Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

This meatloaf recipe made with ground turkey and basil pesto topped with a balsamic tomato sauce was a surprising hit in our house since ground turkey isn’t usually something to rave about, but, in this case, it is!


I tried two meatloaf recipes recently. One was a traditional meatloaf made with ground beef and a balsamic glaze on top. It wasn’t all that great. You won’t see it here. The other is a healthier version made with ground turkey and pesto with a balsamic tomato glaze. This one is blog-worthy. It’s been a hit both times I’ve made it. The leftovers are fantastic whether they’re cold in a sandwich or reheated for another dinner.

Oh yes, I do have a third meatloaf recipe. It was a sensation when I made it for Halloween a few years ago. Have you seen my Meatloaf Hand?

Wait! I have a fourth meatloaf recipe, deep in the archives. I remember it now. It’s also a tasty one using both beef and turkey. And dark beer.

Like all meatloaf recipes, this turkey pesto meatloaf is pretty straightforward. Taking the turkey out of the refrigerator ahead of time will prevent your hands from freezing when you combine the ingredients. Also, don’t keep mixing the ingredients beyond the point of just being combined. I don’t have any experience (that I’m aware of) doing this but I’ve read that over-handling will compress the meat and toughen the meatloaf.

Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Balsamic Tomato Sauce recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce

You’ll need a roasting or broiler pan, small skillet, large bowl, small bowl or ramekin for sauce, pastry brush and meat thermometer.

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 pounds lean ground turkey — take out of the refrigerator ahead of time to take the chill off
  • 1/4 + 1 tablespoon cup basil pesto
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs – Make in the food processor from whole wheat bread, 1 or 2 slices will do it.
  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce — I used homemade, Kalyn used Classico because it’s low-sugar.
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Let the ground turkey come to room temperature while you prep the other ingredients, so you don’t freeze your hands. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a pan with olive oil or nonstick spray. I use a broiler pan so the fat drips into the moat along the edges.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onion over medium-low heat until it’s soft and translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic, lower the heat slightly, and sauté about 2 minutes more or until it’s just golden — watch it so it doesn’t burn.

Using your hands, combine the ground turkey, sautéed onion and garlic, pesto, Parmesan cheese, salt and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Mix the ingredients only until they’re combined — no longer or the meatloaf will get tough.

Form the meat mixture into a loaf shape and place it on the pan. Bake for 40 minutes. While it bakes, stir together the marinara sauce and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl.

After 40 minutes, brush the sauce onto the meatloaf until it’s completely covered. Put the meatloaf back in the oven to bake and, if you have any sauce left over, brush it a few more times during this second baking period. Bake it until the internal temperature is 160 F. My meatloaf took 20 minutes more — a total time of one hour (40 + 20 minutes) — to reach 160. 

Original recipe: Turkey Pesto Meatloaf, Kalyn’s Kitchen


1 year ago on Gusto: Herbes de Provence Chicken

8 thoughts on “Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Balsamic Tomato Sauce

  1. That looks absolutely wonderful!

    1. deirdrereid says:

      I wasn’t sure it looked wonderful. It looks great to me, but then, I ate it and loved it. Kudos to Kalyn and her blog — lots of great recipes there.

  2. Patrick says:

    Looks great! Keep it coming.

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