As a child, each visit to my grandparents’ New Jersey town meant dinner at our most beloved Italian eatery. This charming seventy-five year old gem of a restaurant was—and still is—our place for crusty bread, spaghetti and meatballs, gorgeous green salads, and most importantly: family. My appetizer-style recipe homage to these wonderfully familiar childhood flavors: crisp, chewy Ciabatta slices topped with herbaceous turkey meatballs, bright citrusy arugula, and nutty shaved Parmesan.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 medium shallots, minced 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, finely chopped and rinsed 2 medium garlic cloves, minced 2 teaspoons dried oregano Salt and pepper
  • For the Basil Marinara: 1 tablespoon tomato paste 2 fresh tomatoes, rough chopped 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped 1/2 cup grated Parmesan 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves Salt and pep
  • For the Turkey Meatballs: 1 pound ground turkey meat 1/2 cup breadcrumbs 1/2 cup grated Parmesan 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped Salt and pepper 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • For the Crostini: 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon butter 1 loaf Ciabatta, cut into slices 1/2-inch thick Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups fresh arugula Juice and zest of 1 lemon 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt and pepper 1/4 cup Parmesan ribbons, shaved with a peeler
For the sauce, In a deep pot, heat the oil over medium heat until sizzling.  Add the shallots, leeks, garlic, oregano and a big pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Scoop out half of the shallot/garlic/leek mixture, put into a large bowl, and set aside for the meatballs.  

To the pot, add the tomato paste and fresh tomatoes, and stir well to combine.  Add the crushed tomatoes, thyme, parsley, parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Using an immersion blender (or transfer marinara to a regular blender). buzz sauce until smooth. Turn the heat to low, tear in the remaining fresh basil leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Move onto the meatballs.

To the bowl with your cooled shallots, garlic and leeks, add the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, parmesan, thyme, parsley and basil.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Form into equal size meatballs, using about 1/4 cup of the mixture for each one.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and sear meatballs until golden and browned on the outside, about 30-45 seconds per side.  Drop meatballs into the marinara and let simmer for at least 15 minutes.

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat until sizzling. Brown each crostini slice until golden, about 1-2 minutes per side.  Sprinkle all pieces with salt and pepper.  If crostini slices are very long, cut in half to make for a more hand-held appetizer.  In a bowl, gently toss arugula with the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  

To assemble: Remove meatballs from marinara and slice into thirds.  Arrange crostini slices on a platter and top with a drop of marinara and several pieces of meatball.  Garnish with a pinch of the arugula salad and the shaved parmesan.  Note: Save additional marinara for pasta night!