Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs

Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs on a platter with roasted tomatoes basil and pasta
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Seasoned with fennel, fresh thyme, parmesan and lots of fresh garlic, our Italian baked chicken meatball recipe is a healthy take on traditional beef-and-sausage Italian meatballs. Moist and delicious—minus the guilt!  

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. 

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.”

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! 

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!

Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs

Serves 8

Ingredients

2 lbs ripe roma tomatoes, cut in half
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 tsp salt, divided
½ cup olive oil, divided
2 lbs ground chicken
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tbsp dried fennel seed (optional)
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup bread crumbs
1 bunch fresh basil, optional
cooked pasta, for serving, optional

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. In a large bowl toss together tomato halves along with fresh thyme, 1 tsp of salt and 1/4 cup olive oil. Arrange tomatoes on a large baking sheet cut side up.
  3. In the same bowl, use your hands to combine the ground chicken, remaining salt, eggs, fennel, parmesan cheese, garlic and bread crumbs.
  4. Using your hands form uniform meatballs about 2 tbsp each. Arrange the meatballs on the same baking sheet between tomato halves.
  5. Roast meatballs and tomatoes on center rack for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften and are slightly browned. Turn heat up to 500°F and brush meatballs with olive oil. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Once tomatoes and meatballs are roasted toss them together with cooked spaghetti, ¼ cup of olive oil, fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.