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Chicken Meatballs with Pesto Gnocchi | FreshNess
Chicken Meatballs with Pesto Gnocchi

Chicken Meatballs with Pesto Gnocchi

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plated pesto gnocchi meatballs

One day I wanted to make meatballs but didn’t know what to eat them with.  I didn’t feel like pasta, or a sub, or Ikea sauce, so what else do you do with meatballs?  The Barefoot Contessa made her chicken meatballs into Italian wedding soup (yum!).  Instead, I thought I’d do a GF gnocchi in a pesto sauce.  I had made her chicken meatballs before but adapted them to be gluten, dairy, and egg-free and they were amazing – you don’t need the cheese in them at all.  The secret ingredient is the sausage meat. So much flavour with so little effort is just how I like it.

Cooked chicken meatballs on tray

I also had some leftover homemade pesto in the freezer, made with garlic, fresh basil, arugula, walnuts, olive oil, and Drunken Goat cheese (a mild Spanish cheese soaked in red wine for a few days, leaving it with a berry stained edible outer layer – I’m not fan of super strong cheeses so I use this instead of parmesan).   You just toss the gnocchi with the pesto and some fresh arugula and you’ve got a simple fast meal when you want some comfort food.  PS – this meal is very garlicky so keep those post dinner breath mints handy.

pesto ingredients on board

I first learned how to make homemade pesto in a cooking class at Dish Cooking Studio in Toronto.  My biz partner J and I drunkenly victoriously outbid everyone at a charity auction to win the class where founder Trish Magwood taught us how to make a simple basil, pine nut pesto – so easy and so much fresher and tastier than the oily, jarred store bought pestos. I changed the recipe cuz I like the bite of a little arugula and the brain food qualities of walnuts. 

The good news is both the meatballs and pesto recipes make more than you would need for a dinner for two so any leftovers can be frozen for the next time you need a no-effort comfort meal.  Frozen extras = presto pesto.

chicken meatball ingredients in bowl

raw chicken meatballs on tray


Chicken Meatballs (gluten/nut/dairy/corn free)

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Italian Wedding Soup recipe on FoodNetwork.com

  • 3/4 lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 lb chicken sausage meat (I used sweet Italian basil)
  • 1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs (I thew a couple of pieces of day old bread in a food processor)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1 egg replacer (I use Ener-G brand)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all the ingredients together gently until just combined – do not handle too much or over mix.  Gently roll about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into 1″ balls (doesn’t have to be perfectly round) and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Basil, Arugula, Walnut Pesto

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup baby arugula
  • 4 -5 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup finely grated hard cheese (I use Drunken Goat as mentioned above.)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the first five ingredients into a food processor and chop until finely minced.  Add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time and blend until combined.


I used Nuvo brand gluten-free gnocchi from Whole Foods.  It’s very tasty, fresh and quick cooking.   Cook the gnocchi in 4 litres of boiling salted water for 2 – 3 minutes.  Drain and return gnocchi to pot on low heat.  Stir through 2 tablespoons of pesto and a handful of fresh arugula.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and crushed red peppers (optional).

gnocchi brand nuvo package

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