Sheet-Pan Chicken Meatballs with Charred Broccoli

Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

Weeknight Meatballs

The large size of these meatballs prevents them from becoming overcooked in the oven- genius. I also loved the store-bought marinara shortcut. We ate them with an entire loaf of sourdough baguette garlic bread which was essential. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I used ground turkey and modified the proportions. Easy and delicious comfort food. Everyone absolutely loved it!

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings, about 12 to 14 meatballs
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups panko
  • 3/4 cup milk or water
  • 1 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 oz Parmesan, finely grated (about 3/4 cup), plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lbs ground turkey or ground beef (20% fat) (or other ground meat)(I used 1 2/3 pounds ground turkey)
  • warm homemade or store-bought tomato sauce (I used 28 oz jar of Rao’s marinara)
  • basil leaves, chiffonade or torn, for serving
  1. Place rack in top third of oven; preheat to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly brush a large rimmed baking sheet with oil.
  3. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, vigorously stir eggs, panko, milk, salt, garlic powder, several cranks of pepper, Parmesan, and remaining 3 T oil in a medium bowl until nearly a smooth paste.
  4. Mix in one quarter of meat (combining just a small amount of meat in the beginning makes it easier to incorporate the rest without overmixing).
  5. Add remaining meat and mix well to thoroughly combine, but don’t overwork it.
  6. Using oiled hands or a large cookie scoop, form into 12 to 14 large meatballs and place on prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers 160°, 4–7 minutes.
  8. Divide meatballs among plates and spoon some sauce over. Alternatively, warm the sauce in a large, shallow pan and place the meatballs into the sauce.
  9. Top with basil and more Parmesan.

Ottolenghi’s Meatball Toad-in-the-Hole

More meatballs! This is an updated version of the classic British dish. Ottolenghi describes the key elements as “well-cooked meat, crisp pancake and velvety gravy.” He modified the popular dish by using ground pork in the meatballs. It was very hearty and rich.

The complete dish was time consuming to prepare, but the components can be made separately and ahead to save time, if desired. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. I modified the baking times.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Time: about 2 hours

For the Batter:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup/240 ml whole milk
  • 2/3 cup/160 ml India pale ale or another pale ale (I used Sierra Nevada)
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 3/4 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Gravy:

  • 2 T sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 T (15 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 small onions (about 12 oz (350 g) total), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups/480 ml chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 T/100 ml India pale ale
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 7 oz/200 g sourdough bread, crusts discarded and bread cut into 1/4-inch (1/2-centimeter) cubes
  • 3/4 cup/180 ml whole milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds/700 g ground pork
  • 4 oz/115 g pancetta, very finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 1/2 onion or 1 very small onion (about 3 oz/80 g), grated
  • 1/3 packed cup/20 g roughly chopped parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 6 T/90 ml sunflower or canola oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  1. Heat the oven to 475°F/240°C, preferably on convection.
  2. Prepare the batter: Add the eggs, milk, beer and mustard to a large bowl, and whisk vigorously until foamy, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the flour and salt to a separate large bowl, making a well in the center, and pour the egg mixture into the well, in about four increments, whisking lightly each time until the flour is just incorporated. Whisk until there are no lumps and the ingredients are just combined, taking care not to overwork the batter.
  4. Set batter aside for at least 30 minutes, or while you continue with the next step.
  5. Prepare the gravy: Add the oil, butter, onions, rosemary and vinegar to a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-centimeter) baking dish (tin)(Do not use pyrex/glass). Bake, stirring a couple of times during cooking, until the onions are thoroughly collapsed and browned, about 20 minutes.
  6. Whisk together the flour, stock and beer in a bowl until smooth. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper, then pour flour mixture into the baking dish.
  7. Return gravy to the oven and bake, stirring twice throughout, until the gravy is thick and rich, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs and keep warm.
  8. While the gravy is cooking, prepare the meatballs: Soak the bread in the milk in a small bowl and set aside until the liquid is absorbed, 10 minutes. Use your hands or a fork to break apart the bread into a lumpy mash.
  9. In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork, pancetta, onion, parsley, garlic and lemon zest with 1 teaspoon salt and a generous amount of pepper. Add the bread and use your hands to knead the mixture until it is very well mixed. Shape into 12 large meatballs.
  10. Spread 2 tablespoons oil across the bottom of a large roasting pan (tin), about 9-by-13-inches (23-by-33-centimeters) in size. (I used an enameled cast iron baking pan.)
  11. Add the meatballs and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until some of their liquid has been released. Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet (tray) lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Pour the liquid released from the meatballs in the roasting pan directly into the gravy, and then wipe the roasting pan dry.
  12. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil to the meatball roasting pan and return to the oven until very hot and beginning to smoke, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  13. Working as quickly as possible, pour the batter into the pan (it should bubble around the edges) and then add the meatballs and 2 rosemary sprigs. Return to the oven immediately and bake for 15 minutes.
  14. Reduce the temperature to 400°F/210°C (don’t open the oven!) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until golden and well risen. (If you want, near the end of baking time (when the custard is set), you can sneak the gravy into the oven to rewarm during the last 5 minutes of baking.)
  15. Serve immediately, with the gravy alongside.

One-Pan Pork Sausage Meatballs with Green Lentils

I love one-pan dishes! This dish is made in the oven using one baking dish. It was also easy to prepare. 🙂 I modified the recipe due to personal preference- and to incorporate ingredients that I had readily available. I included all of the options in the recipe below.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. I modified the proportions and oven temperature, used celery instead of fennel, and added carrots. I also substituted sweet Italian pork sausage for hot sausage and green lentils for brown lentils. The vinegar was essential to the finished dish.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 4 celery stalks, diced or 1 fennel bulb, cored, cut into 1/2-inch wedges through the root, plus 1/4 cup fresh fennel fronds
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds bulk hot or sweet Italian pork sausage (or fresh Italian sausages, casings removed)(or a combination)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils
  • 4 to 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1-2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, plus more for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a 9×13-inch baking pan or baking dish, gently toss the celery and carrots (or fennel wedges) with the olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. (I used a ceramic baking dish.)
  3. Roast until vegetables are golden brown underneath, about 10 minutes for fennel or up to 20 minutes for carrots and celery. (Fennel will not be tender at this point.)
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, use your hands or a spoon to mix the sausage with the egg until combined. Roll the mixture into 16 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs.
  5. Add the chicken stock, lentils, garlic and rosemary to the roasted vegetables. Stir to combine, then season with 3/4 teaspoon salt.
  6. Place the meatballs in the lentil mixture, drizzle the meatballs with olive oil, then roast until the meatballs are browned on top and lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
  7. Transfer the meatballs to a plate. Discard the rosemary sprig, then stir in the vinegar, parsley leaves and fennel fronds, if using (reserve a few fronds for garnishing, if desired). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Spoon the lentils and any braising liquid onto shallow bowls and top with the meatballs.
  9. Garnish with additional parsley leaves and fennel fronds, if desired.

Kofta Sandwiches with Tomatoes & Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

These sandwiches are a great weeknight dinner. Using ground turkey or chicken instead of beef, lamb or pork makes them a little bit lighter as well.

After seeing sandwiches served in taco racks at NYC’s Chelsea Market, I used taco racks to assemble these messy sandwiches. Genius! 😉

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I used ground turkey instead of ground chicken and added lemon juice, garlic, and herbs to the sauce.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1.25 pounds ground turkey or chicken
  • 1/2 white onion, diced small
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley and cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced large (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1/2 a lemon, more to taste
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 to 4 T minced fresh dill
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise or 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 4 small naan or pitas, warmed
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint or cilantro, for serving
  • sliced or chopped red onion, for serving, optional
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground meat, diced onion, chopped parsley/cilantro, cumin and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  2. Using your hands, form mixture into 8 oval patties.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss together cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and dill; season with salt and pepper. Add additional lemon juice, if desired.
  4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium to medium-high. Cook patties until browned on all sides and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes. (I cooked the meatballs until the internal temperature reached 165 degrees.)
  5. Divide patties and tomatoes among warm naan or pitas. (I assembled the sandwiches in taco racks.)
  6. Top with cucumber-yogurt sauce and mint or cilantro. Top with red onion, if desired.
  7. Fold to enclose (if not using taco racks) and serve.

Pressure Cooker Spaghetti & Meatballs

This recipe is absolute GENIUS. It was a genius idea for me to make it on Super Bowl Sunday too. I am usually cooking while my family is watching the game- and commercials- in another room. This year, the meal was cooked and ready to go; it was kept warm in the pressure cooker with the lid in place while I was sitting on the sofa with everyone. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I increased the garlic and used ground turkey and whole wheat spaghetti. I also made it in my stove top pressure cooker instead of an Instant Pot.  We enjoyed it with garlic bread and Caesar salad. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 basil sprigs, plus more thinly sliced for serving
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti (not thin spaghetti), broken in half
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup ricotta (optional)

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground turkey (or substitute veal, pork or beef)
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a stove top pressure cooker or Instant Pot on sauté. Stir in garlic, red pepper and black pepper, and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, salt and basil sprigs; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix together ground meat, bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped basil, egg, salt and garlic. Roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. (I used a large cookie scoop and placed them on a large plate, shaping them into balls when I placed them into the pot.)
  4. Pour 1 cup water into sauce in pot, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pot.
  5. Scatter uncooked spaghetti over the sauce.
  6. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over spaghetti, stirring gently (try to keep the spaghetti on top of the sauce), then top with meatballs.
  7. Cover and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Manually release the pressure, then remove the cover and stir to separate the spaghetti.
  8. Stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
  9. At this point, the pasta will be almost but not quite cooked through. Place the top back on the pressure cooker (loosely) and let it sit for 3 to 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and spaghetti is al dente but not mushy.
  10. Serve dolloped with ricotta, if using, and sprinkled with thinly sliced basil and more Parmesan if you like.

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