Recipe: Pesto Turkey Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

April 14th, 2021

Brought to you by America's Test Kitchen

Pesto turkey meatballs in marinara sauce

For a new spin on meatballs, add basil pesto for big flavor. The pesto replaces the minced herbs, minced garlic and grated cheese in standard meatball recipes. Buy pesto from the refrigerated section of the supermarket – it has a fresher flavor than the jarred pesto sold in the grocery aisles

This kid-friendly recipe is easy to follow, so young ones can join in on the cooking fun. Just be sure an adult is nearby to help, especially when using the oven.

Pesto Turkey Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

Serves 4

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1 pound (93% lean) ground turkey
  • 3/4 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray foil with vegetable oil spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine turkey, pesto, panko, salt and pepper. Use your hands to gently mix until well combined.

3. Lightly wet your hands. Use your wet hands to roll turkey mixture into 16 meatballs. Arrange meatballs evenly on the baking sheet. Wash your hands

4. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until meatballs are just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.

5. While meatballs bake, add oil to Dutch oven. Heat over medium heat for 1 minute (oil should be hot but not smoking). Stir in garlic with wooden spoon and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

6. Use oven mitts to remove the baking sheet with meatballs from the oven. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack.

7. Use tongs to carefully transfer meatballs to sauce in Dutch oven. Cook, gently stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through and register 165 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Serve.

Check out more BOOMER recipes here!

For 25 years, confident cooks in the know have relied on America’s Test Kitchen for rigorously tested recipes developed by professional test cooks and vetted by 60,000 at-home recipe testers. See more online at

(C)2021 America’s Test Kitchen. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

More from Boomer

Diner-Style Breakfast at Home

By JeanMarie Brownson | May 22, 2024

5 Cheaper Proteins for a Summer BBQ

By Lauren Wicks, | May 17, 2024

Strawberry Cheesecake Bars

By Katie Leaird, America’s Test Kitchen | May 15, 2024