As soon as the weather starts to warm up I get excited for summer dishes… salads, fresh pastas, grilled meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, you name it. My parents both love to garden, and I have been blessed to grow up eating fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies during the summer months. One of my absolute favorite summer delights is pesto. I will put pesto on everything during the summer. Whether its smeared on toasted sourdough, tossed with pasta, or stirred into a salad dressing, I am obsessed with the stuff.
Every summer, my dad’s patch of basil in the garden overflows and it is time to make pesto. I have fond memories of being a little girl, sitting outside picking huge baskets of basil leaves right off of the stem. We would then blend the fresh basil leaves with olive oil, toasted pine nuts, grated parmesan, salt, pepper, and minced garlic to create the most delicious, fragrant pesto sauce. This recipe is inspired by summer weather and alfresco dinners with the people that you love.
For this recipe, I created a homemade pesto sauce that you can easily make in 5 minutes in your blender. No fancy equipment or ingredients… you will never go back to store-bought. This pesto recipe also happens to be nut-free, so is perfect for people with allergies! The fresh, zesty pesto tastes delicious with the sweet, juicy pops of the cherry tomatoes, so don’t leave them out!
To complete the dish, I paired the pesto orzo with my baked turkey meatballs. This is one of my favorite meatball recipes, because the are secretly packed with veggies! If anyone in your household is picky about veggies (especially kids), put this recipe on your list for this week! These turkey meatballs are kept nice and juicy thanks to a whole grated zucchini… you would never know that it is there! I also threw in a handful of chopped spinach for extra veggies, and the taste is delicious!
These turkey meatballs are packed with protein, and are a low-carb alternative to traditional meatballs. Thanks to the zucchini, the meatballs stay moist so there are actually no breadcrumbs in this recipe. Trust me, they still taste amazing, and you are getting a bonus serving (or two) of veggies!
Turkey Zucchini Meatballs with Pesto Orzo
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 lb ground turkey (I used 93%)
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 zucchini
- 1 tsp parsley
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 cup spinach leaves
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 cups orzo
- 4 cups chicken broth (you can use water if you don't have chicken broth, it just adds flavor)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes (cut in half lengthwise)
Make the pesto sauce
- Pick the fresh basil leaves off of the stem. You will need about 1 cup of packed basil leaves, or about 2 big handfuls.
- To a blender, add the basil leaves, minced garlic, grated parmesan, olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper. Blend for 30 seconds, then scrape sides with a rubber spatula and blend for another 15-30 seconds until smooth.
Make the meatballs
- Preheat oven to 400°F, and line a baking sheet with foil and spray well with cooking spray.
- Wash and cut the ends off of the zucchini. Grate into a large bowl. Use a paper towel to squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the zucchini.
- Add ground turkey, beaten egg, parsley, garlic powder, salt, and red pepper flakes to the same bowl that the zucchini is in. Finely chop the spinach leaves and add them to bowl.
- Mix meatball mixture together using your hands until everything is fully combined. Using about 1/2 cup of mixture for each meatball, form into even sized balls and place on the baking tray.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, until the meatballs are browned. You can flip them halfway through cooking if you would like so that the bottom is evenly browned.
Make the orzo
- While your meatballs are in the oven, start the orzo. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the dry orzo to the melted butter and let it toast in the butter for 1-2 minutes, stirring the whole time.
- Add the chicken broth or water, and stir to combine. Place the lid on the pot and cook until the orzo has absorbed all of the liquid and is al dente (fully cooked with a slight bite). You will need to stir the orzo every few minutes while it is cooking.
- Once the orzo is finished cooking, remove from heat. Add the pesto sauce and halved cherry tomatoes, and stir gently until all of the orzo is coated in pesto.
- Divide the orzo onto plates, and top with meatballs. Sprinkle with parmesan and red pepper flakes. Enjoy!
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