Turkey Pesto Meatballs | Weelicious
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Turkey Pesto Meatballs



After posting a picture of these Turkey Pesto Meatballs last week on our Facebook School Lunch photo gallery, I got so many requests for the recipe that I decided I should put it up ASAP!

A weelicious reader emailed me recently saying that she had tried a version of these meatballs at a friend’s house, and while she knew the flavors and ingredients, she could not recall the amounts or how to make them. I love getting requests to figure out recipes because part of the fun for me in testing is discovering new family favorites. I’m so grateful to that reader because everyone under my roof loved these bite-sized gems. Shockingly, the person who ate the most -- Chloe, our 14 month old -- downed six (six!) in one meal. She probably would have eaten the whole batch had I let her, but even babies need to share!! Next time I have to remember to make double the amount.

Turkey Pesto Meatballs  (Serves 4-6)

  • Prep Time: 10 mins,
  • Cook Time: 25 mins,
  • Rating:
    Rate this recipe
After posting a picture of these Turkey Pesto Meatballs last week on our Facebook School Lunch photo gallery, I got so many requests for the recipe that I decided I should put it up ASAP! A weelicious reader emailed me recently saying that she had...


  • 1 1/4 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup pesto (recipe linked below)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (recipe linked below)


  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. 2. Place all the ingredients (except for the marinara sauce) in a bowl and using your hands, combine until everything is incorporated.
  3. 3. Using about 1 tablespoon of the mixture per meatball, roll into balls and place on a plate.
  4. 4. Pour the marinara sauce into a 9 x 9 inch baking pan and top with the meatballs.
  5. 5. Cover the baking pan with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.**
  6. 6. Serve.
  7. To Freeze: Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet and freeze. After 30 minutes place the par-frozen balls in a ziploc bag, label and freeze. When ready, defrost in fridge for 24 hours or put them straight in the oven with sauce increasing cooking time by 5 minutes.

Accompaniments: homemade pesto: http://weelicious.com/2011/01/05/basil-pesto/ homemade tomato sauce: http://weelicious.com/2009/10/06/weelicious-tomato-sauce/

Turkey Pesto Meatballs

Nutrition Information

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  2. Lindsey

    September 14, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    These look great and I love that they are egg free since my daughter is allergic! One question in regards to freezing – Can I bake them right away, freeze them individually and then defrost and reheat when she’s ready to eat them?

    • C. McCord

      September 17, 2015 at 9:28 am

      Yes that should work just fine! If they’re fully cooked before freezing, you should be able to reheat in the microwave or oven until warm.

  3. oh caroline

    June 22, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    These are delicious… the perfect way to use up a jar of defrosted pesto.

    I didn’t try the sauce link — 12-16 oz canned tomatoes blended with about a cup of fresh herbs – I used a few leaves of basil, oregano, thyme and a lot of flat-leaf parsely – along with a small can of tomato paste and a dash of salt and pepper worked really well..

    Thanks for the tasty, fast recipe!

    • oh caroline

      June 22, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      oh yeah, I used almond meal instead of bread crumbs.. a’la gluten free!

  4. Amber

    May 31, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    These were amazing! So yummy I did cook them for extra 10 mins uncovered and they were great! Love the pesto in them :)

  5. Sarah

    May 30, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Hi! I have loved weelicious for several years now! I noticed that the PESTO and HOMEMADE SAUCE links above are not working properly. Can you fix this, please? I know they are in my Weelicious cookbook, but I like to email these recipes to other mommy friends too. Thanks! =)

    • C. McCord

      June 1, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Thank you for the heads up! We have updated the recipe!

  6. Suzanne

    March 18, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I am kosher, too, and I would maybe try adding a little nutritional yeast instead of the parmesan, or just omit it. I think if you used the Ta’amti pareve pesto, it would have enough flavor and you wouldn’t miss the parmesan. I am going to try making these with that and see how they come out!

  7. Maryann

    March 16, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I think I will try this as a meatloaf!

  8. Jennifer Soumekh

    March 2, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    As I am kosher, can can’t combine milk with meat, do you think this recipe would be as delicious if I omit the cheese?

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  13. Robert

    August 6, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    The meatballs should be baked separately on a baking sheet, with the sauce simmering on the side. The recipe makes 20, and I baked them in a 400º F oven for 20 minutes. This got the meatballs to an internal temperature of 160º F, which is just right..

    I covered the meatballs in foil, but I probably should have taken the foil off for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking so they could brown. More importantly, I didn’t have to wait 30 extra minutes for my 2-year old to eat!

  14. fls114psu

    July 23, 2014 at 8:36 am

    We made these and loved them, however, like others say they were not cooked through at 25 minutes. Made them the appropriate size and oven was fully pre-heated. We ended up cooking for 30 minutes and finally a quick microwave zap. Next time (and there will be a next time) I think I will just try 35 minutes.

  15. gobob2000

    June 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Took me double time (50 minutes) to get them fully cooked in my preheated and otherwise very predictable oven. They were raw at 25 minutes. That said, these were absolutely delightful. I barely eat any meat and I had a ton, and my whole family gobbled them down. Thank you!!

  16. Amber

    June 3, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    My 3 year old loves the turkey albondigas that his daycare provider makes for him. I’ve never been able to recreate them even with her recipe. In fact, he has not liked any version of meatball I’ve made for him. Tonight I made these with broccoli pesto and he LOVED them. He ate 8!

  17. Gigi Apple

    May 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    I am these tonight for my 14 month old and had to post a comment! This
    Is the first time I’ve gotten him to touch any meat…he ate 5 in one sitting!!! Awesome easy recipe for him and my husband and I loved them too!!!!!

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  19. amelthea

    February 27, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Dear Turkey Pesto Meatballs: your deliciousness have changed my life. Thank you!

  20. Leigh

    December 19, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Hi, how would you adjust for cooking in a slow cooker?

    • lcurry

      October 8, 2014 at 10:25 am

      I just tried these in slow cooker and poured a little marinara over them to add some necessary liquid. I also read a few other posts and came up with 4 hours on high. Smelled great! Thanks Catherine!

  21. Lisa

    October 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Our son was a great eater as a baby, then he became a toddler and a switch was flipped. Now, he’s super picky often eating nothing at meal time. I made these meatballs while he napped today. He woke up and downed 5 of them. I simmered them in sauce like the recipe called for but he didn’t want the “soup.” I also made them with ground goat as I didn’t have turkey in the house. Your recipes always pass the test!!

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  25. Stephanie

    February 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    These are awesome! My boys are pretty easy to please when it comes to meatballs, but we had a family friend over and her daughter usually refuses to eat meat. She loved these meatballs and even asked for seconds!
    Another wonderful weelicious recipe!

  26. Tamara

    January 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Great recipe– at long last a tender meatball recipe that my twin toddlers will eat! Best part for me is that they don’t require frying before baking… they’re SO MUCH easier/faster to make than every other meatball recipe I’ve tried! Thanks!

  27. AGomez

    January 16, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Mine were also still raw after 25mins with a preheated oven. is it because I’m using a glass baking dish? What kind of dish do you mean when you say a 9×9 baking pan….would metal make a difference? And how deep is the pan?

  28. tiffany

    December 3, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    I’m confused, it says if you want to freeze them, to make the balls and then put them (uncooked) in the freezer. Aren’t you not supposed to refreeze defrosted meat? Or is this under the assumption that the meat was never frozen in the first place?

    • catherine

      December 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      I make these with fresh meat! If you’re using defrosted meat it should be okay to be refrozen after mixing it with the other ingredients, especially if the meat wasn’t frozen too long in the first place. If you’re using meat that you have had in your freezer for 3 months, then you should make these and eat them instead of freezing since the meat is ready to be used up anyway!

  29. cocovolleyball

    December 3, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Wow, these turned out great!! All ingredients from Trader Joe’s; used panko instead of regular breadcrumbs. Used the jarred organic marinara with no added salt. Got my handy 1 inch cookie dough scoop and didn’t pack the meatballs too hard. Cooking time was more like 30 minutes for me.

  30. Beverly Galashan

    November 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Hello. I made these meatballs (as well as the chicken ones made in a sauté pan) and although I found them delicious, my 10 month old was unable to chew them because they were so compact and firm. He has eaten meatballs from the preparred food section of whole foods as well as turkey meatloaf that I make at home. Am I rolling the meatballs too tight or is this just how the recipe works? We used the fresh ground white meat from Wholefoods, in case that is what is missing, the fat.
    My son. Johnny, loves to eat food with his hands so we have tried many of your delicious recipes in search of more exciting options for him. A few of his favorites are the Zucchini Parmesan cakes, baby bolognese, pumpkin pear bread (dangerously delicious) and Mac and cheese chicken bites. Next up to try are the spinach ricotta cakes. We have numerous others that we purée and he gobbled them up.
    Thank you for the wonderful recipes.

    • catherine

      November 16, 2012 at 7:26 pm

      The fat is definitely what was missing. White meat cooks more quickly and will dry out faster which makes things like meatballs and chicken nuggets seem more dense and tough.

  31. Kelly Martin

    November 7, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I have made these loads of times, but tonight they didn’t cook at the same speed. I use a table spoon to measure, but this time I used extra lean turkey instead of lean. I wonder if that made the difference? So weird!

  32. Tiffany

    November 3, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Could I cook them without the sauce? Just put the meatballs on a baking sheet and do it that way? My 3 yr old likes his meatballs plain (we buy frozen ones and he doesn’t like sauce on them).

    • catherine

      November 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      You absolutely can bake them that way!

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  34. D's Mom

    October 22, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve made it three times now and my husband and 18 mo old son love it! We’ve tried it with beef too and we prefer it with turkey, fyi, for anyone who’s wondering. Thanks again!

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  36. Heather

    September 5, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Looks great! How lean is the turkey you use –99% fat free or the 93%?


    • catherine

      September 5, 2012 at 11:31 am


  37. Michele M

    August 26, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I have been making these for our little one as well as the whole family for a while. She LOVES and will request for a meal! Yummy!!! I found they turned out better if I did not roll or pack the ball too tight… keeps it light and cooks better. My husband likes to slice the leftovers for a mini pizza or put in a sub. Thanks for a great meal in our rotation!

  38. D's Mom

    August 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    My husband loved these and he’s a tough judge!! I made these last night, using Trader Joe’s pesto, and then popped them into the oven tonight for dinner. I used Whole Foods 365 Roasted Vegetable pasta sauce. We served them over whole wheat couscous. DELICIOUS! I cant wait for or 16 month old son to try these. Thanks for the recipe and thanks for making it egg-free. (It’s helpful because sometimes we run out!)

  39. catherine

    June 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I haven’t tried that, but I don’t see why not! I’ll have to try it. :)

  40. Daksha

    June 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Can you make these in the crockpot?

  41. Kelly

    May 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    My 13 month old loves these!!! And I did too!

  42. Rachel

    April 13, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Thanks for the recipe! Used it last night as we celebrated Passover…used Matzo Meal instead of bread crumbs (we don’t keep kosher so we left the cheese in). Oh, and we also used the enerG Egg Replacer, due to a egg allergy in the family.

    The entire family loved it, which rarely happens since we have a wide range of ages to please…the recently-turned-picky 22 month old, the bottomless pitt 11 yr old boy & the sophisticated palate of a 17yr old diva in training.

    Thanks again. :)

  43. Marcy Frazier

    March 19, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Love the turkey pesto meatballs, but I tweaked the recipe just a bit. Remember my mother’s heavenly meatballs were cooked on the stove and developed a wonderful, crispy crust, so I tried the same technique. Yummy! Also doubled the breadcrumbs (from fresh honey whole wheat bread) because I prefer a fluffier meatball. My daughter Alexis devoured them!

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  45. Roxanne

    November 29, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I made these turkey pesto meatballs last night for my family and they were a hit! So flavorful! As I type this review my 22 month old son is eating them so fast it’s amazing, he never eats like that. I will be making some more tonight to freeze.

    Just a side note, they did take a lot longer to cook than the 25 minutes. They were basically still raw when I took them out after the suggested time. I thought maybe I had made them too large, which I will make them smaller next time, but I do see that others had this issue as well.
    Thanks the wonderful recipe!

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  47. Samantha

    November 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Can you substitute ground beef instead?


    • mkiekow

      September 6, 2012 at 9:44 am

      I usually make them with GF ground beef… they are yummy!!

      • shell.k

        September 6, 2012 at 9:47 am

        …and pan cook them vs. cooking in the oven – that way I can drain off the fat/excess oil. Then I just add sauce and serve.

  48. CCMom

    August 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    We eat pasta regularly. These were the BEST meatballs I have ever made. So good it was ridiculous! I’m stuffed, but still want a 2nd helping!

  49. Kristin

    July 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Wanted to tell you – we LOVE this recipe. I have made it many times. Tonight I mixed it up a little bit: made it with rosemary pesto (recipe here: http://www.food.com/recipe/rosemary-pesto-307438). The rosemary and parsley are from my garden!

    AND hubby grilled the meatballs on the grill, and then we put them in the sauce for 20 min on top of the stove. They are INCREDIBLE. Thanks so much Catherine for the recipe and the inspiration! (your edible garden series)


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  51. Lisa Gorski

    March 13, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Our family LOVES these! The flavor is wonderful and they are so simple. But we do have to cook them for longer than stated; they are nearly raw and barely warm after 20 minutes.

    • catherine

      March 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm

      Did you preheat your oven? Also, how big did you make the meatballs?

  52. Sophie

    December 27, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Hey Catherine,

    What do you suggest for a non-dairy aubstitute for the Parmesan? Thanks.

  53. Jimmie Depriest

    November 23, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Man, my grandmomma was from Sicily and she made the most amazing meatballs I ever tasted, like you had died and gone to meatball heaven. Sadly, she didnt leave a single recipe for me so I’ve been trying to figure it out on my own… slowly working my through the meatball recipes here, I still cant figure out what her secret ingredient was though!!!

  54. Lorrie

    September 8, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I also had to cook mine a lot longer (at least 30 minutes) but they were really good! I put them on a whole wheat tortilla with cheese the next day for lunch and they were even better! :)

  55. Alyson

    September 8, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I’m just about to make these, but I have ground chicken breast on hand, so I am going to use that. My daughter is dairy free, so I picked up romano cheese to use and I found a pesto paste that is dairy free. I’m hoping these changes don’t change the taste of the meatballs, I am so excited to serve them tonight!

  56. Adriana

    September 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    These are delicious! Thanks for the recipe! 19-month-old daughter and my husband and I all like them. However, I was another person who had to cook for longer than the 20-minute time listed. With a preheated oven, I had to cook them for 45 minutes to an hour.

  57. Angie

    September 4, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    These were a hit with my 22month old and husband. He said I have to make these once a week. They are awesome! I’m making a batch for a playdate tomorrow and plan to make these my ‘signature’ potluck dish!
    btw: I have been telling everyone I know about this site!

  58. Lisa

    July 24, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I also had to cook mine for about twice as long & was glad to see I wasn’t the only one- when I took the foil off at 20 min they were pretty much raw, I cooked uncovered the rest of the time. I didn’t measure them to be 1 tbsp exactly but they were about cocktail meatball sized so pretty close. Otherwise these were super easy & tasty! I didn’t make full on pesto, I had a basil plant & basically chopped the leaves up finelynwith some minced garlic & olive oil and added that to the mix.

  59. Colleen

    July 16, 2010 at 7:35 am

    I made these at half the size (1/2 T) so I wouldn’t have to cut them up as much for my toddler and not only were they easier for him to eat but them also cooked faster (about 15 minutes).

  60. Rozana

    July 5, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    This is really delicious meatballs, my son ate two and loved meatballs – it makes me so happy!! Thanks a lot! It’s an easy yummy recipe I absolutely love!

  61. Cory

    June 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    We made these tonight but used “beefalo” meat that we needed to use up. We all LOVED this dish! Not sure if it was the type of meat we used, but we needed to cook them about 45 minutes.

  62. Becky

    June 11, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I followed instructions and the meatballs were still completely raw after baking for 20 minutes.

    • buzzkehl

      January 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      me too! And mine had been baking the chocolate-zucchini bread prior, so plenty pre-heated.

    • Lisa

      January 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

      I, too, find I have to cook these much longer — at least twice as long. But they are soooooo yummy! My kids (and husband) love them!

    • catherine

      June 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm

      Did you allow your oven to pre-heat all the way to 350 then put them in? That so weird.

  63. Shannon

    June 10, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I just made these tonight and even my husband said, “Mmmmm.” Great recipe!

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  65. HS

    June 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    While this sounds yummy for dinner – it just dawned on me that i can’t make this for kids lunches…booo
    Pesto has pine nuts in it doesn’t it? My kids aren’t allergic but they go to a no NUT facility. not just peanuts.
    will try for dinner….

    • catherine

      June 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm

      You can always not put the nuts in the pesto if you make it at home. That way they can take it to school too! :)

  66. Amy

    June 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Absolutely yummy & so easy to make. Hubby, 2.5 yr old & I ate them up. Will double next time & freeze. Thank you again for another great recipe!!

  67. Amy

    June 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    My three year old is in such a picky stage….but we whipped these up together last night (she loved mushing them together and helping make the balls) and she ate 6 as well!! Unbelievable.

    • Patsy

      February 5, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      A rolling stone is worth two in the bush, thanks to this arlecti.

  68. christy spurrier

    June 2, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Just wondering which pesto recipe you used. My little guys cannot have pine nuts. I was going to use the sundried tomato pesto recipe, but did not know if it mattered.

    Love, love, love the recipes! I use them all of the time:)

  69. Deanna Cumpston

    June 2, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    I made this recipe and found that 20 minutes was not enough cooking time for the meatballs. I started to serve my 3 year old and I was cutting them up and some were still slightly pink inside. I would give it at least 5 more minutes cook time.

    Other than that they were very delicious. My son loved them and the recipe was very easy. I served it with couscous.

    • catherine

      June 3, 2010 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks for letting me know! Every oven is different and also it depends on your altitude as well. 20 minutes was perfect in my oven. I’m so happy you all enjoyed them!

  70. Susan

    June 2, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Catherine-this was awesome! I find that ground turkey/chicken is usually kinda dry but this wasn’t at all. I made it tonight and put it over whole wheat pasta with some sauteed spinach. delish!

  71. Bharathi

    June 2, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    In the step2 do mean all ingredients? or all ingredients exept the marinara sauce?


    • catherine

      June 2, 2010 at 6:10 pm

      Yes! thank you!

      • Salah

        February 4, 2014 at 3:43 am

        I am looking forarwd to reading the series. I am South American and my love is in the USA, 6k miles away. May consider moving at some point. Your views as an immigrant will be so welcome!

      • Bharathi

        June 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm

        All ingredients including marinara sauce? Sorry, it was not clear :(

        • Beth

          June 12, 2010 at 8:32 am

          Leave out the marinara sauce.

  72. Seedbeads

    June 2, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Is the parm cheese necessary? I can’t have cheese but haven’t found a decent substitute around here.

    • catherine

      June 2, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      No just adds more flavor in the balls, however the pesto does have cheese in it as well. You can sub it out, it won’t be a problem.

  73. Jen M

    June 2, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I, too, have been averaging about one weelicious recipe a week :-)
    Question: Is the salt REALLY necessary? With the parm cheese and the sauce, I was wondering if it really needed it.

    • catherine

      June 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm

      The salt just brings out all the flavors from the dish or else it would just be a little bland without it.

      • Jen M

        June 5, 2010 at 7:40 pm

        Ok there isnt that much salt so I will try it. BUT in SLOW COOKER 😛 Mmmmmm CANT WAIT!!

  74. Holly N.

    June 2, 2010 at 8:36 am

    This looks great! What would you serve with these? I love all you recipes by the way! I’ve been doing about one new one each week. Thanks for sharing!!

    • catherine

      June 2, 2010 at 2:51 pm

      You can serve this with pasta, quinoa, or rice..even put them in baguettes and make them into a sandwich! they are soo good!