home cooked dinners by the season

One Pan Lemon Rosemary Chicken Meatballs

One Pan Lemon Rosemary Chicken Meatballs

IMG_7785It’s not often I hear someone say they don’t like meatballs. I think it’s because they are just fun to eat. Each bite has many flavors and they’re tender from mixing additional ingredients to the ground meat. True, they do take a bit more time to measure, mix and roll but in this recipe with just six ingredients and a bit of salt and pepper, my guess is it’s only about 10 to 15 minutes. And that’s a small time investment for the return on flavor and texture.

This one pan dish is pretty much a complete dinner – lemony rosemary meatballs for the protein, orzo cooked in chicken broth instead of just water for the starch and sliced fresh spinach for the vegetable. That’s what many of you’ve been asking for. I did a survey in my last cooking class and an overwhelming 95% of students checked the box for main dish dinner recipes using one dish. I feel the same way. Knowing in the morning not only what I am making for dinner, but also that it’s all in one pan makes my day. It’s simple cooking and clean up.

I realize there is a preference among many cooks to use ground chicken breast for it’s leanness, but the natural fat in ground chicken thighs will make a more tender and richly flavored meatball. The lemon zest, sharp and pungent Pecorino cheese and piney flavored chopped fresh rosemary give the chicken just what it needs to make each bite into the meatballs something wonderful.



One Pan Lemon Rosemary Chicken Meatballs
Serves: 4
  • 1 lb ground chicken thighs
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ⅓ cup grated Pecorino cheese (Parmesan can be substituted)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock (I prefer low sodium)
  • 1 cup orzo pasta (6 ounces)
  1. For the meatballs, in a bowl combine chicken, breadcrumbs, Pecorino, egg, lemon zest, rosemary, salt and several grinds of pepper until evenly mixed. Roll into approximately 1 to 1-1/2 inch meatballs using the palms of your hands (meatballs can be prepared to this point, covered and refrigerated 24 hours).
  2. Trim stems from spinach and thinly slice the leaves (bagged spinach leaves can also be used: about 6 cups lightly packed is the equivalent).
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add meatballs in a single layer and cook until browned on one side, then lightly shake pan to turn meatballs, and cook until browned all over, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove meatballs. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the same skillet and cook and stir onions and garlic over medium heat until softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil; stir in orzo followed by the browned meatballs; reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer over medium low heat, partially covered, just until orzo is tender, the meatballs are cooked through and the broth is mostly absorbed, stirring in spinach during the last few minutes of cooking, about 10 to 12 minutes (any excess broth will be absorbed as the dish sits for a few minutes off heat). Season with salt and pepper.


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25 thoughts on “One Pan Lemon Rosemary Chicken Meatballs”

      • Loved the meatball dish! I made them ahead of time and froze them in mini cupcake tins and then thawed the amount needed depending on who was coming for dinner. My granddaughter, who is a picky eater, loved them!

        • What a great idea for freezing Barbara! Thank you for letting me know and especially that the recipe was a hit. I hope all is well with you. 🙂

  • Linda,
    Perfect timing; I was looking for another recipe to add to my “30 minute dinners” class at the Newcastle YMCA that I will be teaching in October. This is perfect.
    Thanks for you wisdom.

    • It is great to hear from you JoAnne. Thank you for letting me know you will be using the recipe. I look forward to hearing how it goes and any suggestions you may have for me. 🙂

  • This recipe looks delicious and I am anxious to try it ! All my favorite flavors ! One question , do you grind your own chicken thighs ? I am not familiar with seeing that in the grocery . Or am I missing it ? Use the Isineros brand ?

    • Hi Karen: I have found ground chicken thigh meat at many grocery stores either in a package in the meat section or at the meat counter where you can specify how much you want to buy. Isernios does have ground chicken and I love theirs but I cannot remember if it is breast or thigh meat. And I think the thigh meat is so much better for the meatballs because of the fat content. I hope you enjoy the recipe – my family does and they ate it many times when I was testing the recipe! They didn’t seem to tire of it easily. 🙂

    • Not yet but it should work just fine. I would reduce the chicken broth to 3 cups and use 1-1/2 cups of rice. As much as I love and usually eat brown rice, I would try it with white as the brown will require too long of a cooking time. And then try flax meal or almond meal instead of the bred craumbs in the meatballs. Great to hear from you, Katie!

  • HI Linda!
    Would this work with gluten free products? We are needing to off the gluten so I am going to try that next time! Can’t wait for tonite! Yum!

    • I haven’t tested it with any other starch but the orzo, but you could try it with rice and it should work great. For the bread crumbs in the meatballs you could try flax meal or almond meal.

  • I made these last night to rave reviews. I doubled the meatball amount as I have boys who are big eaters. Our neighbors stopped in to say hi and ended up tasting the dist and loving also. My boys fought over leftovers for lunch…..looks like I need to put this into regular rotation. Thanks Linda!

    • Hi Nancy:
      Thank you for letting me know – I love receiving comments and feedback. This recipe has been a popular one and I am so glad your kids loved it. I make this recipe often too. It is always fun to hear from you and I hope all is well with your family.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am sorry the broth took too long to cook down. In all the times I tested and then subsequently made this recipe, I did not have this issue. I am wondering if you partially covered the dish as this still allows steam to escape and the broth to cook down, where as if you have the lid on completely it will not do this. The size (circumference) of the pan makes a difference as well because it increases the surface area for liquid evaporation. So if the skillet was not a large one this may have effected the broth absorption, as well. And then finally after the orzo is cooked if you allow the pan to sit a few minutes it will continue to absorb the broth, as noted in the recipe. I hope you will try it again if you liked the flavors.

  • Hi Linda!! I just wanted to leave a comment and say I made this last night and it was delicious. I often go to your website to look for recipes, I have tried many of them. Thanks for the awesome recipes 🙂

    • Thank you for letting me know Kristina. It makes me especially happy you have tried many of my recipes. I so appreciate you commenting. Happy dinner cooking!

    • Thank you for letting me know Kristina! I love receiving positive comments and that my readers are cooking my recipes with great results.

  • I used gluten free bread to make bread crumbs and I used rice instead of orzo. It was so tasty. Great chicken flavor, and the lemon zest added a wonderful taste.

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