pesto pasta with chicken meatballs

Pesto Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs

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This Pesto Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs dish is amazingly delicious and perfect for a special dinner. The Parmesan mozzarella loaded baked chicken meatballs are good any way you serve them; in your kids’ lunch box, on top of pasta, noodles, with rice, tomato sauce or just on their own! But you’ll love them paired with a spaghetti pesto sauce, they make for a lovable feast. 

For this Pesto Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs recipe, you can easily swap out the chicken for ground turkey if you prefer that better. I tried it with ground turkey once, and you can hardly tell the difference. One pound of ground chicken will make about 20 meatballs. 

Homemade Pesto Sauce: 

Making Pesto sauce is very easy! I always like to make my own, especially that every year we plant basil and every year the plant does so well that we can’t use it up fast enough. So I make pesto sauce in bulk during the summer and I freeze left overs for future use. But market bought pesto sauce also works just fine for this recipe. To make homemade pesto sauce, you’ll need:

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Garlic
  • Pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

To Make the Chicken Meatballs, you’ll need: 

  • Ground chicken: I like 93% lean here. You can also swap ground turkey if you prefer. 
  • Panko breadcrumbs: To bind the meatballs together.
  • Parmesan: Freshly ground works best!
  • Fresh basil: Gives the meatballs flecks of color and extra flavor.
  • Mozzarella cheese: To stuff the chicken meatballs. I like to mozzarella cheese sticks, and cut them into round circles. 
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Egg
  • Salt/Spices

How to Make this Pesto Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs:

Begin by making the pesto sauce:

  • In your food processor, pulse basil, garlic, salt pine nuts and Parmesan.
  • Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula and pulse couple more times.
  • With the processor running, add olive oil in a steady slow stream until emulsified. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help keep the olive oil from separating.
  • Set pesto sauce aside.

Make the Chicken Meatballs:

  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, generously coat with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In your food processor, process the onion, garlic and basil until blended well. 
  • Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add the egg, spices, salt, bread crumbs, ground parmesan and ground chicken and use your hands to combine the mixture very well.

pesto chicken meatballs.

  • With lightly oiled hands (this prevents the chicken from sticking to your hands), heap 1-2 tablespoon of chicken mixture and add a cube of mozzarella cheese to the center. Shape into a ball, making sure the cheese cube is fully covered.
  • Arrange meatballs on the prepared baking tray.

How to make chicken meatballs.

  • Brush meatballs with olive oil.
  • Bake for 20 min on center rack.
  • Turn heat to broil and broil for  5-8 minutes or until it lightly turn brown in color. Watch very carefully for this so they don’t burn. 

Baked chicken meatballs.

Cook the Spaghetti: 

While the chicken meatballs are baking, cook your spaghetti noodles, according to package. 

Eat!

In a large bowl, mix the pesto sauce with spaghetti (while still hot). Toss those beautifully baked chicken meatballs with the pesto pasta, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and dig in!

Pesto spaghetti with meatballs.

How To Freeze Chicken Meatballs:

You can freeze these chicken meatballs for up t0 3 months, before or after baking. I usually prefer to freeze them after they’ve been fully baked, just because it’s more convenient that way. Let the baked meatballs cool down completely, then toss them in a freezer bag. Squish out as much air as possible, seal and place in freezer.

If you are looking for more Italian dishes, here are some of my favorites!

Chicken Spinach Fettuccine Alfredo

Pasta with Chicken and White Sauce Casserole

Yield: 4-5

Pesto Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs

pesto pasta with chicken meatballs

Pesto Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs dish is amazingly delicious and perfect for a special dinner.

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb spaghetti, cooked
  • Mozzarella cheese sticks- 3-4 sticks, cut into small circles. 
  • Grated parmesan- for sprinkling on top (optional)

For Pesto

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves 
  • 1/2 teasoon salt 
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup ground parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

For Chicken meatballs

  • 1 lb ground chicken 
  • 1 small onion- halved 
  • 2 garlic cloves 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup ground parmesan cheese  
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Instructions

    To make the pesto sauce:

  1. In your food processor, pulse basil, garlic, salt pine nuts and Parmesan.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula and pulse couple more times.
  3. With the processor running, add olive oil in a steady slow stream until emulsified. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help keep the olive oil from separating.
  4. Set pesto sauce aside.

To make chicken meatballs:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Spray a baking tray with baking spray.
  3. In your food processor, process the onion, garlic and basil very well.
  4. Transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Add the egg, spices, salt, bread crumbs, and ground chicken and use your hands to combine the mixture very well.
  6. With lightly oiled hands (this prevents the chicken from sticking to your hands), heap 1 tbsp of chicken mix and add a cube of mozzarella cheese to the center. Shape into a ball, making sure the cheese cube is fully covered.
  7. Arrange meatballs on the prepared baking tray.
  8. Brush meatballs with olive oil.
  9. Bake for 15 min on center rack.
  10. Turn heat up to 500°F and bake for another 5 minutes.

Cook the Spaghetti: 

While the chicken meatballs are baking, cook your spaghetti noodles, according to package. 

Eat!

In a large bowl, mix the pesto sauce with spaghetti (while still hot). Toss those beautifully baked chicken meatballs with the pesto pasta, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and dig in!

Notes

  • When making pesto sauce, you can sub half the basil leaves with baby spinach, parsley, arugula or cilantro. )
  • Parmesan can be replaced with pecorino, romano, or Grana Padano cheese.
  • Pine nuts can be replaced with walnuts, pistachios, or cashews.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, then don’t forget to write a comment below and let me know if it turned out for you! 

 

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