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All of the basic food groups in one recipe (the baked zucchini counts as a fruit!)
If you are looking for a healthy, balanced, all-in-one family meal that includes each of the basic food groups…well, look no further! It has arrived. This bowl of goodness is made with baked zucchini and meatballs, sweet sugar snap and frozen peas, asparagus, mushrooms, and glorious (store-bought) pesto tossed with pasta. Oh, and in case you were wondering…the zucchini counts as a fruit. Boom!
A whole foods ingredient list
Here’s a full breakdown of how each ingredient fits into a major food group category:
|PROTEIN||Turkey (lean protein), nuts (in the pesto)|
|FRUITS/VEGGIES||Zucchini, peas, asparagus, mushrooms|
|GRAINS||Pasta (especially if you choose whole grain)|
|DAIRY||Parmesan cheese (in the pesto)|
|FATS||Olive oil and cheese|
Tools you will need to make this dish
- Cutting board and a knife to cut up the veggies
- Large pot to boil the pasta, unless you are using leftover pasta, as I did (hee hee)
- Two (2) baking sheets–one for the zucchini and the other for the meatballs
- Foil for easy cleanup (one less dish to wash, hello!)
- Cooking spray to keep the food from sticking to the sheet pan and so you can use less oil on the food itself
- Tongs for picking up, flipping, tossing, you know…what tongs do
- Large skillet to quickly saute the peas and mushrooms
- Large serving bowl to toss it all together and serve
You’re all set! Now let’s get cooking.
How to make baked zucchini & meatball pesto pasta: Step-by-step
1. Preheat and prep.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Next, prepare your pasta of choice according to its package instructions or use leftover pasta. Then, line two baking sheets with foil and spray them lightly with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the turkey, some of the pesto, and seasonings, and mix everything together with your hands until just combined. We don’t want tough balls, here (lol). Keep ’em tender, keep ’em juicy!
2. Make and bake the meatballs.
Here’s a helpful tip when making meatballs: Wet your hands first to reduce the meat mixture from sticking to your hands as you form it into balls. It saves a mess and additional effort that could be applied to eating them (because, that’s the point, right)! Place the balls onto that prepped baking sheet as you make them. You will make a total of 14-16 balls. Bake them for 15-17 minutes or until cooked through, showing no pink on the inside.
3. Bake the zucchini until golden-brown
Place the zucchini slices on the second baking sheet in a pile. Drizzle them with the oil, lightly season, toss to coat, then spread them evenly on the sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through their cooking time to brown both sides.
S.Y.L. Tip: Baking zucchini and meatballs just make sense to save time and calories without skimping on flavor
Baking is one of those hands-off, time-saving techniques that help you get dinner done STAT. And it is effective for giving a lovely golden brown sear or char to food when it cooks at a high temperature. It’s the perfect method for cooking things like meatballs and zucchini.
By baking the meatballs, you are able to save a lot more calories than frying them. Plus, you don’t have to suffer the stings of hot oil stinging your skin (ouch!). I think they come out juicier when they’re baked too.
The beauty of baking zucchini is that it maintains its vibrant green color and shape more effectively than steaming. And it lets you skip the frustration of trying to keep it from sticking to the pan when sauteing. Baking also prevents zucchini from getting mushy or mangled when sauteed with the other veggies. Basically, zucchini likes to be well-seasoned and cooked at a high temperature for a short period of time.
4. Saute the peas, asparagus, and mushrooms
While the zucchini and meatballs are baking, let’s do a little sauteeing. In a large skillet, saute the sugar snap peas and asparagus until lightly seared and tender but still crisp. Remove them from the pan to the serving bowl.
In the same skillet, saute the mushrooms to lightly brown them. (S.Y.L. Tip: Add a little water or stock as needed to reduce sticking to the pan in place of adding more oil). Then, add the frozen peas and continue sauteing until they are just tender (not mushy or pale green).
5. Toss in the pasta and pesto
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet (on top of the peas and mushrooms) with the remaining pesto, parm, salt, and pepper. Also, dump in the cooked snap peas and asparagus (with their juice), meatballs, and zucchini, and toss everything together.
Voila! Dinner is served.
- 1 container of basil pesto (7 oz), divided (Giovanni Rana Basil Pesto was used)*
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 4 TB of the pesto
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
Peas & Other Veggies
- 2 tsp olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 c fresh sugar snap peas
- 1/3 c fresh asparagus, about 4 spears chopped
- 1 c sliced baby portobello or white mushrooms
- 1/3 c peas, fresh or frozen
- 2 c cooked penne
- Remaining pesto (about 1/2 c)
- 3 TB parmesan (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat and prep. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare your pasta of choice according to its package instructions or use leftover pasta. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray them lightly with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, 4 TB of the pesto, and the remaining seasonings listed under the Meatballs section. Using your hand, be careful not to overmix/overwork the meat to keep it tender and juicy (yum).
- Make and bake the balls. Wet your hands (to reduce sticking). Then, grab about 1 1/2-2 TB of the meat mixture to form it into a ball., placing on the baking sheet as you go. You will make a total of about 14-16 balls. Bake them for 15-17 minutes or until cooked through, showing no pink on the inside.
- Make and bake the zucchini. Place the zucchini slices on the other baking sheet in a pile. Drizzle them with the oil and sprinkle them with the garlic powder. and salt. Toss them to coat evenly, then spread them evenly on the sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through their cooking time to brown both sides.
- Saute once. In a large skillet on med-hi heat, add 1 tsp of the olive oil. Saute the sugar snap peas and asparagus until lightly seared and tender but still crisp (about 3-5 minutes). Remove them from the pan to the serving bowl.
- Saute twice. To the same skillet, add the remaining oil. Saute the mushrooms for about 3-5 minutes to lightly brown (add a little water or stock as needed to reduce sticking to the pan in place of adding more oil). Then, add the frozen peas and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes until just tender (not mushy or pale green).
- Toss the pasta. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the remaining pesto, parm, salt, and pepper. Also, add in the cooked snap peas and asparagus (with their juice) and toss everything together. Voila!
* Rana Basil Pesto recommendation is unpaid and unsponsored.
Using store-bought pesto saves time. But If you prefer to make your own pesto, just blend together:
- 4 cups fresh basil
- 1/4 c of raw pine nuts, walnuts or almonds
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 1-2 TB grated parmesan cheese
- 1/3 c olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- You can easily leave out the peas, asparagus, and mushrooms if you like to save sauteeing time. However, I think the extra 10 minutes or so is worth it if you love veggies.
- Spinach or arugula would be another great alternative that doesn't require any additional cooking.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 421Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 736mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 21g
The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used. I am not a doctor, nor a certified nutritionist and make no claims to the contrary. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. Please consult your personal physician with any questions you may have regarding your own health and diet.