When you think of comfort foods, what comes to mind? For me, it’s mashed potatoes, fresh-baked bread with butter, and nearly anything with tomato sauce smothered in cheese. That’s why these chicken parmesan meatballs are worthy of your time and attention. You can eat them straight out of the bowl or serve them atop some noodles or – even better – zoodles for the perfect family-pleasing meal.
Growing up, parmesan cheese was part of our regular diet, but it absolutely always only came in a bright green cylinder shaker and was a uniform crumb-like consistency. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I discovered that “real” parmesan cheese came in a solid block cut from a giant wheel shipped from Italy. I love it shaved on a salad, finely shredded over pasta, or even cut off as a chunk as a snack. And call me a snob, but the granular parmesan cheese no longer had a place on my fridge shelf.
Now look, if you love your conventional powdery parmesan sprinkled on your food, I’m not going to judge. And if it makes you feel any better, I secretly have a low-key obsession with instant boxed mashed potatoes. But it’s worth noting that authentic Parmesan Reggiano is a protected product since 1928, carrying the “Protected Denomination of Origin” (PDO) designation. They require that the cows that produce the milk are in a specific mountainous region of Italy and be approved by a consortium of the Chambers of Commerce of Parma, Reggio, Modena, and Mantua. (source) This close guard of the magic which is Parmesan cheese is why this magical food is so consistently delicious.
Interestingly enough, the well-known dish of spaghetti and meatballs is a distinctly (Italian) American invention using egg and some type of breading to frugally stretch the more expensive ingredient (meat) for large families.
How to make Chicken Parmesan Meatballs
While ground chicken alone can be somewhat tasteless and boring, we love to use it in a recipe like this one which uses the richness and umami flavors of tomato sauce and cheeses to bring it to life. There are many good methods for cooking meatballs, but here we prefer to coat them in some of the panko bread crumbs before sauteeing them lightly in olive oil to impart extra flavor and texture while browning.
How to meal plan with our Chicken parmesan meatballs
As I mentioned above, one of my favorite ways to serve these chicken Parmesan meatballs is with a bowl of zoodles which is great if you are trying to eat fewer carbs. If you prefer a more carb-a-licious traditional meal, serve over spaghetti or on a fresh bread roll for a meatball sub. As with many rich dishes, these meatballs pair well with a simple fresh green salad.
Make this on the weekend and whenever you serve them, sprinkle the mozzarella and extra Parmesan on top and gently melt under the broiler for that mouth-watering melted cheese effect.
How to freeze meatballs
While you can freeze meatballs raw or frozen, in my opinion, it makes the most sense to cook them, allow them to fully cook, and then freeze. That way you save yourself more time later, and also avoid the likely possibility that your defrosted balls will end up in a blob of reunited ground meat mixture. And since this recipe is sauteed, you will have the benefit of those flavors frozen into your little meatballs.
As for the sauce, you can decide to freeze it separately if you choose. This may allow for more creative flexibility later of swapping it out for a different sauce or opting to serve the meatballs on a salad or different dish altogether.
Chicken Parmesan Meatballs
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 lb ground chicken
- 1/2 c ricotta cheese
- 1 tbsp. dried parsley
- 2 tsp. dried basil
- 1 1/2 tbsp. dried minced onions
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, more as needed
- 3/4 tsp. sea salt, more as needed
- 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 1/2 c panko breadcrumbs, or gluten-free bread crumbs
- 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 24 oz marinara sauce
- 1/2 c shredded mozzarella
- Preheat oven to 375F. Beat egg.
- Place ground chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add egg, ricotta, parsley, basil, onion, red pepper flakes, garlic, nutmeg, pepper, salt, parmesan, and 1/3 of the bread crumbs. Lightly oil hands and gently mix all ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix or meatballs will be tough.
- Place remaining breadcrumbs on a plate and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Using a cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out golf ball-sized meatballs. Add more oil to your hands if the mixture is sticking and roll into balls; set on a plate. Slightly flatten meatballs with palm of your hand.
- Heat half of the olive oil in a large cast-iron or ovenproof skillet with sides, over medium-high heat. While oil is heating, roll each meatball in panko bread crumbs.
- Once oil is shimmering, place meatballs in skillet in one layer. Do not overcrowd pan. You may need to do this in batches. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown. Using two spatulas, gently flip meatballs and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Remove meatballs to a plate.
- Using a paper towel, you may need to wipe out crumbs in your skillet so they don’t burn while cooking the next batch. Add remaining oil to skillet and let heat to shimmering. Cook remaining meatballs.
- Remove skillet from heat and remove meatballs to plate. Allow skillet to cool for a few minutes, then slowly pour marinara in. It will bubble and splatter a bit so do be careful. Arrange meatballs on top of marinara. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and additional parmesan over top. Place in oven and cook for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!