Thai Basil Pesto Orzo with Local Meatballs

August 15, 2011

When it comes to food, I do a lot of impulse buying. Although it’s not really food anymore, like, say, a candy bar in the check out aisle. No, now I guess you could call it ingredient impulse buying. Now it’s more like splurging on the chocolate bar I will later use in cookies.

Sometimes, though, I resist the temptation and I wait. This most often happens with things I know will be there a month or so later, especially meat.

Take these meatballs for example. I saw them at our local meat market well over 6 months ago. I wanted to try them, but decided to wait.

Every time I went they were there and every time I saw them I thought more about what I could do with them. Pasta, sure, but did I really need to buy them instead of making my own?

Turns out the answer to that is yes.

I finally picked up a small pack of these local, pastured meatballs that include a combination of beef, lamb and pork. They are spiced perfectly – a little garlic, a little parsley and a little of what I think was fennel seed.

They definitely needed a place to shine so I decided not to cover them in sauce. Instead, I combined them with a sauce in the raw, one that was more garden-fresh.

Despite the fact that my sweet basil is about to dry up, the Thai basil has been going strong. Now, I can’t say I like Thai basil as much as sweet, but it’s a nice substitute every now and then.

I used it in my standard walnut pesto and then topped the dish with some of the gorgeous red cherry tomatoes we’ve been fortunate enough to have most of the summer. They are juicy and sweet and just pop in your mouth, they are so fresh.

Thai Basil Pesto Orzo

1 cup packed Thai basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 to 4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
½ lb orzo, cooked to package directions
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
½ lb meatballs, baked (optional)

In a small food processor, combine the basil, garlic, walnuts, cheese and 1 tbsp olive oil. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. Continue to pulse and the mixture will get slightly creamy due to the walnuts.

Continue to add olive oil to reach your desired consistency, whether you like it thick or thin. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook and drain the orzo. In a large bowl, combine the pesto and the orzo. Stir until all the orzo is coated. Transfer to a serving platter. Top with meat balls, if using, and cherry tomatoes. Serves 4-6.

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  • Viv August 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    walnut pesto sounds delish! 🙂 im more of a impulse shopper if i go shopping hungry haha. otherwise im quite well-controlled heheh.

  • Michelle @ Find Your Balance August 16, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Summery meatballs. That’s a good combo!

  • Mindy August 16, 2011 at 8:39 am

    I always just put mine in sauce, but I’ll have to try your method sometime! That rice looks delicious!

  • emily (a nutritionist eats) August 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I’m also such an impulse shopper! 🙂
    (I just made a walnut pesto the other day and was a little worried about how it would turn out, but LOVED it!)

  • Deb in Hawaii August 17, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Those meatballs are mouthwatering. I love that you didn’t cover them with sauce and let them shine in the pesto. I really love walnut pesto too–it’s a great way to work in walnuts and their omega-3s. 😉

  • Juliana August 17, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Lori, what a nice way to use the Thai basil, I love it! And they sure taste awesome with the meatballs, what a great meal.
    Hope you are having a great week 🙂

  • 5 Star Foodie August 18, 2011 at 5:00 am

    A Thai basil pesto sounds excellent, and those little meatballs must have been fantastic.

  • Joanne August 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I LOOOVVEE thai pesto…probably because it’s so hard to find here! Glad the meatballs were worth the splurge…this looks like a great dish!

  • OysterCulture August 20, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    This dish just looks yummy. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Tangled Noodle August 22, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    This is such a marvelous, fresh alternative to spaghetti and meatballs! I’ve done a pesto using local, native ingredients and find that when I have a craving for pasta during hot days here, it is more appealing than a tomato or cream sauce. Now, I want those meatballs!