This Tuscan chicken meatballs recipe is one of those easy weeknight dinners that makes you feel like you’re dining out at a 5-star restaurant.
Made primarily in one pot, these Italian chicken meatballs cooked in a creamy Tuscan sauce are something special the whole family will love.
We’ve all heard of (and hopefully tried) Tuscan chicken, but what about Tuscan chicken meatballs? This great recipe is a delicious spin on the Italian classic, allowing you to enjoy your favorite flavors but in meatball form! And guess what? It’s made conveniently all in one Dutch oven (+ a pot of water to boil pasta) for efficient cooking and easy cleanup.
How is it made? Start by cooking your pasta until al dente. Then it’s time to prep and cook your Tuscan meatballs before making the tasty tomato sauce. Let everything get friendly with each other for a while, and your one-pot meal is complete!
What You Need to Make Tuscan Chicken Meatballs
- Pasta: we used Orecchiette pasta for this recipe, but feel free to use your favorite pasta.
- Italian-style breadcrumbs: this is what gets the meatballs nice and crispy on the outside.
- Spinach: spinach adds color and flavor to the dish.
- Dry white wine: any dry white wine will do. Use your favorite go-to.
- Veggies: white onion and bell pepper are the veggies we used to make this meal more substantial.
- Tomato paste: this gives this dish the signature tomato taste in Tuscan chicken.
- Starchy pasta water: it’s very important that the water used is starchy pasta water. The starch will help thicken the sauce.
- Dutch oven: using a Dutch oven will decrease the cooking time and ensure it comes out super flavorful.
Variations and Substitutions
Pasta: We recommend using a smaller pasta noodle like farfalle, macaroni, or cavatappi.
Chicken: You’re welcome to swap out the lean ground chicken with ground turkey to make turkey meatballs.
Breadcrumbs: Other great breadcrumb options are plain or panko. You might want to add Italian seasoning to these.
Bell Pepper: Replace the bell pepper with other veggies like carrots or mushrooms.
One-Pot Za’atar Meatballs and Quinoa
This delicious one-pot za’atar meatball and quinoa dish is flavorful, packed with veggies, and has a whopping 26 grams of protein per serving.
Why are my chicken meatballs mushy?
If you are making chicken meatballs and they come out mushy, the cause is often too high of a ratio of bread crumbs or eggs to the chicken. It can be difficult to find the perfect balance!
To prevent this from happening, start small and experiment with different ratios until you find a combination that gives you the desired texture.
Why are my chicken meatballs hard?
Hard chicken meatballs are usually a result of overworking ground meat. Overworking the ground meats can cause them to become tough and dense, making for an unpleasant texture.
Is milk or egg better for meatballs?
Egg is usually better for meatballs than milk because it helps to bind the ingredients together and adds moisture. Milk can also be used in addition to the egg for added moisture, but it’s often not necessary when making meatballs.
Storage + Freezer Directions
Store any leftover Tuscan chicken meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 to 5 days.
We recommend freezing the meatballs on their own without the sauce or noodles. Here’s how:
- Let the meatballs cool for 20 minutes before placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Freeze for at least 2 hours.
- Transfer the frozen meatballs into a freezer safe container or bag and remove as much air as possible.
- Freeze for up to 3 months.
To thaw & serve: let the meatballs thaw in the freezer overnight. Reheat them on the stovetop over medium heat in a little olive oil until hot.
The Great Jones “The Dutchess” is our favorite Dutch oven for every day cooking. It’s great for one-pot meals, soups, and more!
This creamy Tuscan chicken recipe is one of those dishes that’ll taste delicious with just about anything. We love how the sauce tastes dipped with our Skillet Cornbread or paired with a side salad like this Apple Burrata Salad, Herby Cucumber Tomato Salad, and Arugula Salad.
Tuscan Chicken Meatballs
- 8 oz. pasta we used Orecchiette pasta
- 1 lb. ground chicken
- 5 tablespoons olive oil separated
- 1 large egg
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup Italian-style breadcrumbs or any type of breadcrumbs
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 5 oz. spinach roughly chopped
- Parmesan cheese
- Chopped parsley
- Cracked black pepper
- First, cook the pasta. Bring a large Dutch oven full of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Set aside 2 cups of pasta water for later. Strain and rinse the noodles with water. Set aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water to the Dutch oven and add the spinach. Heat over medium heat and cover until the spinach is wilted. Strain excess water and transfer the spinach into a mixing bowl.
- Prepare the meatballs. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, egg, garlic, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, salt, and parsley to the spinach and mix until just combined with a spatula or hands. Do not overmix, it will cause the meatballs to be tough.
- Wet your hands and use a tablespoon and scoop a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture into your hands and roll the meat into a ball. Transfer it to a plate. Repeat until all the mixture has been made into meatballs.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in the Dutch oven over medium/high heat. When the olive oil is fragrant, add the meatballs. Cook the meatballs for 1-2 minutes on each side until browned. Use tongs to gently move the meatballs so they don’t stick to the Dutch oven during the cooking time. This will take about 6 minutes. The meatballs will not be fully cooked. They will continue to cook in the sauce. Remove the meatballs from the pot.
- Turn the heat to medium and deglaze the pot with white wine. Scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a spatula.
- Heat the olive oil in the pot with the wine over medium/high heat. Add the onion and season with ¼ teaspoon of salt. Saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for an additional 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add the green pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes, and add the tomato paste and 1.5 cups of starchy pasta water* to the pot. Whisk the tomato paste into the starchy water.
- Transfer the meatballs, remaining salt, and pepper to the pot and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium/high heat.
- Then, turn the heat to medium/low and simmer until it thickens to the desired consistency. If you would like a thinner sauce (or more sauce), add the remaining pasta water and simmer.
- When the internal temperature of the meatballs is 165ºF, gently toss the pasta with the sauce and meatballs. Heat until warmed through, and enjoy.
Tips & Notes
- It is very important that the water used is starchy pasta water. The starch will help thicken the sauce. If you accidentally toss out the pasta water, fill a microwavable measuring cup with ½ cup of cooked pasta and cover it with about 3 cups of salt water. Microwave for 2-3 minutes on high.