This Pesto Pasta with Turkey Meatballs recipe is weeknight-friendly goodness while being flavor-forward all the way. Perfect al dente pasta, tender turkey meatballs, gooey mozzarella pearls, and broccoli all tossed together in basil pesto sauce. It’s such a highly customizable recipe that you’ll keep coming back to!

pesto pasta with turkey meatballs in large white serving bowl

Super geeked because today we’re talking about meatballs! Some of y’all might already know from previous posts how much I love me some meatballs. Plus, there’s pasta with said meatballs so you already know it’s gonna be really bomb. Real talk, this new recipe is irresistibly good, I just know you’re gonna love it!

Pesto Pasta with Turkey Meatballs 🌱

What’s this recipe all about? Super quick, weeknight-friendly pasta with produce, gooey mozzarella, and tender turkey meatballs all coated in basil pesto sauce. The whole thing is so fresh, vibrant, and downright delicious. I love the array of textures going on, too. Like the hearty meatballs combined with perfectly cooked, al dente pasta + broccoli, and the creamy cheese…gahhh!

⇢ Other recipes: skillet chicken pot pie, easy italian pasta salad, delish lemon pepper chicken tenders, these cajun shrimp and grits, the best chicken and waffles, pasta faves like creamy beef pasta and this lemon herb butter ravioli.

a dish for all seasons cookbook on beige linen

One of the things I like about social media is getting to follow certain folks and their journey. I remember a few years ago when I first started engaging with other food bloggers, I came across Kathryn from Cardamom and Tea.

Her voice and work have consistently been so unique and she’s always super supportive of me. What a joy it is to celebrate the release of Kathryn’s first cookbook, A Dish for All Seasons, by digging into one of her recipes! 🎉

This cookbook is a repertoire-building cookbook that teaches you to think on your feet, encouraging you to cook with the produce you have on hand, any time of the year. It’s comprised of base recipes for classic meals that you can adapt through 125+ seasonal variations. I love that instead of the usual structured recipe cookbook, you get a more inspirational cookbook that teaches you to improvise. That’s exactly what her Pasta with Meatballs recipe is all about.

How To Make Turkey Meatballs

(Note: please see the recipe card directly below for the complete written instructions.)

  1. Make the panade. Put the bread crumbs and milk in a medium mixing bowl and let soak for about 2 minutes. This ensures extra tender/moist meatballs.
  2. Bring the meatball mixture together. Add the turkey, basil, garlic, and pepper to the softened bread crumbs and mix everything together.
  3. Assemble the meatballs & season. Shape into 25 to 30 meatballs and then season the meatball surfaces evenly with salt.
  4. Brown the meatballs. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the oil. Then add the meatballs and allow them to brown on all sides.
  5. Steam. Once browned, add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and immediately cover. Let steam to cook all the way through, about 3 minutes more to finish. Then remove from heat and set meatballs aside.
browned turkey meatballs in large yellow skillet

How To Make Pesto Pasta (& Assemble It All)

  1. Cook the pasta. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Once there is about 2 minutes left, add the broccoli florets to cook along with it.
  2. Put it all together. Drain the pasta and return to the stockpot. Add in the cooked turkey meatballs along with the pesto sauce and basil, folding to combine. Add the mozzarella pearls and immediately transfer to a serving bowl so the mozzarella doesn’t melt onto the pot.
  3. Serve this pesto pasta with turkey meatballs dish in individual servings with a topping of grated parmesan cheese, if desired. Enjoy!

⇢ This delish Pesto Pasta with Turkey Meatballs recipe comes together so easily, y’all. I like how straightforward and simple it is yet loaded with lovely pops of flavor that you will enjoy. Definitely add this one to your must-make list! 🙌🏾

black hands cutting turkey meatball on plate with pesto pasta

Tips + Tricks, Notes, & FAQs About This Recipe

You may have additional questions about this pesto pasta with turkey meatballs recipe. Like other recipes, I always advise sticking to the recipe as it is written in the recipe card directly below. However, here’s some extra info:

  • Can I use x, y, z type of meat? If you don’t have or are unable to find ground turkey, you can use ground chicken here.
  • What binds these meatballs? The bread crumbs/milk mixture (a panade) are what binds these meatballs together to hold their shape.
  • A note on basil. Fresh herbs in these turkey meatballs are chef’s kiss. If you’re not a fan of basil, you can swap for fresh/dried parsley.
  • Moist hands. I find it helpful to dampen my hands with a bit of water while rolling these meatballs. This will prevent the meatball mixture from sticking to your hands while you shape/roll the mixture into balls. Keep a little bowl of water next to you while rolling, and wet your palms, as needed.
  • I don’t like broccoli. Use any of your fave produce: corn kernels, green bean segments, sliced pumpkin, squash, carrots, or cauliflower florets. Use veggies like sliced zucchini and bell peppers, too. You can sauté /roast many ingredients and then throw them into the final dish with the cooked pasta.
  • Blanching is your friend. Any vegetables can be just thrown in the pasta water in the last minute or two of cooking. Blanching the vegetables will give them that al dente texture/bite, firm with a crunch, but cooked enough.
  • Use tender greens. A substitute for produce is to use fresh baby spinach or arugula. For these types of greens, no need to blanch. Just toss them in along with the drained pasta, and they’ll wilt from the residual heat.
  • Switch the pasta sauce. As noted earlier, Kathryn’s book is all about adaptations. Don’t like pesto? No biggie, there’s no hard rules here. Simply swap for your favorite homemade or store-bought tomato sauce instead.
  • Estimating sauce. Be careful not to use too much pasta and vegetables for the amount of sauce you have. It’s better to have too much sauce and then hold some back. After bringing everything together, then you can adjust the sauce by adding more until your desired consistency is reached.
pesto pasta with turkey meatballs in white serving bowl with gold spoon on the side

This Pesto Pasta with Turkey Meatballs is so good! There’s lots of flavors and textures here and it’s easy to make. Be sure to tag @butterbeready in your BBR recipe creations, I sure love to see it when you do. Until next time! 🤟🏾

*Grab Kathryn’s book >> A Dish for All Seasons for more great base recipes!

Love meatball-inspired dishes? Me too, don’t miss:

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pesto pasta with turkey meatballs in large white serving bowl

Pesto Pasta with Turkey Meatballs

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
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Description

This Pesto Pasta with Turkey Meatballs recipe is weeknight-friendly goodness while being flavor-forward all the way. Perfect al dente pasta, tender turkey meatballs, gooey mozzarella pearls, and broccoli all tossed together in basil pesto sauce. It’s such a highly customizable recipe that you’ll keep coming back to!


Ingredients

Scale

For the turkey meatballs:

  • 1/2 cup [55 g] bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup [120 g] whole milk
  • 1 lb [455 g] ground turkey
  • 3/4 cup [30 g] chopped fresh basil leaves, or 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed through a press, or 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/23/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as avocado or canola

For assembling & serving pasta:

  • 12 ounce [340 g] dried pasta
  • 23 cups [300 g] broccoli florets
  • 7 ounce store-bought basil pesto, plus more to taste
  • 1 bunch basil, stemmed, or 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 8 ounce mozzarella pearls or large-diced buffalo mozzarella 
  • finely grated parmesan cheese, for serving- optional

Instructions

  1. Put the bread crumbs and milk in a medium mixing bowl and let soak for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the turkey, basil, garlic, and pepper to the softened bread crumbs and mix everything together until evenly distributed. Shape into 25 to 30 meatballs (about 1 heaping tbsp [20 to 25 g] each) and then season their surfaces evenly with the salt. *Kathryn’s note: Do not put salt in the mixture, or they will be tough.
  3. Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron sauté pan or skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. Once hot, add the oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add the meatballs and allow them to brown on one side before turning. Carefully turn each meatball 3-4 times, until browned all over, about 10-12 minutes total.
  4. Once browned more or less evenly, add about 1/4 cup [60 g] of water to the pan and immediately cover. Let steam to cook all the way through, about 3 minutes more (cut one open to check).
  5. Once they’re done, continue cooking, uncovered, shaking the pan to toss them around gently while the liquid reduces. They should end up coated in a thin brown sauce, with no more liquid left at the bottom of the pot (about 3 minutes more). Then remove from heat and set meatballs aside.
  6. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil and salt somewhat liberally. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Once there is about 2 minutes left, add the broccoli florets so that your broccoli and pasta are al dente at the same time.
  7. Drain the pasta and return to the stockpot. Add the cooked turkey meatballs to the pot, along with the pesto sauce and basil. Fold together until evenly distributed (feel free to use more basil pesto to suit your desired preference). Add the mozzarella pearls, fold together a couple of times just to distribute, and immediately transfer to a serving bowl so the mozzarella doesn’t melt onto the pot.
  8. Serve this pesto pasta with turkey meatballs dish in individual servings with a topping of grated parmesan cheese, if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. Recipe is from A Dish for All Seasons by Kathryn Pauline.
  2. Please read the blog post in its entirety for more tips + tricks.
pesto pasta with turkey meatballs on small white plates