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Pesto Rice with Meatballs

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2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups basmati rice
4 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup water
1 (20 ounce) package frozen meatballs
1 (16 ounce) package frozen peas
2 (9 ounce) containers basil pesto
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pesto Rice with Meatballs

This brightly colored and super flavorful main dish is the perfect choice for an early spring dinner.

  • Serves 6
  • Easy

About This Recipe

I am always thinking of new ways to combine favorite ingredients. In fact, this is a great way to use up food you already have in the house and will reduce the trips you need to make to the grocery store. That’s how Pesto Rice with Meatballs was born.

The staples in my house include boxed chicken stock (SO much better than canned), frozen meatballs, all  kinds of pasta and rice, onions and garlic, pesto (in the freezer), all kinds of cheeses, and lots of frozen veggies and fruits. These ingredients can be combined in an almost infinite number of ways to make fabulous dishes.

Pesto and rice doesn’t seem like a natural combination, but the flavor, texture, and color of these two ingredients is just perfect together. Add some veggies, meatballs, and cheese for a beautiful main dish recipe you’ll love.

What are your favorite staples? Try to come up with different combinations to create your own fabulous recipes.

Tips for the best Pesto Rice with Meatballs:

  • Taste the rice toward the end of cooking time to make sure it is properly cooked. The only way to tell if pasta and rice are cooked to the correct al dente texture is to taste it. It should be tender but with a bit of a firm bite in the center.
  • Don’t heat the recipe too much after you have added the pesto or the flavor will be reduced.
  • You can use regular long grain rice if you can’t find basmati rice. Or you can buy Lundberg white basmati rice, which is my personal favorite.

Why this recipe works:

  • Pesto, that uncooked sauce made with basil, oil, cheese, and garlic, works with anything. It coats the rice, adding flavor and preserving the rice’s texture.
  • This is a version of risotto, but much easier because you don’t have to stand at the stove stirring the rice.


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In a very large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 4 minutes, stirring frequently.


Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes until the rice starts to look opaque.


Add the chicken stock, water, and meatballs. Stir gently, then bring the mixture to a simmer.


Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the meatballs are hot and the rice is tender.


Stir in the peas, pesto, and half of the Parmesan cheese. Cover and bring to a simmer again.


Stir the mixture again. Taste to make sure that the peas are thawed and hot. Then top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.


Linda is a bestselling cookbook author and home economist who has written 54 books (53 cookbooks and Medical Ethics for Dummies) since 2005. She has worked for Pillsbury since 1988, on the Bake-Off and other projects. Linda has been a web presence since 2002, developing recipes and teaching people how to cook.

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