Turkey Pesto Meatballs

Turkey Pesto Meatballs from weelicious.com

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!

Turkey Pesto Meatballs from weelicious.com

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.

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Turkey Pesto Meatballs (Serves 4-6)

Prep Time: 10 mins Cook Time: 25 mins

egg free

nut free

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pound Lean Ground Turkey
  • 1/4 Cup pesto (recipe linked below)
  • 1/4 Cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 Cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Cups tomato sauce (recipe linked below)

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place all the ingredients (except for the marinara sauce) in a bowl and using your hands, combine until everything is incorporated.

3. Using about 1 tablespoon of the mixture per meatball, roll into balls and place on a plate.

4. Pour the marinara sauce into a 9 x 9 inch baking pan and top with the meatballs.

5. Cover the baking pan with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.**

6. Serve.

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/

Make N' Share!
Post a picture of any Weelicious recipe you make on Instagram - I wanna see them! Just tag @weelicious
Hi, I’m Catherine. Mama of three. A Kentucky girl living in California. Here’s what I know: all kids can be great eaters and mealtime must be easy. My passion is creating simple, healthy recipes that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

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84 comments

  • Holly N.

    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!!

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

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

      leave a comment

  • Jen M

    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.

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

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

      leave a comment

  • Seedbeads

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

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      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.

      leave a comment

  • Bharathi

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

    Thanks,
    Bharathi

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      Yes! thank you!

      leave a comment

  • Susan

    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!

    leave a comment

  • Deanna Cumpston

    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.

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      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!

      leave a comment

  • Christy Spurrier

    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:)
    Christy

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      You can use any pesto recipe, even the sun dried tomato pesto. You do not have to put pine nuts in the pesto, you can use any nut like almonds or walnuts. You can even not put nuts in the pesto. We have a pesto recipe on weelicious that we used. http://b12.ba4.myftpupload.com/2010/05/10/chicken-pesto-tenders/ you can even use our spinach pesto! http://b12.ba4.myftpupload.com/2008/06/24/spinach-pesto/

      leave a comment

  • Amy

    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.

    leave a comment

    • Patsy

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

      leave a comment

  • Amy

    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!!

    leave a comment

  • HS

    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....

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      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! :)

      leave a comment

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  • Shannon

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

    leave a comment

  • Becky

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

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

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

      leave a comment

    • Lisa

      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!

      leave a comment

    • Buzzkehl

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

      leave a comment

  • Cory

    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.

    leave a comment

  • Rozana

    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!

    leave a comment

  • Colleen

    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).

    leave a comment

  • Lisa

    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.

    leave a comment

  • Sophie

    Hey Catherine,

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

    leave a comment

  • Lisa Gorski

    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.

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

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

      leave a comment

  • Kristin

    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)

    -Kristin

    leave a comment

  • C

    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!

    leave a comment

  • Samantha

    Can you substitute ground beef instead?

    Thanks!

    leave a comment

    • Mkiekow

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

      leave a comment

  • Roxanne

    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!

    leave a comment

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  • Marcy Frazier

    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!

    leave a comment

  • Daksha

    Can you make these in the crockpot?

    leave a comment

  • Catherine

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

    leave a comment

  • D's Mom

    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!)

    leave a comment

  • Michele M

    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!

    leave a comment

  • Heather

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

    Thanks!

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      99%!

      leave a comment

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  • D's Mom

    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!

    leave a comment

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  • Tiffany

    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).

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      You absolutely can bake them that way!

      leave a comment

  • Kelly Martin

    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!

    leave a comment

  • Beverly Galashan

    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.
    Beverly

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      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.

      leave a comment

  • Cocovolleyball

    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.

    leave a comment

  • Tiffany

    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?

    leave a comment

    • Catherine

      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!

      leave a comment

  • AGomez

    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 9x9 baking pan....would metal make a difference? And how deep is the pan?

    leave a comment

  • Tamara

    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!

    leave a comment

  • Stephanie

    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!

    leave a comment

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  • Lisa

    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!!

    leave a comment

  • Leigh

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

    leave a comment

    • Lcurry

      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!

      leave a comment

  • Amelthea

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

    leave a comment

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  • Gigi Apple

    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!!!!!

    leave a comment

  • Amber

    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!

    leave a comment

  • gobob2000

    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!!

    leave a comment

  • fls114psu

    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.

    leave a comment

  • Robert

    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!

    leave a comment

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  • Jennifer Soumekh

    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?

    leave a comment

  • Maryann

    I think I will try this as a meatloaf!

    leave a comment

  • Suzanne

    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!

    leave a comment

  • Sarah

    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! =)

    leave a comment

    • McCord

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

      leave a comment

  • Amber

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

    leave a comment

  • Oh Caroline

    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!

    leave a comment

    • Oh Caroline

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

      leave a comment

  • Lindsey

    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?

    leave a comment

    • McCord

      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.

      leave a comment

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