A lightened-up version of cozy pasta and meatballs, this Basil Kale Pesto and Parmesan Turkey Meatballs is full of flavor, packs in vegetables and is a quick, easy weeknight dinner that the whole family will love!
Pesto is a quintessential summertime sauce- it’s bright, vibrant and full of flavor. The best part is there are so many different variations and ways to make it. In this version, we’re going to add a healthy amount of curly kale, which pairs perfectly with the pesto flavors and is definitely the yummiest way to get in your veggies!
The Parmesan Turkey Meatballs are a staple and a great source of protein in this recipe. They’re easy to make, and I’ve outlined options for cooking that make these so easy to get on the table!
What ingredients are in A kale pesto sauce?
Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa, Italy. It traditionally consists of crushed nuts, garlic, salt, hard cheese, basil and olive oil, of course! There are many renditions of pesto, but the version most of us think of is Genoese Pesto- it is the most popular pesto in Italy and around the world.
In this Kale Basil Pesto, we’re going to be using the following key ingredients:
Kale- of course, this recipe has kale in it! I love adding kale to pesto because it packs a nutritious punch into the sauce without sacrificing any flavor or texture.
It’s important to use curly kale in this recipe, rather than Tuscan (or dino) kale, which is a bit rougher in texture and wouldn’t blend as easily. Curly kale is the type most commonly seen in grocery stores and is lighter in color with “curly” edges!
Fresh Basil– the other green in this kale basil pesto is the basil! This is a perfect recipe for summertime when basil plants are going crazy. The measurements do not need to be 100% accurate, but you want about 2 loosely packed cups of basil.
Pine Nuts- pine nuts are the traditional nut used in pesto, but if you don’t have or prefer them, you can do a 1:1 swap with walnuts, almonds or pistachios!
Parmesan Cheese– traditionally, pesto always includes a hard cheese such as parmesan. If you’re wanting to keep this recipe vegan, feel free to substitute the parmesan with a vegan option like nutritional yeast. You may need to play around with the amount, I would start with ¼ cup and go from there!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- the last key ingredient for the pesto is the olive oil. You MUST use oil to thin and combine the sauce. The higher quality, the better! While the food processor is on, drizzle in the oil in a steady steam until you reach desired consistency, about 1/2 cup-1 cup.
can you freeze the kale pesto?
This Basil Kale Pesto freezes great! This is an awesome recipe to meal-prep and keep in your freezer. Or, make extra so that you have some in your freezer for next time.
To freeze, you can either put the basil kale pesto into an ice cube tray so that you can pop out a small amount if desired, or simply freeze in a plastic container and thaw in the refrigerator or by running it under hot water.
How to Make Turkey Meatballs
These Parmesan Turkey Meatballs are a great source of protein in this dinner and they’re so easy to make! The flavors compliment the Basil Kale Pesto so well and really complete the meal!
To make the meatballs, simply combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until just combined. This means that the moment you notice the ingredients are incorporated, you don’t need to mix anymore.
To get even-sized meatballs, I like to use a meatball or ice cream scoop. Another step that makes rolling the meatballs easier is to coat your hands in a small amount of oil so that the meat doesn’t stick to them. Roll the meatballs uniformly and place on a plate.
Stove-top Cooking Method for the Parmesan Turkey Meatballs
An easy method for cooking the turkey meatballs is to cook them on a cast-iron or non-stick skillet. Heat the skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes and then add a thin layer of oil and continue to heat for another 30 seconds. This process prevents food from sticking to the skillet, so don’t skip it!
Sear the turkey meatballs on each side for 2 minutes or until browned and cook through.
Oven Method for the Parmesan Turkey Meatballs
If you prefer to bake the meatballs, preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned and cooked through!
Can you freeze meatballs to eat them later?
The turkey meatballs are also a great option for making a double batch and freezing! To freeze the meatballs, allow them to fully cool after cooking. Then, add them to a large ziploc bag or container and mark with the date that you froze them!
As always, please leave a comment below if you try this basil kale pesto recipe!
If you’re looking for another summertime meal, check out my new Zucchini Fritters. And come say hi on Instagram and follow along on Pinterest if you need more recipe inspo!
Basil Kale Pesto & Parmesan Turkey Meatballs
For the Basil Kale Pesto:
- 2 cups loosely packed curly kale
- 2 cups loosely pack fresh basil
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- salt, to taste
- extra virgin olive oil
- pasta of choice
For the Parmesan Turkey Meatballs:
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2/3 cup rice crumbs or bread crumb
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- In a food processor, combine all ingredients for the Basil Kale Pesto. Process on high while streaming in oil (about ½ cup-1 cup) until desired consistency.
- Cook pasta according to directions. Add pesto sauce to the pasta when done cooking.
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the parmesan turkey meatballs, being sure to not over mix.
- Coat hands in oil and roll into meatballs, setting aside on a plate.
- Heat a large, non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat for 5 mins. Add a thin layer of oil to the skillet and allow to heat for another 30 seconds.
- Add the meatballs to the skillet, being sure to not overcrowd, and sear on each side for 2 mins for a total of 8-10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
- Serve pasta and meatballs with shaved parmesan!