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Creamy pesto chicken meatball pasta


Easy pesto chicken meatballs simmered in a quick basil pesto cream sauce. Toss with your favorite pasta (and a special healthy ingredient!), serve over rice or with crusty bread. Use my go-to (nut-free!) pesto or your favorite store-bought to make things even easier. A great meal for busy weeknights!



Pesto chicken meatballs

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons pesto (store-bought is fine!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Basil Pesto Cream Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/2 lb pasta (I used linguine, but any kind will work!)*
  • 2 medium zucchini, spiralized
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan + more for serving
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves for serving


  1. You have a couple of options when it comes to cooking the meatballs: Baked, air fried or pan fried. If you are baking, preheat your oven to 400. If air frying, preheat air fryer to 375. If pan frying, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet (use whatever you'll make the pasta sauce in later!) over medium heat. 
  2. In a large bowl, add 1 lb ground chicken, 1 egg, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, 2 tablespoons pesto, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Use your hands or a fork to mix until everything is just combined - try not to overmix!
  3. Using a cookie/ice cream scoop or a regular ol' spoon, roll mixture into balls (about 2 tablespoons per meatball). To cook:
    • Baked: Place meatballs on a large baking sheet. Drizzle or brush with a little olive oil and bake for 20 minutes.
    • Air Fryer: Spray basked with oil. Place meatballs in a single layer and spray with a light layer of oil. Fry for 8 minutes.
    • Pan fry: Place in heated, oiled skillet in a single layer. Cook, turning occasionally, for 12-15 minutes or until browned on all sides and cooked through. Remove from pan. 
  4. Cook 1/2 lb pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water (don't forget!!) and then drain over 2 spiralized zucchini in a colander. 
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons butter.
  6. Once butter is melted, add 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook for 2 minutes until garlic is softened.
  7. Add 1 cup half-and-half and 1/4 cup pesto and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer and then add the pesto chicken meatballs. Let cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. 
  8. Add drained pasta and zucchini and toss everything to combine. Add reserved pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time until you get a saucy consistency you like. Add 1/3 cup grated parmesan and toss again. Keep tossing and adding pasta water as needed until it looks good to you.
  9. Serve with extra grated parmesan, torn basil leaves and more red pepper flakes, if desired. 
  10. This pasta is obviously best right after it's made, but leftovers do heat really well! Add a splash of water or half-and-half when rewarming.


  • You can definitely use a full pound of pasta if you don't want to replace any of the pasta with zucchini.
  • Instead of pasta you can serve this basil pesto cream sauce with rice or fresh, crusty bread.
  • If seafood is more your thing, try this pasta with shrimp! Just toss about a pound of shrimp in 2-3 tablespoons pesto and a little drizzle of olive oil. Sear shrimp off until just barely cooked and then remove from pan. From there, add your butter and garlic and proceed with the recipe, adding the shrimp back in at the end. So yum!
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian