Recipe: Spaghetti with Chicken Meatballs

Bowl of spaghetti topped with chicken meatballs and marinara sauce

When Lindsey told me she had an excellent recipe for chicken meatballs she wanted to share, I was like, “Chicken meatballs? For real?” I was very skeptical and was prepared to give these meatballs some raised eyebrow or maybe some side eye.

But now that I’ve see the recipe (the ease! the flexibility!), I’m like, “Hey Ben Blair, when are we trying these?”

Come see. Here’s what Lindsey says:

This year’s back to school adjustment has been a little different than in years past — this time, I’m back in school too. This change has created the need for more organization and flexibility on my part as well as my family’s. I have batch cooked before, but it was kind of hit or miss. Now that’s the only way I’m getting dinner on the table (most nights). Chicken meatballs are a totally new-to-me thing this year, and they are something that I can batch cook to use for 2-3 meals throughout the week, or freeze for a future week’s dinner.

My family is pretty adamant that I don’t mess with my regular meatball recipe, and they’re not exactly fans of ground poultry. But this recipe for chicken meatballs changed their minds. Hooray for small dinnertime wins!

Ground poultry is a little different than other ground meats, so I made a few extra alterations so the meatballs didn’t dry out too much. And I “grind” the chicken myself which saves money.

If you’ve noticed at the store, ground chicken is super expensive per pound – sometimes more than ground beef. My trick is to stock up on chicken, especially if it’s boneless, skinless thighs, when it’s on sale. I am regularly able to find chicken thighs for $0.99/lb for conventional and around $2-3/lb for organic. You can also use a mix of dark and light meat. The chicken in the photo is ground boneless, skinless chicken breast, which is a lighter pink. Thighs will be slightly darker in color and have more fat marbled throughout the ground chicken, and produces meatballs that are a bit juicier.

This recipe can be prepared all in a food processor, if you have one. If you don’t have one, but have another electric chopping device, it may work. Otherwise, buy your chicken and ask the butcher to grind it for you. 😉

The easiest way to grind the chicken is to cut the pieces into smaller cubes and freezing for 15-20 minutes. That little bit of time in the freezer doesn’t completely freeze the chicken, but it does make it easier to finely chop the meat without turning it into a paste.

I usually make the ground chicken in bigger batches and separate it into smaller portions, and freeze to use later.

To make the whole recipe in the food processor, just add the other ingredients to the pre-ground chicken, and give it a few 2-3 second pulses until it all comes together.

Because chicken is so much leaner than other types of meat, I make sure to use a little olive oil to coat the meatballs all over before they are baked. And by the way, they are much better baked than cooked in a skillet on the stovetop. They cook more evenly and quickly, which means there’s less of a chance of the meatballs drying out. I also prefer to not cook them directly in the sauce, which is another common way to cook meatballs.

It really only takes about 10-15 minutes tops to bake the chicken meatballs. I use a hot oven temp, and because they are coated with that little bit of olive oil, they kind of sear on the outside which makes the insides juicier.

Beyond using these for spaghetti, they make excellent meatball sandwiches. They can be sliced and put on a pizza or even in a salad. They also make really good dog treats if you leave out the onion and garlic!

Spaghetti Sauce

Makes about 6 cups of sauce.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
4- ounce can tomato paste
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1/4 cup fresh basil and oregano, finely chopped

Instructions:
1. Heat a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil allow to heat for 30-60 seconds. Add the diced onion and saute for 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic. Saute for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the tomato paste. Continue cooking and stirring just to kind of toast the paste a bit. Then add the crushed tomatoes and stir well.
2. Season well with salt and pepper, and the desired amount of crushed red pepper flakes, if using. Stir again. Bring just to a boil, then lower heat to simmer.
3. Allow sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes, or up to an hour, if desired. During the last 10-12 minutes of cooking time, stir in the fresh herbs and allow to simmer a bit longer to allow flavors to meld.

Chicken Meatballs

Makes about 5 dozen.

Ingredients:
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cubed (breast or thighs) or ground chicken
1/2 cup finely minced onion or shallot
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely minced (basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, etc.)
1 -2 teaspoons fennel seeds (optional)
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2.Freeze cubed chicken for about 15 minutes or until just starting to solidify around the edges. Place in the bowl of a 7-cup or larger food processor and pulse until chicken is finely chopped or ground. If using a smaller food processor, work in 2-3 batches.
3. Add all of the remaining ingredients to the food processor, if there’s room, or transfer the chicken to a large bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients.
4. Drizzle the olive oil over the lined baking sheet. Use a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to create small blobs of the meatball mixture. Use your hands to kind of roll the meatballs around in the olive oil and form them into smoother rounds, if desired.
5. Place in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through. To test, cut one of the meatballs in half through the center. If it’s still pink, bake for a few more minutes. If uniform in color throughout, the meatballs are done. They will continue to cook a little bit after removal from the oven. If desired, turn meatballs over halfway through baking time.
6. Use immediately, or allow to cool slightly, then place in freezer safe containers and freeze until ready to use. Will keep for about a month in a regular freezer, or several months in a deep freezer.

——
Oh my goodness, Lindsey. Thank you for bringing these to my attention. I’m so glad you shared this recipe!

What do you think, Dear Readers? Has Lindsey convinced you to try making chicken meatballs? Is this something you family would like? And have you ever tried batch cooking? I’d love to hear.


Photos and recipe by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.

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