Baked Turkey Pesto Meatballs

Baked Turkey Pesto Meatballs stuffed with mozzarella cheese! These meatballs taste absolutely amazing and are loaded with tons of Italian flavor. Perfect to serve over polenta or pasta, or even as a filling for a sub sandwich! This easy turkey meatballs recipe is a great go-to dish for meal prep.

Italian Pesto Meatballs | chefsavvy.com

It’s no secret that meatballs are a favorite in my house! I’ve shared my Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs, Asian Turkey Meatballs, Slow Cooker Firecracker Chicken Meatballs, and even turned my Italian meatballs into a soup! Italian food is just one of my favorite cuisines – pasta, pizza, sauces, meat, cheese, and bread – it’s all SO good!

Why you will love these Baked Turkey Pesto Meatballs:

  • They’re made with turkey which is a leaner protein than the usual beef and pork you see in meatballs.
  • The flavor of the basil pesto really shines through! I used my own Basil Pesto recipe which takes just 5 minutes to throw together, and it’s loaded with basil-y, garlicky goodness, but store-bought would work too.
  • They’re coated in a Chunky Tomato Sauce which uses ingredients you probably already have on hand, and you can customize it to your own taste. You could also make my Slow Cooker Tomato Sauce to go with the meatballs instead.
  • They’re stuffed with mozzarella cheese! It melts amazingly. Need I say more?

Turkey Pesto Meatballs | chefsavvy.com

How do I make these Turkey Basil Pesto Meatballs?

Make & bake the meatballs – 4 easy steps:

  1. Cut the mozzarella sticks into 1/2 inch cubes and freeze them.
  2. Mix all of the other ingredients for the meatballs: Ground turkey, eggs, breadcrumbs, pesto, tomato paste, and parsley.
  3. Roll into 16-18 balls. Press a piece of chilled mozzarella gently into each meatball and roll again to make sure the cheese is completely covered.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes until they’re cooked through.

Make the Chunky Tomato Sauce – 3 easy steps:

  1. Heat the oil and sauté the diced onion for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Then sauté the minced garlic for 1 minute.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.

Then all you have to do is throw the meatballs in the sauce, sprinkle them with parmesan cheese and basil, and serve them over pasta, polenta, rice, or piled up high on a sub sandwich!

Baked Pesto Meatballs | chefsavvy.com

Do I need to use mozzarella sticks or will any cheese do?

Mozzarella sticks are easier to cut and place inside the meatballs, plus they don’t have an overpowering flavor and melt really well, so I’d stick to them if you can. In a pinch, provolone could work too!

Can I add anything else to the sauce?

Sure! Feel free to load it up and make it even chunkier with veggies like zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, and bell peppers. Make sure you adjust your seasoning! If you’d like some extra spice, add 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon more of the crushed red pepper flakes.

Baked Italian Meatballs | chefsavvy.com

How do I store and reheat these Turkey Pesto Meatballs and the chunky tomato sauce?

I recommend storing the sauce and meatballs separately if possible, because they will taste much better when reheated.

Meatballs:

Fridge: Store these turkey meatballs in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. 

Freezer: Store in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw completely before reheating.

To reheat: place them on a baking tray, cover them with foil to retain moisture, and bake at 300°F until cooked through. This will probably take about 15-20 minutes.

Sauce:

Fridge: Store this tomato sauce in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days. 

Freezer: Store in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 5 or 6 months. Thaw completely before reheating in a pot on the stove.

To reheat: place the sauce in a pot on the stove and heat until it’s hot all the way through. You can add a little water if the sauce is too thick.

Baked Turkey Pesto Meatballs | chefsavvy.com

Here are more Italian Recipes you will love!

Baked Turkey Pesto Meatballs

5 from 3 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4 -6
Baked Turkey Pesto Meatballs stuffed with mozzarella cheese! These meatballs are amazing and loaded with tons of flavor!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 mozzarella sticks sliced into cubes
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for drizzling

Chunky Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup onion diced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut mozzarella into small cubes, about 1/2 inch. (About 6 pieces per stick). Place mozzarella cubes in the freezer for at least 1 hour to set.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Add turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, pesto, tomato paste, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix until combined and form into 16-18 meatballs.
  4. Gently push a piece of chilled mozzarella into the center of the meatball and roll again to make sure the cheese is completely covered.
  5. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  6. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until fully cooked.
  7. Serve the meatballs immediately with your favorite tomato sauce and pasta.

Chunky Tomato Sauce

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add in the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender.
  3. Add in garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Pour in tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, sugar and crushed red pepper flakes.
  5. Cook, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes.
Nutrition Facts
Baked Turkey Pesto Meatballs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 504 Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value*
Fat 20g31%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Cholesterol 178mg59%
Sodium 708mg31%
Potassium 957mg27%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 63g126%
Vitamin A 995IU20%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
Calcium 95mg10%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Baked Turkey Pesto Meatballs, Easy Dinner Recipe, Italian Recipes, Lean ground turkey

Originally published March 10, 2016

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Comments

  • Alex Kessie

    Can’t wait to make these. I love your site, so many easy recipes but packed with flavour and quality.

  • Erica

    Hi Kelley,
    I love all the recipes that I’ve tried so far :). Wondering if you’re able to include calories per serving with the prep and cook time? Just thought I’d ask!

    Thank and keep up th great work!

  • Liz

    Wow. These balls blew my mind. So tender and delicious for turkey meatballs. Will make again- thanks for the recipe!

  • Jan H.

    Lucky to find this recipe .Made these this AM and the flavor is great . No flavor overwhelms another .. They meld together and are fantastic ! Will definitely make again and again . I had everything on hand except mozz.sticks so I just added shredded mozz.

  • Parti

    Could you use almond flour instead of Pablo crumbs. I would like to make this more Keto friendly. Thanks for your help

  • Hi!

    I have not tried making these meatballs with almond flour so it is hard to say how they would turn out. However I think you may make out better with something similar to the texture of panko. So maybe gluten free crackers or crushed up tortilla chips would work in place of the panko. You could also make your own keto breadcrumbs. I found this recipe and it looks awesome!

    I hope this helps! Thanks!

    Kelley

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