I always find myself overbuying basil and then letting it go bad before I use it all up. If this also describes you, then this recipe is perfect if you find yourself in that sort of silly conundrum. I absolutely love the scent of basil. It’s has such a distinct flavor and great versatility. Some of my favorite ways to use basil is on pizza of course, and make a pesto with it. I love using different types of nuts instead of the traditional pine nut. For example, this pistachio pesto I used on a heirloom tomato pizza that was so delicious. So, let’s talk about walnut pesto pasta with chicken meatballs.
This is a great pasta dish with plenty of delicious leftovers, that tastes even better the next day. This pesto contains a lot of fresh basil, walnuts and freshly grated parmigiana-reggiano cheese. And it couldn’t be easier
Ingredients for walnut pesto
- Fresh basil
- Shelled walnuts
- Fresh garlic
- Lemon zest & lemon juice
- Parmigiano cheese
- Olive oil
- Crushed red pepper, salt & black pepper
- Blend everything until smooth and creamy.
You could also use pistachios, hazelnuts or almonds in place of walnuts for this pesto.
The addition of chicken meatballs really make this pasta extra yummy! I bake them until lightly golden brown. They are so juicy and flavorful. If you are a vegetarian, just omit the meatballs and enjoy this flavorful pasta on its own.
How to make chicken meatballs
- Add 16 oz of ground chicken to a large mixing bowl.
- Add in grated onion, grated garlic, grated shallot, finely chopped basil & parsley, egg, a few tbsp of heavy cream, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and breadcrumbs.
- Using a spatula or your hands, combine just until incorporated.
- Preheat the oven to 425 and refrigerate the mixture for 20-30 minutes.
- Using a tablespoon, scoop 2 tbsp the meat mixture and form it into a ball. Place on a sheet pan lined with a cooling rack or parchment paper and bake for 30-35 minutes. This recipe makes 15-20 meatballs.
You can make the pesto ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use. Once the pasta is cooked, I turn the heat off, add the pesto in and let the pasta warm it up. You don’t want to cook the pesto. Top with the chicken meatballs, grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and basil. So delicious! Walnut Pesto Pasta with Chicken Meatballs is a perfect dish for a summer weeknight dinner.
Walnut Pesto Pasta with Chicken Meatballs
- 12 inch fry pan or Cast-Iron Skillet
- 9×13 Sheet Pan
- Mixing Bowls
- 1 lb pasta of choice tubular or spaghetti
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 2 cup fresh basil
- ½ cup shelled walnuts
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 cloves fresh garlic about 2 tbsp
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 lemons juiced
- ¼ cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese grated
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- 16 oz ground chicken
- ¼ cup grated onion
- ¼ cup fresh basil finely chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 tbsp grated garlic
- 1 tsp grated shallot
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp heavy cream
- ⅓ cup parmigiano-reggiano grated
- ¼ cup Italian style breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- Throw everything into a blender and pulse until a creamy and smooth pesto forms.
- Add everything into a large mixing bowl. Use a spatula or your hands to combine the mixture. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 25-30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425°
- Using a tablespoon, scoop out 2 tbsp of the meat mixture and form it into a ball. Place the meatballs on a sheet pan lined with a rack or parchment paper. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until lightly golden brown. While your meatballs are baking, boil your pasta according to the instructions, 10-15 minutes before the meatballs are done.
- Drain your cooked pasta and pour it back into the pot. With the flame on low, add in the pasta water. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn the heat off and add the pesto in. Stir to combine. Top with the chicken meatballs, fresh basil and grated cheese. Enjoy!
- You will get between 15-20 meatballs with this recipe. You can also use beef or turkey if you prefer.
- Turn the heat off when you add your pesto in. You don’t want to cook the pesto sauce, just warm it up.
- If you don’t have any walnuts, you can use pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts instead.
- You can use whatever pasta you have on hand. Spaghetti or any tubular shape.