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Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs

June 10, 2024

Make-ahead and freeze, or dig in tonight—seasoned with thyme, fennel, parmesan and lots of fresh garlic, our Italian baked chicken meatball recipe is a healthy take on traditional Italian meatballs.


Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs on a platter with roasted tomatoes basil and pasta

Si, Italian Chicken Meatballs are Molto, Molto Bene!

Just as we turned to Italian flavors to create a truly moist baked chicken meatball recipe, we’re turning to the Italian language to describe how wonderfully delicious they are, because no word sums it up quite like the very excellent Italian word, squisito! Squisito means exquisite, and these healthy homemade meatballs are just that, if we do say so ourselves. Thanks to classic Italian meatball ingredients like garlic, parmesan, breadcrumbs and eggs, our chicken meatballs burst with flavor and are just as moist as their beefy counterparts.

ingredients laid out for italian chicken meatballs, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, egg and garlic

How To Make Meatballs: A Few TMP Tips

Our chicken meatballs recipe is easy , but following a few tips will make it even easier! Baked meatballs are all about ease—easy prep, easy cooking, easy clean-up.

  • On buying ground chicken: packaged, pre-ground chicken is totally fine for this recipe, but if you’d like to go the extra mile and use freshly-ground chicken, your ground chicken meatballs will thank you by being extra light in texture. This is because pre-ground chicken usually sits around for a while at the grocery store, and as it sits, it oxidizes and becomes more dense. You can grind it yourself if you’re feeling bold and adventurous, or ask the butcher to grind it for you. They might give you a slightly funny look, but they will usually grind chicken for you if they aren’t slammed.
  • Speaking of light, airy meatballs! That luscious, near-fluffy baked meatball texture that we crave is why we suggest mixing the ground chicken-breadcrumb-egg meatball mixture with your hands instead of a spoon (and definitely not in a food processor). Nothing will ever mix as gently as your own hands. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly after handling the raw chicken.
  • The water-on-hands meatball rolling trick. Wet your hands before you roll your meatballs, and the water will keep the meatball mixture from sticking to your hands as you roll! Welcome to a whole new, gunky-hand-free world of meatball rolling.
roma tomato halved in a bowl.
halved roma tomatoes on a sheet pan
Italian chicken meatball ingredients in a bowl
Italian chicken meatball ingredients mixed together in a bowl
Italian chicken meatballs and roma tomatoes on a baking sheet
Italian chicken meatballs with roasted tomatoes on a baking sheet

Our Chicken Meatball Recipe, Two Ways.

There are a couple of different ways to use this Italian baked chicken meatball recipe, so it’s extra helpful to read the entire recipe before you begin and decide which way suits your immediate meatball need! You can treat it as a meal-prep recipe for make-ahead meatballs to freeze for later (or to gift—these are perfect for a meal train!) OR follow the recipe in its entirety to make spaghetti and meatballs for eating RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Each way has its merits. Try one way tonight and save one for next week, or split the difference and make a double batch now—half to cook and eat now, and half to freeze for later.

Version #1: Make-Ahead Chicken Meatballs:

Whether you’re stocking your own freezer, or helping a friend stock theirs, our baked meatball recipe is perfectly suited for making-ahead! Healthy, easy and really versatile, these herby, Italian chicken meatballs will make a moist, comforting meal anytime. How to freeze meatballs:

  • Combine the ground chicken with the eggs, breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan.
  • Gently mix with your hands until just combined, taking care not to over-mix lest the meatballs become tough.
  • Form your meatballs—this recipe makes 20 meatballs, as written—and line them up on a baking sheet.
  • Freeze the uncooked meatballs on the baking sheet. Once they’re frozen through, you can move them to a zipper-top bag—labeled with date, if you’re cool like that—for easier storage.
  • If you’re gifting these to someone as part of a meal train, or just because you’re a nice person, include these instructions: “To cook: preheat oven to 500°F. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Transfer frozen meatballs to prepared sheet and roast, turning once halfway through, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 12 minutes.”
Italian chicken meatballs with roasted with tomatoes
Italian chicken meatball and roasted tomatoes on a baking sheet with a serving spoon

Version #2: Eat-Now Spaghetti and Meatballs:

The genius of these sheet pan meatballs is of course, contained in the use of the ever-helpful sheet pan! The fact that the meatballs and the roasted tomato “sauce” are cooked together on one sheet pan while your pasta boils is just pure ingenuity. Wait—are we allowed to say that about our own recipe? Yes? I think? Here’s how to tackle our chicken meatballs as an eat-now spaghetti and meatballs recipe:

  1. Roast the meatballs on a sheet pan along with halved roma tomatoes tossed in olive oil and salt.
  2. While the tomatoes and meatballs bake in the oven, cook the pasta until just al dente.
  3. When the pasta is done and the meatballs are baked through, toss the spaghetti with those juicy roasted tomatoes and meatballs along with a glug of good olive oil—it’s a good fat, it’s OK!—parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
  4. Admire the ease and beauty of your homemade spaghetti and (chicken!) meatballs! Then grab your fork and get twirling!
Italian chicken meatballs on a serving plate with spaghetti, basil, parmesan and roasted tomatoes.

Tools You’ll Need:

Other Meatball Recipes (Because Everyone Loves Meatballs)

We’ve left no meatball unturned!

Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs on a platter with roasted tomatoes basil and pasta
close up of Italian chicken meatballs with spaghetti, basil, parmesan and roasted tomatoes.

Are You A Chicken Meatball Convert?

We hope you love this Italian baked chicken meatball recipe! Snap a photo of the meatballs, and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you share them with. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

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Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  25 min
  • Calories: 387


  • 2 pounds Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon dried fennel seed (optional)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • Fresh basil, minced (optional)
  • Cooked pasta, for serving, optional


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the center position.

  2. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the thyme, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ cup of the olive oil. Arrange the seasoned tomatoes on a large baking sheet, cut sides up.

  3. In the bowl used for the tomatoes, combine the chicken, eggs, fennel, if using, parmesan, garlic, bread crumbs, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well, then with wet hands, form golf ball–size meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each) and arrange on the sheet pan with the tomatoes.

  4. Roast meatballs and tomatoes for about 20 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to soften and are slightly browned. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and increase the temperature to 500°F. Brush the meatballs with the remaining ¼ cup of the olive oil. Return the sheet pan to the oven and roast for another 5 minutes, or until the meatballs are golden brown and register 165°F on a meat thermometer.

  5. Once tomatoes and meatballs have roasted, toss them together. Serve over cooked pasta, if using, and top with basil, a drizzle of olive oil and more parmesan.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories387
  • Protein25 g
  • Carbohydrates12 g
  • Total Fat28 g
  • Dietary Fiber2 g
  • Cholesterol142 mg
  • sodium1297 mg
  • Total Sugars2 g

Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Amanda

    How long will these last cooked (not added to sauce or anything)? Can they be frozen? If so leave raw or cooked?

    Yes, you can absolutely freeze them, we'd recommend cooking them then letting them cool, freezing them on a baking sheet then putting the frozen meatballs in a freezer bag or freezer container. They will last about 4 days in the fridge. Hope you enjoy!

  • Halie

    How many meatballs does this make?

    This will make about 35 - 40 meatballs. Hope you enjoy!

  • Leah

    Could I substitute bread crumbs for oats to make this healthier?

    WE haven't tested this with oats but it should work fine!

  • Derek

    How long does it take to make Italian bake chicken meatballs

    This recipe takes 45 minutes, hope you enjoy Derek!

  • Mac

    Thank you for the inspiration.
    I’d love to try the baked chicken meatballs but I can’t eat tomatoes. I assume I can cook the meatballs by themselves but could I add anything else as a sauce.
    Many thanks

    Definitely search "meatballs" on our site we have TONS of meatball options. Chimichurri would be great, Alfredo, pesto, hope you enjoy Mac!

  • Jenn

    These were delicious! They were perfect for pairing with pesto and pasta. I added a shake of red pepper flakes to the meatballs since we like a little heat.

    Thanks Jenn, glad you loved them!

  • Diane

    Really loved these. Easy and good with pasta or over greens. I think when I do again I might do 25% chicken sausage to up the flavor a bit. Seems pretty flexible to make it your way!

    Thanks Diane, we are so glad you loved them!

  • Sandi

    I found this one day and really liked the "presentation" of the food. Then I made it the next day and loved the taste and will make it often. It was amazing. Family loved it. We love tons of fresh basil. I made a little butter/garlic sauce with a bit of red pepper flakes for the angel hair pasta. We also made a Fresh Tomato Tart to go with it. Thank you for sharing this!

    Wow! Love this review!

  • Susan

    So nice. I adjusted slightly by adding some peeled garlic cloves to the roast. At the 5 minute mark I gave it a splash of dry white wine. Before the basil and parm went in, I gave it a half cup of pasta water, a squeeze of fresh lemon and finished as directed. Holy smokes.. so yummy!

    Glad to hear you loved it and made it a bit of your own!