Favorite Pesto Meatballs


Tender, flavorful, and easy to make and store, these Pesto Meatballs are a favorite family dinner. You can bake them in the oven or cook in the Air Fryer, and they’re delicious with pasta or as meatball sandwiches.

Pesto meatballs on baking sheet with sauce on side.

Pesto Meatballs

After so much love for my Baked Chicken Meatballs with Carrots, I wanted to try a version that used zucchini as the veggie in the mix and add more flavor—which is where this pesto meatball idea came from. This is like the best aspects of the basic recipe with so much more deliciousness. The pesto flavor is so yummy in the mix and they are great dipped in marinara or pizza sauce as a snack or meal component and can be used like any other meatballs—so with pasta or in sandwiches.

I love this as a flavor-packed and iron-rich baby food (just dice up to serve as a finger food), as an easy toddler meal option, and as a yummy family dinner.

The zucchini ensures that they are very tender and adds a vegetable to the mix, which is really nice. (If you don’t want to be able to see the green on the zucchini, simply peel it before you grate it.)

And honestly, I often just eat them straight off of the baking pan!

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Ingredients

Here’s a look at the ingredients you need to make this recipe so you know what to have on hand and ready to go.

Ingredients for pesto meatballs on countertop.
  • Ground chicken: Starting with ground chicken makes mixing up these meatballs easy and affordable. Look for it near ground turkey and pork in your store.
  • Italian flavored breadcrumbs: These add flavor and help ensure that the meatballs hold together nicely. (You can also use plain breadcrumbs and add a little Italian seasoning.)
  • Shredded zucchini: I like to add a veggie to meatballs to ensure they are super tender and easy for kids to chew, and it’s also a nice way to get more meatballs from the recipe. If you don’t want to see the green in the meatball, peel the zucchini before grating.
  • Parmesan: Grated Parmesan cheese adds flavor, so it’s a nice addition in the mix.
  • Pesto: You can use store bought basil pesto to add flavor in these meatballs or you can use my homemade Spinach Pesto. One with some basil will taste best.
  • Egg: I use egg to help bind the meatball batter together. (See the Notes at the end of the recipe if you have an egg-free household.)

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s an overview of the recipe steps so you know what to expect from the process. Scroll down to the end of the post for the full information, including the amounts and timing.

how to make pesto meatballs in grid of images.
  1. Preheat the oven and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Coat with nonstick spray. (Or you can do it in the Air Fryer.)
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the ingredients together with clean hands. Use a tablespoon measuring spoon to measure out meatballs. Roll into balls and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake until golden brown and cooked through.
  4. Serve warm or set aside to cool and freeze.
Pesto meatballs on baking sheet.

How to Store

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Or, let them cool fully and you can freeze in a freezer bag for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, simmer in tomato sauce to warm, or warm in 15-30 second increments in the microwave.

If you plan to make these ahead as a meal prep option, I recommend baking as directed, then storing.

Pesto meatballs on baking sheet with sauce on side.

Best Tips for Success

  • You can use store bought basil pesto to add flavor in these meatballs or you can use my homemade Spinach Pesto.
  • Serve with Marinara saucePestoCheese Sauce, or with a side of ketchup or any other favorite dip.
  • Dice for older babies or younger toddlers as needed.
  • Gluten-free: Use gluten-free breadcrumbs if needed.
  • Dairy-free: Use vegan Parmesan cheese.
  • Egg-free: Omit the egg and add 1 tablespoon milk.

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I’d love to hear your feedback on this post, so please rate and comment below!

Pesto meatballs on baking sheet with sauce on side.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Coat with nonstick spray.

  • (If you don’t want to see the green in the meatball, peel the zucchini before grating.)

  • In a medium bowl, mix the ingredients together with clean hands. Use a tablespoon measuring spoon to measure out meatballs. Roll into balls and place on the prepared baking sheet.

  • Bake for 22-24 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

  • (To make in the Air Fryer, cook 12 minutes at 375 degrees F on a greased tray.)

  • Serve warm with marinara or pizza sauce, or set aside to cool and freeze.

  • Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Or, let them cool fully and you can freeze in a freezer bag for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, simmer in tomato sauce to warm, or warm in 15-30 second increments in the microwave.
  • If you plan to make these ahead as a meal prep option, I recommend baking as directed, then storing.
  • You can use store bought basil pesto to add flavor in these meatballs or you can use my homemade Spinach Pesto. Since the oil amount in any pesto ranges, drain the meatballs on a paper towel lined plate if there is excess oil on the tray after baking.
  • Serve with Marinara saucePestoCheese Sauce, or with a side of ketchup or any other favorite dip.
  • Dice for older babies or younger toddlers as needed.
  • Gluten-free: Use gluten-free breadcrumbs if needed.
  • Dairy-free: Use vegan Parmesan cheese.
  • Egg-free: Omit the egg and add 1 tablespoon milk.

Serving: 3meatballs, Calories: 173kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.04g, Cholesterol: 74mg, Sodium: 315mg, Potassium: 347mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 265IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 108mg, Iron: 1mg



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