Slow Cooker Turkey Pesto Meatballs & Marinara

Dig in to these delicious turkey meatballs with fresh pesto and hearty marinara sauce, all simmered together in your slow cooker!

Slow Cooker Turkey Pesto Meatballs & Marinara – Dig in to these delicious turkey meatballs with fresh pesto and hearty marinara sauce! |

So, here’s my plan: If fall isn’t gonna come to me, I’m gonna grab it and take it for myself! What does that mean? Warm cinnamon cookies, imaginary roaring fires, cable knit sweaters and cozy slow-cooked meals simmering as I look out the window and think, “Ooh, what a chill we’re having today….”

All in the comfort of my air conditioned cocoon.

Slow Cooker Turkey Pesto Meatballs & Marinara – Dig in to these delicious turkey meatballs with fresh pesto and hearty marinara sauce! |

Sure, it’s far-reaching seeing as we’re still fanning ourselves through the Texas heat, but a girl’s gotta do what she can!

And guess what? It’s totally working. That is, until I slip into my buttery soft leather boots, wrap up in a scarf and step outside only to discover it’s NINETY FRICKING DEGREES.


Slow Cooker Turkey Pesto Meatballs & Marinara – Dig in to these delicious turkey meatballs with fresh pesto and hearty marinara sauce! |

Cold weather or warm weather, though, your slow cooker is the perfect solution for scrumptious, home-cooked meals with minimal effort. Sprinkled with fresh basil and tucked into a bed of warm pasta, these slow cooked turkey-pesto meatballs were mouthwatering. Seriously the most tender and delicious I’ve ever had.

The meatballs and marinara sauce cook all in one pot, and the flavor of each just intensifies with every hour! If you work at home like me, you’ll find the wait excruciating but the aroma amazing. Fear not, these fabulous meatballs only take 4-5 hours.

Give your plateful a healthy dusting of Parmesan, pour a glass of vino, and dinner is done and on the table!

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PrintPrint Recipe

Slow Cooker Turkey Pesto Meatballs & Marinara

Yield: Makes 4 servings


For meatballs:

1 lb. ground turkey (not ground turkey breast)

1/2 cup prepared basil pesto (homemade or store bought)

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For marinara:

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 lb. cooked pasta

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish


For meatballs:

In a medium bowl, using your hands, mix all ingredients for meatballs until well combined. Roll into 2-inch meatballs and arrange on a large plate. Microwave meatballs on high until fat renders and meatballs are firm, about 5 minutes.

For marinara:

Combine all ingredients, except for pasta and basil/parsley, in slow cooker and stir to combine. Using tongs, transfer meatballs to slow cooker, discarding rendered fat. Cover and cook until meatballs are tender, 4 to 5 hours on low.

Serve over warm cooked pasta and garnish with chopped basil or parsley, if desired.



37 Responses to “Slow Cooker Turkey Pesto Meatballs & Marinara”

  1. #
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious — October 4, 2013 @ 1:21 am

    Goodness – I can’t believe it’s still 90 out there! It’s a bit warm here in SF, around 70-80 but it gets super cold at night.

    Either way, I’m still totally going to devour this plate of meatballs – it’s comfort food at its best!

  2. #
    Marie @ Little Kitchie — October 4, 2013 @ 5:32 am

    Haha, the weather is kind of unbelievable, isn’t it?! I wore WOOL yesterday and was dying. Don’t know what I was thinking…. But this weekend is supposed to be better! :) And about these meatballs… love them! I’m all over my slow cooker right now. Definitely going to give these a try!

  3. #
    Monica — October 4, 2013 @ 5:42 am

    My son loves ground turkey – sounds odd but true. I really need to try these meatballs – 4 ingredients (not going to count salt & pepper)!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. #
    Angie@Angie's Recipes — October 4, 2013 @ 6:24 am

    It’s quite chilly over here…and it’s RAINY! These slow cooker meatballs look perfect for our dinner.

  5. #
    Kim (Feed Me, Seymour) — October 4, 2013 @ 6:43 am

    I am with you on this one. It’s been in the high 80s and I actually considered capris while at my daughter’s field hockey practice yesterday. Boo. But that doesn’t mean I can’t whip up a batch of these meatballs. They look so deliciously filling and comforting. Perfect for the season that should be chilly but has decided to be wacky instead.

  6. #
    Tieghan — October 4, 2013 @ 7:30 am

    Ha, we just a good 2 to 3 inches of snow on the ground here in CO! It is very cold, but so cozy! The these meatballs and that they are made in the crockpot. I love the crockpot!

  7. #
    Erin | The Emerging Foodie — October 4, 2013 @ 8:45 am

    Uh, yum!! And slow cooker, too? Brilliant. Don’t worry, Georgia, I’m suffering with you over here in Arizona! Crossing my fingers for some sort of cool down! :)

  8. #
    Melanie @ — October 4, 2013 @ 8:52 am

    They look so good. Comfort food at its finest. Love to pull together meals in the slow cooker.

  9. #
    BJ — October 4, 2013 @ 8:59 am

    So beautiful and rich and red! Yum. I’ll whip these up this weekend for our 75 degree cold front in DFW. Seriously, Mother Nature, bring it already!

  10. #
    Alexe @ Keys to the Cucina — October 4, 2013 @ 9:15 am

    Yum this looks so delectable and is making me crave my Mama’s sauce and meatballs. Happy Friday, Georgia!

  11. #
    Eileen — October 4, 2013 @ 9:18 am

    The leaves are starting to turn here in the NE but it’s been sunny and the temperatures have been in the 70’s. A perfect fall in my opinion. I really dread seeing winter arrive! Your meatballs and pasta look like pure comfort food. I know I will be resorting to a lot more comfort food here in the near future. I’m keeping your recipe close by!

  12. #
    Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic — October 4, 2013 @ 9:25 am

    Mmm turkey meatballs! I’m lucky to live in a state with beautiful fall weather, but cold weather or not, i would like a big bowl of these meatballs!

  13. #
    Julia {The Roasted Root} — October 4, 2013 @ 9:38 am

    Cold weather fooooood! I love anything that can be made in my slow cooker and I adore turkey + anything in the form of a meatball = sheer pleasure. I love this recipe and your meatballs look perfect!

  14. #
    Jessica @ A Kitchen Addiction — October 4, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    Love that the pesto is mixed into the meat! These sound so good!

  15. #
    Laura (Tutti Dolci) — October 4, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

    Such a comforting plate of pasta, I love the pesto in the meatballs!

  16. #
    Nik@ABrownTable — October 4, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

    Yum, a slow cooker meatball recipe! I’m going to have to try this one out.

  17. #
    Consuelo @ Honey & Figs — October 4, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

    I cannot believe it’s so long sonce i las had meatballs… hopefully I’ll be making these this weekend, they look amazing! And so healthy too! I’m longing to make them!
    Have a nice weekend, Georgia :)

  18. #
    Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen — October 4, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

    Georgia, you always remind us why we should be using our slow cookers in both warm and cold weather. I dig that and must make your easy and delicious recipe for turkey meatballs soon. Love the pesto twist! Thank you for sharing, my friend!

  19. #
    Bam's Kitchen — October 4, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

    Turkey pesto meatballs sounds delightful and slow cooked is the way to go for busy workweeks. Today was the first day in HK that I have not had to run the airconditioner in the morning first thing upon arising. The humidity is actually down a little bit so I am hoping it will be cooling down for you too soon. Take Care, BAM

  20. #
    Ash-foodfashionparty — October 5, 2013 @ 11:10 am

    Winter food at it’s best. The meatballs look so moist, with the pesto in it, I am sure it is a yummy combo.

  21. #
    Ramona — October 5, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

    Looks like an amazing slow cooker recipe. I love the idea of pesto meatballs. This one is definitely family friendly. :)

  22. #
    val — October 5, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

    Brilliant – this is perfect comfort food.

  23. #
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef — October 5, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

    That last photo left me drooling! I.want.

  24. #
    Danelle — October 5, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

    Looks fabulous! I have tons of basil in the freezer (might have planted a little too much basil in the garden this year!). Can’t wait to give this a try.

  25. #
    CCU — October 6, 2013 @ 2:17 am

    Yum is so mild for this, it looks flavoured to perfection :D


  26. #
    Maria G. — October 6, 2013 @ 3:26 am

    Ok, I consider this to be as tasty as you said… No, I’m just kidding. All your recipes are tasty, no doubt. Mmm, I’m excited to cook this marinara and pesto meatballs. Are they taken from Turkish national cuisine? What other recipes from Turkish cuisine could you post here? Please, I’m waiting for more tasty things…

    • Georgia — October 6th, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

      No, not a Turkish dish… Italian!

  27. #
    lauren — October 6, 2013 @ 10:06 am

    Any suggestions on pre-cooking the meatballs if I don’t have a microwave?

    • Georgia — October 6th, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

      You could try cooking them almost completely in a frying pan and then draining on paper towels, but I can’t guarantee it will turn out just right.

  28. #
    Monet — October 6, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

    Haha. We’re in Houston, visiting my grandparents, and on the first (HOT) night, we had soup. They’re embracing fall too. This looks delicious Georgia, and we’ll definitely enjoy it on a cool Colorado night.

  29. #
    Lisa — October 7, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

    Georgia, Was wondering if i used ground beef would you change anything else?

    • Georgia — October 7th, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

      Just make sure when microwaving that the fat renders completely out of the meatballs. There will be more fat using beef and you may need to skim some from the surface of the sauce.

  30. #
    Valerie | From Valerie's Kitchen — October 7, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

    I use ground turkey all the time for all kinds of dishes and these meatballs are absolutely calling my name, Georgia! Looks fabulous!

  31. #
    Mr. & Mrs. P — October 8, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

    Another awesome slow cooker meal! Pinned

  32. #
    Jeanette — October 8, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

    Love the pesto in your meatballs Georgia – yum!

  33. #
    Kayle (The Cooking Actress) — October 9, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

    aaaaaand now I’m craving these. They look SO good!

  34. #
    Nami | Just One Cookbook — October 10, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

    Your blog has so many kids friendly recipes that I can always rely on, including these meatballs! Turkey and pesto – I have to try this combination!

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