This gluten free meatballs with pesto dish is the perfect meal for an easy weeknight or even to meal prep for lunch on the go! Its made with lean ground chicken meatballs, fresh pesto that you can make yourself or buy, and pasta!
For the gluten free recipe use gluten free breadcrumbs in the meatballs and gluten free penne. To make this a dairy free recipe use dairy free parmesan cheese in the meatballs and dairy free pesto. For the nut free recipe use a pesto without pine nuts. For a low carb version serve over veggie pasta or low carb pasta.
why you’ll love this recipe
- This gluten free meatballs with pesto recipe cooks quickly, making it ideal for a quick and satisfying weeknight meal.
- The meatballs and pasta can be easily doubled or tripled for meal prep.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, making your lunches or dinners hassle-free.
- Both the meatballs and the pasta are gluten-free, making this dish suitable for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
- Use any type of gluten-free pasta you like, such as penne, rotini, or spaghetti.
- For a fat-free option, choose lean ground chicken and omit the parmesan cheese.
- To make it dairy-free, use dairy-free parmesan cheese and a dairy-free pesto.
- You can easily whip up your own pesto using fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and salt.
- If you’re short on time, store-bought pesto works perfectly and saves you prep time.
- If you don’t have gluten-free breadcrumbs, use ground pork rinds.
- Opt for regular breadcrumbs and regular pasta if you don’t have gluten restrictions.
ingredients & substitutions
The main protein source in this gluten free meatballs with pesto recipe is ground chicken. Ground chicken offers a lean and flavorful base for the meatballs. For a richer flavor, ground turkey or ground beef can be substituted.
Milk or Oat Milk
This dairy-free alternative adds moisture and helps bind the meatball ingredients together. You can substitute it with any plant-based milk like almond milk or soy milk. If you are not dairy free you can use regular dairy milk.
These provide texture and structure to the meatballs. Opt for gluten-free breadcrumbs specifically formulated for meatloaf or meatballs. If you are not gluten free you can use regular breadcrumbs for these gluten free meatballs with pesto.
Acting as a binder, the egg helps hold the meatball ingredients together while cooking. If you prefer an egg-free option, use a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water) or a commercial egg replacer. For a lighter gluten free meatballs with pesto recipe use egg whites.
Parmesan Cheese or Dairy-Free Parmesan Cheese
Adding a savory flavor, dairy-free parmesan cheese completes the flavor profile of the meatballs. Regular parmesan cheese can be used if you don’t have dairy restrictions. Nutritional yeast can be used for another alternative, though it will not provide the same cheesy flavor.
This pasta readily absorbs the pesto sauce, resulting in a delicious bite. Choose any gluten-free pasta variety you prefer, such as rotini, spaghetti, or even spiralized vegetables for a low-carb option. Regular penne can be used if gluten isn’t a concern.
The star of the dish, pesto provides a vibrant and flavorful base for the entire recipe. Choose store-bought pesto for convenience, or whip up your own using fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and salt. For a nut-free alternative, substitute sunflower seeds in place of the pine nuts for this gluten free meatballs with pesto recipe.
taste & texture
The chicken meatballs have a savory flavor with hints of basil and garlic. The texture is moist and tender, not dry or crumbly. The pasta is coated in a vibrant green pesto sauce. This adds a burst of fresh herbal flavor.
Add all the ingredients for the meatballs into a bowl. Mix together and form mini meatballs with your hands.
Add the meatballs to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.Bake on 350 for 25-35 minutes or until fully cooked.
Cook the pasta according to box directions. Drain once cooked. Add cooked pasta to a frying pan.
Top with meatballs and pesto sauce. Heat until the pasta, sauce and meatballs are all warmed together.
Top with fresh basil and dairy free parmesan cheese.
expert tips & tricks
- For a richer pesto flavor, add 1/4 cup of pesto to the meatball mixture.
- You can use any type of pesto that you like. If you don’t have any on hand, you can easily make your own by blending together fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and salt.
- If you are not dairy-free, you can use regular parmesan cheese instead of the dairy-free version.
- gluten free meatballs with pesto leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
how to make this lower carb
Replace the breadcrumbs in this gluten free meatballs with pesto with crushed pork rinds for a low carb option. Use spiralized vegetables like zucchini or spaghetti squash or a low carb cauliflower based pasta instead of pasta.
how to make this low fat or healthier
For a lower fat gluten free meatballs with pesto recipe, omit the parmesan cheese from both the meatballs and the pesto. Use a low-fat pesto or make your own using less olive oil.
how to make this vegan
For a vegan gluten free meatballs with pesto recipe, replace ground chicken with lentils, black beans, eggplant or another plant-based ground meat alternative.
Use a vegan egg replacer, such as flaxseed meal or a commercial product, to bind the meatball ingredients.
Opt for vegan pesto, or make your own using vegan parmesan cheese.
how to serve, store and meal prep
This gluten free meatballs with pesto dish is best served warm, immediately after preparation. The pesto sauce coats the meatballs and pasta perfectly, creating a flavorful and satisfying meal. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, diced red onion, or crushed red pepper flakes for an extra touch of flavor and texture.
Leftovers of the gluten free meatballs with pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This makes it a convenient option for quick lunches or dinners throughout the week. Reheat in a pan over medium heat, adding a splash of water or broth to prevent drying. You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave until warmed through.
You can store the gluten free meatballs with pesto for up to 3 months. Store in individual portion size containers to make it a great meal prep option in a pinch! Reheat individual servings in the microwave.
Meal Prep Tip:
For convenient meal prep, portion the cooked meatballs and pasta into individual containers. Add a small container of pesto to each portion for easy dressing. This way, you can quickly grab a delicious and nutritious meal whenever you’re short on time.
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Listen to this podcasts episode
Every Wednesday we are joined by Kayla Cappiello the author of Easy Allergy-Free Cooking: Simple & Safe Everyday Recipes for Everyone of COOKING WITH KAYLA.
Today Kayla we are talking about her PESTO PASTA WITH MEATBALLS.
The meatballs are made with chicken. This is a gluten-free recipe and it can also be made dairy-free!
gluten free meatballs with pesto
- 2 cups penne gluten free
- 2 cups pesto store bought or homemade
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 3 tbsp milk dairy free
- 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs gluten free
- 1 egg or egg whites
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese dairy free
- Add all the ingredients for the meatballs into a bowl. Mix together and form mini meatballs with your hands.
- Add the meatballs to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake on 350 for 25-35 minutes or until fully cooked
- Cook the pasta according to box directions. Drain once cooked.
- Add cooked pasta to a frying pan.
- Top with meatballs and pesto sauce. Heat until the pasta, sauce and meatballs are all warmed together.
- Top with fresh basil and dairy free parmesan cheese.