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meatball stew in skillet with spinach added
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4.73 from 11 votes

Simple Chicken Meatballs With Sauce (30 minutes)

This easy chicken meatballs recipe has a lot to brag about. Tender, juicy meatballs. Healthy veggies. A delicious light savory sauce. And only 30 minutes.
Prep Time12 mins
Cook Time18 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings (change as needed): 4
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots, peeled, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, washed, diced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced (or 1 small onion)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced (no need to peel) (Yukon gold, yellow, red)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth or chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons half and half cream (optional) (to add later)
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped (add last)

Seasonings for Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 clove fresh garlic minced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Chicken Meatballs (about 20 2-inch/5 cm) Note 1

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground chicken (white or dark) I use dark meat if possible (juicier)
  • 2 slices bread, torn into tiny pieces (or about 1/3 cup regular bread crumbs or Panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoon milk (broth or water can be substituted)
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated onion (or 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or more to taste)

Instructions

  • HEAT OVEN to 425F/218C if making the chicken meatballs in this recipe. Otherwise use any cooked meatballs. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with oil
  • COOK VEGETABLES AND SAUCE: Heat oil in skillet or large saucepan to medium-high heat. Add diced vegetables and saute for 4 minutes. Add flour and stir to combine. Lower heat to medium heat and cook another 3 minutes, stirring. Stir in broth and all seasonings for sauce. Bring to boil then cover and lower heat to medium low. Simmer vegetables for 10-12 minutes or until tender and easily pierced with a knife. Broth will be thickened.
  • MAKE CHICKEN MEATBALLS: While vegetables are simmering, make meatballs. In a large bowl, add bread and milk. Let soak for a minute until liquid is absorbed. Add grated onion, ketchup, garlic powder, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Mix together. Add ground meat and lightly mix all ingredients together. I use one hand like an open claw to mix. Don't over mix or meatballs will be dense. Meatball mixture will be very moist. Wet your hands (do this periodically) and form into meatballs about 2 inches/5 cm in size. (I don't worry about them being perfectly round). Place on pan in a single layer and bake for 13-15 minutes or until cooked through.
  • FINISH: Add spinach to vegetables and sauce and stir until wilted - about 30 seconds. For a creamy sauce, add a splash of cream (optional). Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more broth if too thick. Stir in meatballs and cook for a 2-3 minutes to heat through. Ladle into bowls or plates and serve with crusty bread or warm biscuits.

Notes

  1. Meatball shortcut: Use frozen meatballs heated according to package directions. Or meatballs previously made and thawed. Bake as per recipe. 
  2. Substitutions
    • Vegetables: Other vegetables like butternut squash, green beans, snap peas, frozen peas can be added or substituted. And feel free to use kale or other greens instead of spinach.
    • Seasoning:
      • Try poultry seasoning instead of the thyme and rosemary.
      • Use fresh herbs instead of dried. 1 teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh.
      • Add red pepper flakes if you like heat or a squeeze of lemon juice for a bit of zip.
    • Chicken stock or broth: I use Campbells full strength broth (undiluted) so I can deepen the flavor with less water than called for. Here's an article by Epicurious on the best chicken broth to buy.
  3. Variations
    • Vegetarian version - Use vegetarian meatballs or a plant based meat like Impossible Burger. And replace the chicken broth with vegetarian broth.
    • Passover version - Replace the bread or bread crumbs with matzo meal. And thicken the sauce with potato starch instead of flour.
    • Meatball pot pie - Place the meatball stew mixture in a casserole dish ovenproof skillet, add a puff pastry sheet on top and bake in a 400F/204C for 25 minutes. (You can under cook the meatballs in the oven for this option).
    • Beef or pork version: Use your favorite beef or pork meatballs. With beef meatballs, consider using beef broth instead of chicken broth.
  4. Shortcuts
    • Meatballs: Use your favorite frozen meatballs or homemade meatballs if you have some in the freezer. Just cook them before adding them to the vegetables and sauce.
    • Vegetables:
      • Instead of dicing all the vegetables, pulse them in two batches in a food processor to chop into small pieces.
      • Try frozen vegetables and cut the cooking time way down.
      • Use just 1-2 vegetables and spinach.
  5. Make Ahead: You can make the meatballs a day or two ahead (including cooking them), then finish the stew on another night. Or, make the entire recipe a day or two before, store in an airtight container or freezer bag in the fridge and reheat it on the stove or in the microwave. You may need to thin out the sauce a bit with some extra broth or water. 
 
Nutrition value estimates do not include adding optional cream at the end. 
Calories: 433kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 162mg | Sodium: 904mg | Potassium: 1678mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 8796IU | Vitamin C: 66mg | Calcium: 102mg | Iron: 4mg