Baked Turkey Meatballs with Pesto Farro

Baked Turkey Meatballs with Pesto Farro

On Sundays I like to make a meal that produces leftovers I can take for lunch the rest of this week. We pick up a new CSA box on Tuesday so this week I was trying to make the pantry stretch and buy as few ingredients as possible. These meatballs fit the bill!

Turkey meatballs are one of my go-to’s for Sundays. They are easy, reasonably healthy, make a large quantity, and reheat well. I always bake my meatballs. It is a lot easier than searing, which often has to be done in batches and requires constant watching. Baking allows me to work on other parts of the meal while they are in the oven. Baking is also healthier since it requires less (or none) oil.

These meatballs are pretty basic: ground turkey, breadcrumbs egg, Parmesan cheese, parsley, sautéed onion and garlic, and red pepper flakes for some heat. Some meatball recipes add tomato paste, so I opted for pesto to go along with the pesto farro. The pesto flavor isn’t strong in the actual meatballs but ties the flavor together with the farro.


Ground turkey meatball mix
Meatball mixture: ground turkey, sautéed onion and garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan, red pepper flakes, parsley, and pesto.


Formed meatballs, ready for oven.
Meatballs ready for the oven.

In my quest to use pantry items, I settled on farro. Farro is a whole grain the size of rice. It is sort of similar to quinoa or barley, which are all versatile and nutritious grain alternatives to rice or pasta. It has a mild nutty flavor and has a texture slightly chewier than rice. I actually like the flavor of farro a little more than quinoa. It feels more substantial to me too.

When buying farro, look for packaging that says it is “pearled”. Pearled means the hull has already been removed. Pearled farro will cook in about 20 minutes. Non-pearled farro requires overnight soaking and cooks for an hour. Not something I want to mess around with!

Early in the CSA season, we received a box containing multiple types of greens. I was able to use the spinach, arugula, and lettuce in time but couldn’t get to the kale before we went on vacation. So, I made it into pesto and froze it! I read an article suggesting freezing pesto in an ice cube tray so that you can defrost a small amount at a time. Genius! It has been being able to use the cubes of pesto for easy weeknight meals.

Baked meatballs hot out of oven.
Crispy brown meatballs.


Final dish: baked turkey meatballs with zucchini tomato pesto farro.
Baked turkey meatballs with zucchini tomato pesto farro.

Baked Turkey Meatballs with Pesto Zucchini Tomato Farro

This is a fun alternative to the typical spaghetti and meatballs. Pesto goes great with turkey, zucchini, and tomatoes. Farro is a nutty whole grain that is a healthy alternative to pasta.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author the brave radish



  • 1 lbs ground turkey
  • 2 tbls bread crumbs
  • 2 tbls grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tbls parsley chopped
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbls pesto
  • ground pepper


  • 1 cup pearled farro
  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchinis diced
  • 1 pint small tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 5 tbls pesto
  • garnish with grated parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook the farro according to package directions. Mine said to put 1 cup farro and 2 cups water in saucepan and bring to a boil; then turn to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the water is absorbed. I have to admit though, I have never been able to let the water absorb all of the way. It always tastes done to me before the water is all gone so I just drain the extra water. No one will know!
  3. While the farro is cooking, make the meatballs. In a medium frying pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Mine took about 6 minutes. In a large bowl, combine turkey, bread crumbs, parmesan, egg, parsley, red pepper flakes, pesto, and ground pepper to taste. Mix until combined; you might have to use your hands! Form meatballs the size of golf balls (about 2 tbls), and spread out on a lightly greased cookie sheet. I didn’t grease my cookie sheet and the meatballs stuck, so don’t be like me!
  4. Bake meatballs for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. There should be no pink in the middle.
  5. While meatballs are baking, finish the farro. Wipe out the pan you used for the onion and garlic. Heat olive oil and garlic on medium high heat. When fragrant, add the zucchini and sauté until it starts to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook another 4 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and starting to burst. Turn off heat and add the cooked (and drained) farro, and pesto to the pan. Mix until well combined.
  6. Serve the farro with a few meatballs (we did 3 but went back for seconds) on top. Garnish with grated parmesan cheese.