Spagheti con Polpette di Tacchino al Limoncello a.k.a Limoncello Pasta with Lemon Turkey Meatballs

Serves 3 – 4

Forget about, “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade.” Instead, When Life Gives You Lemons…Make LIMONCELLO PASTA.

Spagheti con Polpette di Tacchino al Limoncello a.k.a Limoncello Pasta with Lemon Turkey Meatballs

This recipe came about when we were on a super tight budget and needed a dish that was quick and easy to make. It’s a weeknight dish that’s impressive enough to serve at a dinner party. We always have limoncello, Parmigiano Reggiano (must have in any refrigerator), pasta and heavy cream. It’s one of those recipes to keep on hand for anytime. You can make it with the meatballs or swap it for shrimp, scallops or chicken. It’s the perfect spring dish but can be made summer, autumn or winter. Since it’s almost spring here, you can make it a meatless option, with asparagus or garden peas. It would be fantastic combination.

The turkey meatballs recipe is from my dear friend and fellow South African Dale at which was a match made in food heaven, they are divine. Her recipe is for chicken patties which I made minor adjustments to make them into meatballs. The recipe uses preserved lemon paste which is available at Middle Eastern stores or on Amazon, it’s optional but I highly recommend it. I needed the preserved lemon paste immediately and Whole Foods usually carries it but my local store didn’t, so I used regularly preserved lemons and processed it in the blender for this recipe.

Tips: Use a paper towel and wipeout the skillet that you used for the meatballs. Also used wet hand when forming the meatballs and roll gently for a better texture.

Spagheti con Polpette di Tacchino al Limoncello a.k.a Limoncello Pasta with Lemon Turkey Meatballs


Spagheti con Polpette di Tacchino al Limoncello a.k.a Limoncello Pasta with Lemon Turkey Meatballs

Lemony Turkey Meatballs makes 10-11, 2 inch (5cm) meatballs

  • 1lb (450g) ground turkey or ground chicken
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed into a paste
  • 1 medium lemon, zested
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped and more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons preserved lemon paste available at NY Shuk or this one on Amazon. (optional but highly recommended)
  • ¼ cup (62.5g) plain breadcrumbs additional ½ cup (125g) for coating
  • ¾ lbs (340g) spaghetti

Limoncello Team Sauce

  • 1¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ cup limoncello
  • 1 large lemon peel, cut into strips with a vegetable peeler
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed & peeled (used the flat side of your knife)
  • salt (about 1 teaspoon) and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped plus extra for garnish or 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade.
  • ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated for serving
  • 1 lemon, zested for serving
  1. Prepare Meatballs: Combine all ingredients except the ½ cup (125g)breadcrumbs in a medium-sized bowl and gently mix until everything is evenly distributed. Do not overwork to promote a better texture. Place the ½ cup (125g) breadcrumbs in a plate. In a large skillet with a ¼ cup of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Using a 1-ounce (28g) cookie scoop or a small ice cream scoop, form the meat mixture into 1½ inch (4cm) balls and roll in the breadcrumb to coat. Add the meatballs and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3-4 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown, about 8 minutes in total.
  2. While the meatballs are cooking bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente, according the the package instruction. Reserve a ½ cup of the past water.
  3. Limoncello Sauce: Place the cream, limoncello, lemon peel, lemon juice & garlic in a large skillet over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the cream is slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon. (coat the sauce on a teaspoon and run your finger to form a line if the line holds its ready) Add the chives or basil and simmer for 1 minute.
  4. Assemble: Remove the garlic cloves and lemon peel. Add the meatballs to the sauce and toss to coat, then add the cooked spaghetti. If the sauce is to thick add some of the reserved pasta water but only add a few tablespoons at a time. Serve with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemon zest.


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