Chicken Pesto Meatballs is one of those types of recipes that you’re going to want to keep handy for fast and easy weeknight meals. Ground chicken is always the best blank palate to add loads of flavor to and all you’ll need for these chicken meatballs is some basil pesto. And it doesn’t matter if you use store-bought or homemade pesto either! Both are great!

We absolutely LOVE meatballs! No matter how I make them, they’re always guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser for dinner in my house. 

And friends, can I tell you how much I just love that! Always having a winner of a meal up my sleeve?

Having a meal that I know will get a big YAY from Riley when she asks what’s for dinner?

It’s an amazing feeling as a mom! And it’s the reason why I keep coming up with new meatball recipes to add to my meal planning bank.

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About These Chicken Pesto Meatballs

Not all meatballs are created equal, even if they’re made with the same type of meat. And that’s what makes them so satisfying to me! There are so many flavor combinations to try out!

For these meatballs, I took a plain chicken meatball recipe and boosted the flavor way, way up with the simple addition of basil pesto.

By itself, pesto is a bright ingredient, full of garlic and freshness coming from the greens you add: basil, parsley, mint, or a combination of any of them.

So adding a big scoop of pesto to chicken meatballs was definitely the right thing to do. Not only did the pesto add a ton of flavor, but it also added moisture and tinted the meatballs green, which my kid thought was just the best!

I loved that they’re versatile enough to use homemade or store-bought pesto and that I can serve them with different types of sides.

We absolutely adored these meatballs and since they freeze beautifully, we’ve had a bunch handy for quick and easy meals after the last batch I made.

Ingredients

Here’s the basic grocery list for this pesto meatball recipe. Be sure to keep scrolling down to the recipe for the full Ingredients list and full printable recipe card!

For the homemade basil pesto:

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Roasted almonds or pine nuts 
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh garlic cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Extra virgin olive oil

For the meatballs:

  • Ground chicken
  • Pesto
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

  • Extra: pesto, Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil

How to Make Basil Pesto Chicken Meatballs

Here are the basic steps to make these basil pesto chicken meatballs. Be sure to keep scrolling down to the recipe for the full Ingredients list and full printable recipe card!

STEP 1: First, make the pesto if you’re going to use my recipe; if not, skip this step. Pulse all the pesto ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor. With the processor running, drizzle the olive oil into the processor and keep it running just until the pesto comes together.

The pesto can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in the fridge. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months in something like a ziplock bag, ice cube tray, or these Souper Cubes, which I completely adore and use for freezing all kinds of sauces.

STEP 2: Next, start making the meatballs. Preheat the oven and coat a large baking sheet with olive oil. 

STEP 3: Mix all of the meatball ingredients together with a fork in a large bowl.

STEP 4: Scoop the meatballs out into equal-sized balls and roll them with your hands to shape. Space the meatballs out on the baking sheet without any touching. Drizzle the top of each meatball with just a drop or two of extra virgin olive oil.

STEP 5: Bake for 20 minutes and then serve over creamy polenta. Continue reading below for other serving suggestions!

What’s the Best Pesto for Meatballs?

The best pesto for meatballs is the pesto you like the best! Just make sure it’s a really flavorful type of pesto, something with a lot of garlic.

For these meatballs, I use basil pesto. You could also use sundried tomato pesto

I have included a recipe for my favorite basil pesto recipe below. If homemade pesto isn’t in the cards for a quick meal for you, simply use store-bought pesto.

Other Types of Meat for Meatballs

Instead of chicken, you can also make turkey pesto meatballs with this recipe. 

Beef or pork (or a combination of them) would also work! If you decide to use either of those, you can skip the olive oil drizzle before you bake the meatballs. There’s enough fat in ground beef and ground pork to brown the tops of the meatballs without extra oil.

How to Make the Best Frozen Meatballs

Having frozen meatballs in the freezer is one of the fastest ways to an easy weeknight dinner! 

At any one time, I have at least two different types of meatballs in the freezer that I can pull out at a moment’s notice when my original dinner plans go south for whatever reason.

All you need to do to freeze meatballs is line the cooked meatballs up on a baking sheet or a plate lined with parchment paper. Make sure they’re not touching or they will freeze together!

Then, stick the baking sheet or plate in the freezer and allow the meatballs to freeze solid. This should take a couple of hours.

After they are frozen, label a ziplock bag as “Meatballs” and add the date you froze them. Finally, drop the frozen meatballs in the bag, close it up, and stick it in the freezer for future meals!

What to Serve with these Pesto Meatballs

There are so many ways you can serve these meatballs! 

As you see in the photos here, I love to serve them on top of a soft bed of creamy Parmesan polenta. There’s just something about the creamiest polenta with those crispy bits of the meatballs that works so well.

Pasta and rice are also other great options. Either of these types of carbs are perfect with meatballs, especially with some extra pesto sauce drizzled over the top of them. 

More Fantastic Meatball Recipes You’ll Definitely Love

Chicken Pesto Meatballs

Chicken Pesto Meatballs

Yield: about 20 meatballs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Chicken pesto meatballs are a fantastic way to change up your weeknight dinners. Simply mix basil pesto into the ingredients for chicken meatballs and bake! Serve the pesto meatballs over polenta, pasta, or rice for a meal the whole family will love.

Ingredients

For the pesto:

  • About 2 cups (2 oz) fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup roasted almonds or pine nuts
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large garlic cloves (or 3 to 4 smaller cloves), peeled
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup olive oil

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • ¾ cup pesto
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

  • Extra pesto
  • Shaved parmesan cheese pieces
  • Fresh basil leaves

Instructions

  1. To make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add all of the pesto ingredients except the oil. Pulse until roughly chopped. With the processor on, drizzle the oil through the feed tube in a slow stream. Blend the pesto until it reaches your desired consistency. I like it with just a tiny bit of texture left in it.
  2. To make the meatballs: Preheat oven to 400° F. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a large baking sheet and coat the pan with the oil.
  3. Mix all of the meatball ingredients together with a fork in a large bowl. Use a medium cookie scoop to equally divide up the meatball mix into approximately 1 ½-inch diameter meatballs. Roll them with your hands into balls.
  4. Space the meatballs out on the prepared baking sheet without any touching each other. Drizzle the top of each meatball with just a drop or two of extra virgin olive oil.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes on the center rack, rotating the pan front to back and rolling the meatballs over halfway through the baking time.
  6. Serve the meatballs over creamy polenta, pasta, or rice with a drizzle of extra pesto sauce, a few pieces of shaved parmesan cheese, and some extra basil leaves.

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