

Tapas-style turkey meatballs

Make ahead: The formed, uncooked meatballs need a 30-minute chill in the refrigerator.

1 pound ground turkey, all dark meat or a mix of light and dark (92 or 93 percent lean)

⅓ cup dried whole-grain bread crumbs

1 small onion, half of it minced and half of it cut into small dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1¼ teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika (sweet; pimenton)

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

15 ounces canned, no-salt-added tomato sauce

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Pinch cayenne pepper, or more as needed


Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, the minced onion, half of the garlic, the egg, parsley, ½ teaspoon of the smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon of the salt and the black pepper in a mixing bowl, then use your clean hands to mix and create a well-blended mixture. Form into 24 small meatballs of equal size (about 1 inch in diameter). Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (to firm up).

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add half the chilled meatballs to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes, turning them 2 or 3 times, until they are browned all over. Transfer them to a plate. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet, then repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding them to the others once they’re browned.

Reduce the heat to medium; add the diced onion to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until it has softened a bit. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add the tomato sauce (it will sizzle and splatter a bit), the vinegar and the remaining ¾ teaspoon of smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon salt and the cayenne pepper. Once the sauce mixture is bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low; carefully return all the meatballs to the skillet, tossing to coat them (the sauce will not cover the meatballs). Cover the skillet and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat further as needed, until the meatballs are cooked through, and adding water a tablespoon at a time to loosen the sauce if it seems too thick. Taste, and add a bit more cayenne, as needed.

Serve warm.

Makes 6 to 12 servings (appetizer or main-course; makes 24 meatballs). Nutrition per serving (based on 12): 120 calories, 9 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 45 milligrams cholesterol, 240 milligrams sodium, 0 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams sugar.

Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and cookbook author.

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