In this recipe, I took a traditional, beloved dish and made it heart-healthy without sacrificing flavor. I swapped out red fatty meat for lean turkey, white bread for whole-grain bread, and deep-frying for air-frying, achieving the same delicious results. My husband and I came from two different worlds: He was a triathlete eating seeds and gels and rarely ate vegetables. I told him on our first date, “I’ll take care of your stomach if you take care of my heart.” Allan inspired me by example and encouraged me to embrace exercise as a lifestyle habit. This has had a trickle effect on our entire family, and I taught him to appreciate and love food and embrace the Mediterranean lifestyle — focusing on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Swap options: This same recipe can be used with ground beef, ground chicken and even plant-based “meat” to make it vegetarian. In addition, if you don’t have Calabrian chili paste, you can swap in Italian red pepper flakes.
Special equipment required: The air fryer achieves that golden crust on outside and moistness on inside without added fat. if you don’t have one, use the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 350 F and place on broil for final few minutes.
Put bread in a bowl and add enough warm water to cover (you can also use milk, if you like). Let stand for minimum 5 minutes, turning to moisten evenly.
To another bowl, add turkey, garlic, parsley, 1 egg, Parm, salt and chili paste, and combine. Take bread out of bowl with clean hands, squeeze out excess liquid and place into mixture. Repeat until all bread is placed in second bowl. Knead the mixture for at least 3 to 5 minutes with your hands, until uniformly combined and smooth (if mixture is dry, add another egg).
Wash hands clean and place a little olive oil on palms and rub. Pinch a full tablespoon of meat into your palm and lightly shape into a ball. Place on a baking sheet and continue with the rest of the mixture.
Please ensure meatballs are all approximately the same size, roughly 2 ounces.
Brush bottom of air fryer with canola or avocado oil spray. In addition, lightly brush meatballs all around.
Set temperature to 350 F and cook for about 12 minutes, pausing twice to shake. Do not overcrowd air fryer; work in batches.
Set temperature to 400 F for final 3 to 4 minutes, until meatballs are golden.
Optional: Serve on a bed of sautéed spinach.
Note: If you plan to place meatballs in a sauce, you can stop cooking a little earlier and continue cooking process in the sauce. These meatballs can be eaten alone or with a sauce and it freezes really well.