Pesto Turkey Meatballs and Goat Cheese Polenta —

Pesto Turkey Meatballs with Goat Cheese Polenta

  • Author: Maggie
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 servings 1x



For the meatballs:
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat)
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • A pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt (fall-fat)
  • 2 tbsp pesto (see below)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 2 lb ground turkey (preferably pasture-raised, but do what you can!)

For the kale pesto:

  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 3 handfuls of kale (about 3 large stalks, stems removed)
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Pinch freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan (optional)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the goat cheese polenta:

  • 6 cups water and/or milk (I prefer 4 cups water and 2 cups milk)
  • 2 cups polenta
  • 6 oz. goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Make the kale pesto. Toast the walnuts in the oven on a dry sheet pan for approximately 8 minutes until fragrant. In a food processor or blender, pulse the kale, basil, toasted walnuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper until coarsely ground, scraping down the sides if necessary. With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. The slight bitterness from the kale will mellow as it sits. Set aside.
  3. Make the meatballs. In a large bowl, mix together the onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, salt, freshly ground pepper, and lemon zest until well combined. Add the yogurt, pesto, egg and turkey to the bowl and mix with your hands until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Take care not to overmix, which can yield tough meatballs. Roll into golf ball size meatballs (approximately 2 inches) and place on the parchment lined baking sheet. You should get roughly 2 dozen meatballs. Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping them halfway, until golden brown and cooked completely through (to 165 degrees F).
  4. Make the polenta. While the meatballs cook, make the polenta. Bring the water and milk to a rapid simmer in a large pot. Add the polenta and whisk until no lumps remain. Cook for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly, until polenta has thickened and is tender. Remove from heat and stir in butter, goat cheese, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  5. To serve: remove the meatballs from the oven and place in a large bowl. Toss with 1 cup of the pesto and the juice of half a lemon. If the pesto is quite thick, drizzle with a bit of olive oil to thin out. Serve meatballs over a scoop of polenta, along with crumbled goat cheese, extra pesto, lemon zest and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Enjoy!


Shortcut: use store-bought pesto in place of homemade kale-pesto.