This easy recipe for Turkey Pesto Meatballs uses ground turkey, pesto and parmesan that are perfectly baked into delicious meatballs. These meatballs are great for spaghetti and other pasta dishes, meatball subs, pizza toppings and so much more.
Update May 2021 // Almost 10 years later and I still make these all the time. They are a staple in the Hester House. I haven’t changed the recipe at all, just updated some of the photos and made a video. I hope that these are added to the rotation at your house too.
Last night a miracle occurred at our house. Every single person in my house ate the same exact thing for dinner. No one complained. No one whined. No dishes were strewn by an unruly toddler. It was the best night EVER!
These turkey pesto meatballs are a staple meal in our house. William requests these turkey meatballs every few days, so we eat them a lot. They are really easy to make, relatively healthy and they make a ton, so you get two dinners for the price of one!
I sometimes make my own sauce (which I have included the recipe for), but I have also used a jar of sauce in a pinch. We usually eat one batch over spaghetti and use the other half for meatballs sandwiches. I use turkey breast but have also used ground chicken, and they are delicious as well.
For the meatballs:
- Ground Turkey Breast – is pretty bland on it’s own but made into meatballs? Game changer. I buy my ground turkey from ButcherBox. (affiliate link)
- Bread Crumbs – can be purchased from the store or quickly made by grinding down stale, dry bread.
- Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper – enhances the flavor of the meatballs.
- Pesto Sauce – Store-bought or homemade works great.
- Grated Parmesan Cheese – adds moisture to the ground turkey breast and dry bread crumbs.
- Egg Whites – in meatballs help bind everything together into bite size balls
For the sauce (if using):
- Onions & Carrots – add rich, complex flavor to sauces. They also add a better texture.
- Tomato Paste – enhances the tomato flavor and adds depth to the sauce.
- Garlic – adds distinctive homemade Italian-inspired flavor.
- Can of Crushed Tomatoes – I use San Marzano tomatoes. I love the texture crushed tomatoes gives to a simple red sauce.
- Bay Leaves – are a great way to add a lot of flavor to quick-cooking sauces.
- Salt & Pepper – balances the sweetness and acidity.
How to Make // The Steps
- Mix all meatball ingredients in a bowl and combine well. Roll mixture into balls. I use an ice cream scoop to make them all the same size.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. I prefer baking these on a greased cooling rack placed on top of a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes.
- While the meatballs are baking, I like to start on the sauce (if using). Saute the onions and carrots until tender, about 10 minutes over medium heat.
- Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and let simmer over low heat for about an hour. The sauce should thicken a bit.
- Add the meatballs back in to heat through and serve over your favorite pasta. Enjoy!
Tips & Tricks
- I never make a single batch. I always double the recipe and freeze half for another meal. I promise it will help you on a busy night!
- Take a shortcut. I don’t always make my own sauce. If I’m being completely honest, I’m a jarred-sauce-kind-of-girl these days.
- To make the turkey pesto meatball mixture easier to roll into balls, chill it in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
- Do your best to get each meatball the same size, so they cook evenly. You can use a small ice cream scoop or a food scale.
Why are Turkey Pesto Meatballs So Good?
- My entire family loves these meatballs. The pesto adds so much flavor while still keeping them really light.
- They go on everything! Pasta, sub rolls, pizza, or just straight from the fork!
- I use ground turkey breast, but you can use dark meat turkey or even ground chicken.
- Pesto can be made with more than just basil. You can make homemade pesto with peppery greens like arugula and spinach, as well as herbs like parsley, sage and tarragon.
- Make mozzarella stuffed pesto turkey meatballs! Poke a hold in each meatball, fill the whole with a ball of mozzarella and then bake.
Serving Suggestions //
These are really delicious with red sauce and pasta (obviously), but there’s no need to just use red sauce. A creamy pesto sauce or an alfredo are also amazing with these meatballs. You could also use them in a meatball sub, as a pizza topping (I cut them in half) or straight up on a plate with a side of roasted vegetables. These are so good. Make these and share them with your family. Hopefully, they will become a staple in your house too.
How to Store //
Store homemade meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days
Make-Ahead and Freezer Options
Let cooked meatballs cool to room temperature. Flash freeze meatballs by placing them on a baking sheet until frozen solid. Then, store frozen meatballs in a freezer-safe bag for 3- 4 months.
FAQ’s for Making Turkey Pesto Meatballs //
The correct ratio of ground turkey to bread crumbs/egg is a good start. Lucky for you, this tried and true recipe calls for the perfect amounts of each.
You sure can. Just be sure to select lean ground beef, or if using a fattier ground beef, you may need to use more breadcrumbs to compensate for the extra moisture.
Ground turkey is lower in saturated fat than ground beef making it a more heart-healthy option.
When cut in half, meat should be no longer pink and completely cooked through. The internal temperature should be 165 degrees.