Between this recipe and the Chicken Meatballs with Thai Coconut Curry Sauce I posted recently, I think that chicken meatballs are my new besties. #bestiesforlife. Why? Because they are healthy, easy, and super yummy. Chicken is a much lighter meat than beef, and it also has a more subtle taste. Still supa delicious, but it yields to other flavors better, liiiikkkkkeeeeee curry sauce or PESTO, for example.
Ah, pesto. My other bestie. I could eat pesto all day long. On meat? Yep. Mixed into rice, pasta, and soup? Of course. Straight out of the jar with a spoon? Sure. Doesn’t matter – I don’t discriminate in my pesto love. I will take it any way I can get it. And thiiiisss pesto is extra special. You could say, you COULD say, this pesto is the best-o. I know…I know. From whom did I learn my sharp humor and wit? Some people are just born with it…Some people. Just born with it.
To answer the question that I know is burning in all of your minds, this pesto is super special because it not only includes the traditional basil, but also parsley and cilantro. The result? More complex flavor, more freshness, and more deliciousness all around. People won’t be able to figure out what you did to bring this pesto to a whoooollleee ‘nother level, and you don’t even have to tell them if you want to remain mysterious and sneaky. Your secret is safe with me.
Pesto is just magical. It takes less than five minutes to make and seriously brings so much amazing flavor to any dish ever ever EVER. You can do so many things with it, and it takes your boring weeknight meals and brings some spunk. Not to mention there are approximatelyyyyyyyyy fourteen billion different types of pesto you can make. Cilantro Cashew Pesto? Yasssss. Pistachio Pesto? Um. Yeah. Or you can always go with the simple, traditional version, too.
To summarize: pesto = lyfe.
And theeennnn there are the meatballs. Chicken meatballs are so yummy. They are just so delicate and moist and perfect in every single way. They are delicious all on their own but are even better when you add all kinds of flavor awesomeness to them.
And the most perfect flavor EVAA to add? Pesto! This pesto, to be exact. You roll your meatballs, bake em up, and coat them (heavily) in this wonderful, life-affirming pesto of happiness. Like so:
And then there’s the arugula that sits underneath everything. I mean, as if this recipe needs any more mouth watering elements. The bright, lemony, peppery, slightly-spicy arugula paired with these pesto smothered chicken meatballs – the world is a happy place when you take a bite of all that together. The world is a happy place. It’s the perfect flavor pairing…like…like cookie dough and ice cream. Like wine and cheese. Like hot chocolate and marshmallows!
You want to hear a mystery story? I have yet to fully solve it. Maybe you can help me. Allow me to set the scene…
It was a sunny, blisteringly hot (typical Kansas summer…just bought an AC window unit to supplement our already existing air conditioning…) day, and I was about to go out and run some errands. I thought to myself, hmmm, what should we make for dinner tonight? Let’s check the freezer. Ah, there’s salmon! That sounds pretty good.
I then remove two salmon fillets that are in a ziplock baggie from the freezer and place them into a bowl with some water. I set the bowl with the frozen salmon on the counter, leave the house, and go do some stuffs. Come back an hour or so later, and the salmon has mysteriously disappeared from its bowl. Of course my first thought is BOONE. But there are some confusing elements here.
First of all, there are only a few drops of water outside the bowl, and Boone’s typical M.O. is complete and total destruction. If it was him, I would normally expect the bowl to be upside down or tipped over, the floor and counter to be covered in the water, and the plastic baggie and salmon ripped up and distributed throughout various locations around the house. It was a little clean and non-destructive for Boone. Which points to the cat, Blitz. But Blitz is a tiny cat, and a baggie with two salmon fillets in it seems like kind of a lot for her to take out of the bowl and drag more than a few inches.
So then I begin my search around the house for the missing salmon.
You guys…I. Searched. Every. Inch. Of. My. House. Like, EVERYWHERE. The salmon was gone. After searching for what seemed like forever (trying to avoid a situation where I find the partially destroyed salmon days later after it has started smelling up our house), I gave up and accepted the explanation of Boone getting the salmon out of the bowl and just literally eating every shred of the fish AND plastic baggie, leaving no evidence.
Well, later that night, maaannyyy hours later, here comes Boone, trotting over proudly with a ripped up plastic bag containing one partially destroyed salmon fillet. I’m assuming he ate the other one…or we might find it another time. But the real mystery is where he hid it. I’m telling you guys, I was thorough in my search. I will probably never know, but I am convinced Boone has some secret doggie crawl space that only he knows about in our house where he hides various items.
Needless to say, we had chicken instead of salmon that night.
- For the meatballs:
- 1 pound ground chicken
- ½ cup whole wheat panko (if you can't find whole wheat, regular is fine)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- For the pesto:
- 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- ½ cup loosely packed parsley
- ½ cup loosely packed cilantro
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- For the arugula salad:
- 5 cups loosely packed baby arugula
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
- In a medium bowl, mix all of your meatball ingredients together (chicken, panko, egg, salt) until just combined
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and form your meatballs. Using about 2 tablespoons of meat mixture for each ball, roll the meat in between your palms to form the balls and place them on your parchment paper
- Bake the meatballs for 10 minutes, remove from oven, turn them over, and bake for another 5 minutes
- Meanwhile, make your pesto
- In a food processor, combine the basil, parsley, cilantro, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper
- Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped
- With the food processor running, drizzle in your olive oil
- Remove the lid, scrape down the sides, and place the lid back on
- Turn the food processor back on and add water, one tablespoon at a time (scraping down the sides in between each tablespoon), until you get the consistency of pesto that you desire. It will most likely be between 2 and 4 tablespoons of water (maybe a little more, maybe a little less - it really depends on what you like)
- Season your pesto to taste with salt and pepper
- Let your pesto sit in the fridge until everything is ready
- For your arugula salad, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing (lemon, olive oil, dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste) and set aside until ready to serve
- When the meatballs are done baking, remove them from the oven and toss together in a bowl with all of your pesto until they are all evenly coated
- To serve, start with about 1 cup of arugula, dressed to your preference, and top with about three pesto coated meatballs
Nutrition information is for 1 cup of arugula salad and 3 pesto meatballs.
If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries!
In the mood for more yummy meatball recipes? Check these out: