On top of spaghetti (or not) – Baked Chicken Meatballs


A favourite Emma outing is a run to the Ontario Science Centre. She could spend days there playing with her friends, visiting the various exhibits, staring at the stars in the planetarium and wandering outside in their courtyards. All that activity leads to her developing a major appetite and her go-to treat in their cafeteria is spaghetti and meatballs.  The last few times we’ve visited has been after the cafeteria has closed for the day unfortunately. And so, to make sure Emma still gets her favourite treat, I wanted to make a really scrumptious spaghetti and meatball recipe. However, recently, she’s had a change of heart around pasta sauce so we’ve done a recipe revisit.

Baked Chicken and Veggie Meatballs

While she’s at the OSC, we still order pasta and meatballs, and rather than lots of sauce, we ask them to supplement her order with lots of sauteed veggies. When we’re at home though, our meatballs usually end up being eaten on their own as an appetizer or snack and only occasionally on pasta with olive oil and parmesan. It took a lot of finagling to get the flavours just right, and I really wanted to see a healthy helping of vegetables added into the mix since Emma was snacking on them.  I knew we got the balance right when friends of Emma’s (along with Emma) were gobbling these down on playdates and not balking at the flecks of green from the vegetables in them.

What makes these meatballs different from others, you ask? There is a minimum amount of getting your hands dirty and almost no time spent rolling them. These meatballs are not pan-fried which means after the initial prep, they take care of themselves. Because the meat is in the cold in the fridge until the absolute last moment, there is no need to chill before cooking to ensure they keep their shape. And finally, did I mention they’re loaded with veggies?

Baked Chicken Meatballs

Makes 35-45 meatballs

  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tbsp parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 small zucchini, shredded
  • 1-2 medium-sized button or cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp roasted sweet potato, mashed with skins on
  • 2 heaping tbsp whole wheat breadcrumbs (toast 1 slice of bread and chop finely)
  • 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce (about 20 shakes from the Lea & Perrins bottle)
  • 1/4 cup bacon or pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • pinch or two of salt
  • 1 lb ground chicken, still refrigerated

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Heat the oven to 400F.

Next, mix the first ten ingredients (everything except for the chicken) in a medium-sized bowl. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and add it to the bowl. Using your hands, combine it well with the rest of the ingredients. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts.

Place one of the 4 parts of the mixture on to a prepared baking sheet and shape it into a long rope, about 1-1 1/2 inches thick. Repeat with the other 3 parts so there are 2 ropes per baking sheet.

Cut each rope into 9 or 10 equal pieces. Then, move each piece, shaping it slightly as you go, to space them evenly around the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning them once after 10 minutes. Serve hot, with pasta and sauce, in a meatball sub or hot or cold on their own.

Tips and suggestions:

  • When you make these meatballs, use the “rope” method described above. It is fast but above all, the meatballs will be much lighter and less dense since they aren’t being compacted like they would be if each was rolled individually.
  • I love these meatballs with sweet chili sauce. Come to think of it, there is a lot of food that is improved by this sauce. Nonetheless, give them a try. Although it may be a little spicy for kids, it is fabulous for the grownups!
  • These meatballs can be frozen and reheat very well.

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11 comments

  1. Pingback: Romanian style meatballs « Chef Doru's Blog

    • Hi Luisa – you certainly can. Although haven’t made beef meatballs in a long time, just remember to watch your cooking time to make sure they’re fully cooked. Let me know how they turn out!

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