A deliciously flavored meatball with extra nutrition for your kids
I don’t know what it is about tiny food that I love so much. Maybe it’s that it’s adorable. Maybe it’s that it’s delicious. Maybe it’s because I know my children are 97.8% more likely to eat something that’s tiny-sized. Probably that one.
There have been a few strategies we’ve used as a family to help expand our little ones’ palates, and making small or individually-sized portions has been one of the most successful. This Pesto Chicken Veggie Meatballs Recipe is the perfect size for little and grown-up eaters alike.
You can certainly serve these atop a steaming pile of pasta (any shape will do) and smothered in your favorite sauce (Alfredo, marinara, pesto–it all works). Our favorite way is to serve them with toothpicks and a dollop of your favorite pizza sauce on the side. This allows our toddlers to explore the new flavors at their own pace. It also helps with our daughter’s visual and tactile texture sensitivity. Letting her “mix” new foods as she’s ready feels much less overwhelming. She also tends to be more willing to try new foods when she has a sense of control.
If your little ones like helping in the kitchen, this is a great way for them to jump in and help! They can help stir the veggies as you chop them, scoop or roll meatballs and transfer them to your baking sheet or mat, drizzle olive oil, or help mix up the sauce while the meatballs bake.
- If you can’t find ground chicken breast at your local market, you can make your own by pulsing chicken breasts in a food processor fitted with a metal blade until they’re quite smooth and no large pieces remain. Ground turkey or beef would also work in this recipe.
- If you need a dairy and/or nut free pesto recipe, our favorite is this great recipe. It swaps raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for the pine nuts. It’s still just as delicious!
Pesto Chicken Veggie Meatballs
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Start by preparing the vegetable mixture:
- Gently pat the zucchini dry with a paper towel or clean dish towel (no need to squeeze all the liquid out of it, just pat off some of the extra moisture). Add to a large bowl with the finely minced carrot and bell pepper. Add in the pesto, bread crumbs, and salt and stir to combine.
- Fold in the ground chicken breast using your hands or a large fork, and toss together the chicken and vegetable mixture until it’s well-combined. Try not to over-work the mixture.
- Line a baking sheet with foil or a slipat and drizzle with oil.
- Using a 1″ scoop or a Tablespoon, make small (1-1 1/2″) meatballs and place them on the baking sheet. (you can also just use your hands to roll them out)
- Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. For a bit of browning, broil the meatballs an additional 1-3 minutes. If browning isn’t important, continue baking meatballs another 2-3 minutes, or till cooked through.
- Serve with your favorite sauce, pasta, or on a sandwich. Enjoy!
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie