One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce

These One-Pan Bison Meatballs come together in just under an hour, with only 15 minutes of hands-on time. They’re tender and juicy, and perfectly complimented by charred broccolini, an herby tomato sauce and melted Fontina cheese.

An overhead shot of a pan of bison meatballs with broccolini and tomato sauce. The pan is tied off with a hand towel and there are tomatoes and bread on either side.

If you’ve never treated yourself to bison before, you’re in for a huge treat with these One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce! They’re tender and juicy and full of flavor. In fact, you may never want to go back to regular old ground beef again.

BISON VS. BEEF

You can think of bison as beef’s fancier and more flavorful cousin, although, bison is actually lower in calories and higher in protein than both ground beef and turkey. It does tend to be more expensive, so I say save the bison for a once-in-a-while treat as opposed to an everyday thing.

You can usually find ground bison wherever ground beef is sold. In fact, I found a high-quality double-pack of ground bison at Costco. I popped one of the packages in the freezer (because we all know how helpful it is to have freezer options on hand!) and used the other one to make these delicious One-Pan Bison Meatballs.

HOW TO COOK IT

When it comes to cooking, ground bison can be prepared in the exact same way ground beef is prepared. Aside from meatballs, you could also use ground bison to make burgers (bison burgers are a favorite of mine), taco meat or even a meat sauce for over pasta.

A close-up view of One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce with some crusty bread in the background.

But today we’re here to talk about meatballs, so let’s get to it!

LET’S MAKE SOME MEATBALLS!

Making the meatball mixture itself is the longest hands-on part of the process, and you’re going to have to get a little bit dirty. After all, I find the best way to mix up some meatballs is to get your hands in the mixing bowl to blend it all together.

You’re going to throw all of the typical meatball ingredients into the mix – egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, shallots, oregano – you don’t need anything special because, when it comes to bison, it already has so much flavor.

I guess this recipe is technically a two-dish one (if you count the mixing bowl), but once it comes to cooking, you’ll only need a large cast iron skillet [*affiliate link] to make these meatballs come to life.

You’re going to place your meatballs in a piping hot cast iron skillet on the stove first – you want to give them a good sear so they have that nice crispy outside before baking – then pour all of the tomato sauce ingredients over top (with the exception of the pancetta, which goes in first so you can use some of the oil for cooking the meatballs). Top all this with broccolini and delicious grated Fontina, throw it in the oven for just under 30 minutes (boil up some pasta or quinoa while you’re waiting) and – voila! – your One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce are ready to be devoured by the fam.

A plate of pasta topped with bison meatballs, broccolini and tomato sauce.

Have you ever tried cooking with ground bison before? Let me know in the comments below!

One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

These One-Pan Bison Meatballs come together in just under an hour, with only 15 minutes of hands-on
time. They’re tender and juicy, and perfectly complimented by charred broccolini, an herby tomato sauce and melted Fontina cheese.







Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: bison, dinner, family-friendly, Italian, kid-friendly, meatballs, one-pan
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 636 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground bison
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs or panko
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Other ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 8 ounces broccolini
  • 3 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Place all meatball ingredients in a mixing bowl and, using hands, blend together until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

  3. Begin heating 2 tablespoons olive oil in cast iron skillet on stove over medium heat. Add pancetta and begin cooking, stirring occasionally while you form your meatballs. Also add the garlic at this time.

  4. Form meatballs into 2- to 3-inch rounds and place in cast iron skillet along with pancetta (which should be mostly cooked by now.) Allow meatballs to sear (about 2 minutes) and then flip them over to get the other side browned as well.

  5. Turn heat down and add entire can of tomatoes (including juice.) Sprinkle basil over top and tuck broccolini in amongst everything.

  6. Finally, sprinkle the entire mixture with Fontina cheese and place in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.

  7. Serve over cooked quinoa or pasta and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

DISH DENSITY: Medium

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze

Perfectly moist, cheese-y Turkey Cranberry Meatballs are studded with dried cranberries and topped with a tangy cranberry, orange and maple glaze. The perfect appetizer or main dish for entertaining! 

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

These Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze are going to be your new favorite thing. Pinky promise.  They’re perfectly sweet and tart at the same time, yet laced with savory herbs and cheese…and did I mention they’re drenched in the most fabulous, winter fruit-y glaze? C’monnnnn…You know you want to make these for your next holiday get-together!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time now, you’ll know that I love anything that can pass for an hors d’oeuvres OR a full-fledged dinner. Take, for example, these Asiago Chipotle Shrimp Toasts or these Crab Zucchini Stuffing Cakes with Lemon-Basil Aioli. I mean, if you’re going to nail a recipe, you might as well nail one that can multitask, am I right?

These Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze most definitely fit the multitasking bill. I mean, I wouldn’t even be made if these showed up on the table for brunch. They do, after all, have a hefty serving of antioxidant-packed fruit AND protein. Can we get a heck ya?

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

A little BTS look at the development of what has become one of my go-to, most tasty recipes of the season: I actually had to practice these meatballs (and the accompanying sauce) a couple of times to really nail down the recipe. For the first go-around, the meatballs came out just a bit too dry and the sauce was just wayyyy too spicy yet tart at the same time. Even with a trip to Quebec City looming ahead of me, I just couldn’t bring myself to post the recipe as it was. I take this food blogging job very seriously and would hate to lead you astray with something I wasn’t completely happy with!

But then, oh but then. Round two of Turkey Cranberry Meatballs recipe testing began and the finished product was just showstopping! Hence, why I’m so very excited to share it with you today.

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

So, because I thought the meatballs were too dry the first time I tried this recipe, I decided to add some whole-milk ricotta in addition to the milk, Parmesan and egg. It gave these balls the perfect, even cheesier touch. I was a little worried that they would fall flat in the oven, but no sir-ee! They turned out just perfect.

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

For the glaze, I decided to tone down the orange juice and red pepper flakes and use maple syrup instead of sugar to add some extra dimension to the sweetener. These were the perfect adjustments! The glaze turned out perfectly sweet with just a hint of savory spice from the addition of some chicken broth and the pepper flakes.

The other great thing about these Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze is that they are sooo easy to prepare. All of the ingredients for the meatballs come together in one bowl, and the glaze can be made while the meatballs complete their first round in the oven.

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

We douse the meatballs in the glaze before the second round of baking, which results in them being perfectly moist and marinated. Once they’re done cooking through, the meatballs are ready to be served!

The hubs and I enjoyed these over some whole wheat pasta, but you could also serve them (as I mentioned) with toothpicks as an appetizer, or even over mashed potatoes or some sort of grain. I’m also thinking some Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze might be over-the-top delicious sandwiched in a hoagie roll or hot dog bun? Danggggg….I think I need to go make myself another batch now….

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

Perfectly moist, cheese-y meatballs studded with dried cranberries and topped with a tangy cranberry, orange and maple glaze. The perfect appetizer or main dish for entertaining!

Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 18 meatballs
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the meatballs:
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup panko (or breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel pollen
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the glaze:
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Place dried cranberries in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, until cranberries become plump. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Add the olive oil to a small saute pan over medium heat. Once olive oil is heated, add the shallot and garlic, and saute for about 3 minutes, or until mixture becomes fragrant. Remove from heat.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground turkey, milk, egg, Parmesan, panko, ricotta, thyme, fennel pollen, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Drain the cranberries from their water and add them as well, stirring the whole mixture until all ingredients are well combined. 

  4. Coat a large baking dish (I used one that was 8 ½” x 12”) with nonstick cooking spray. Take approximately 1/3 cups’ worth of the meatball mixture at a time and mold it into a ball. Place in baking dish and repeat with rest of mixture. It’s okay if you have to pack them in tight to fit them all.

  5. Bake meatballs in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. 

  6. In the meantime, start making your glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and cook until cranberries break down and a loose glaze forms. 

  7. When time is up for the meatballs, remove them from the oven and turn it down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If the glaze isn’t quite ready yet, just leave the meatballs out until it is (it shouldn’t be too long.)

  8. When the glaze is ready, pour it over the meatballs and return them to the now 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve warm.

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs with Cranberry, Orange and Maple Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

 

Oh yesssssss….