Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs with Gravy & Red Wine Cranberry Sauce friendsgiving recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs with Gravy & Red Wine Cranberry Sauce 

Sick of the same roast turkey every year? Want to switch it up? These turkey meatballs are tender and easy to make and have all of the delicious components of a Thanksgiving dinner when they are smothered in homemade gravy and cranberry sauce. I like to top the meatballs and sauce over a heaping pile of mashed potatoes with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. 

This is a great roast turkey alternative dish for a smaller Thanksgiving dinner or a friendsgiving gathering. This year I will be attending three separate celebrations with friends and honestly I can only eat so much plain roast turkey. Substituting Thanksgiving turkey meatballs for roast turkey ensures you would overdo it on the main dish before you even get to your family’s party. 

Instead of leaving the ciabatta to dry out overnight the process can me moved along by adding the cubed bread to a baking sheet and cooking at 350ºF for about 15 minutes until dried out.



For the thanksgiving turkey meatballs:

2½ cups 1” cubed ciabatta bread 

1 pound ground turkey (95/5)

3 cloves garlic, minced 

1 egg

1/3 cup shredded smoked Gouda 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage 

½ teaspoon kosher salt, as needed

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, as needed 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 


For the red wine cranberry sauce: 

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup dry red wine

12 ounces fresh cranberries 

¼ teaspoon kosher salt 

1 teaspoon orange zest


For the gravy:  

3 tablespoons turkey fat (drippings from the roasted meatballs supplemented unsalted butter if needed) 

1 medium shallot, quartered 

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups beef stock 

½ teaspoon black peppercorns 

3 sage leaves 

2 tablespoons heavy cream 



For the thanksgiving turkey meatballs:

Spread the cubes of ciabatta bread on a baking sheet and leave out overnight to dry out. Once the bread is stale add to a food processor and pulse until breadcrumbs form. Set aside 1 cup for the meatballs and reserve the remaining breadcrumbs for another use. 

Heat oven to 450ºF. 

Add the ciabatta breadcrumbs to a medium mixing bowl with the ground turkey, garlic, egg, smoked gouda, sage, salt and pepper. Use hands to gently combine the mixture, being careful not to over-mix. 

Divide the mixture into ¼ cup portions and roll into balls. Grease a baking dish with the olive oil then arrange the meatballs in the dish. 

Roast for 20 minutes, until the meatballs are completely cooked through. 


For the red wine cranberry sauce: 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar with the red wine and ½ cup water. Continue to stir until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add the cranberries and salt, cooking until the sauce has thickened and the cranberries have burst, about 10 minutes. Stir in the orange zest and set aside until ready to serve. 


For the gravy:  

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the pan drippings (or butter) and heat through, then add the shallot and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook, whisking constantly, until the roux turns a golden brown color, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the beef stock, peppercorns and sage and bring the mixture to a boil. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Whisk in the heavy cream. 


For serving: Serve the meatballs over mashed potatoes or polenta and ladle the gravy and cranberry sauce over the top. 


Makes about 1½ dozen meatballs. 





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