These baked sage chicken meatballs are absolutely mouthwatering. Ground chicken thigh is flavored with shallots, lots of garlic, a little crushed red pepper, warming sage, fresh parsley, and sharp parmesan cheese. The mixture is formed into balls and baked with a drizzle of olive oil until golden and juicy. They’re made even better served over creamy parmesan orzo. It’s a flavorful dinner that is easy enough to make on a weeknight, yet special enough to save for the weekend!
baked sage chicken meatballs – the details
You’ll start by making the chicken meatball mixture. I’m using ground chicken thigh for these because I find it to be so much more flavorful and results in a juicier finished product than ground chicken breast. If you don’t see a package of ground thigh, you can usually find it behind the meat counter or even ask the butcher to grind it fresh for you.
The other key to this mix is to soak some fresh bread in warm water, just long enough so that it absorbs the liquid and becomes soft. I like to use an Italian or French loaf of bread from the bakery section. The bread adds little pockets of moisture throughout the meatballs which keeps them tender and juicy.
The rest of the ingredients in the meatball mixture are there solely for flavor (and lots of it). The star is really the fresh sage…it’s a powerful herb, so the two tablespoons in this recipe adds a nice punch of hearty, warming flavor that instantly tastes like fall.
Once everything is mixed up, you’ll simply form the balls and bake them off with a little olive oil on top to help promote the browning. They come out golden, juicy, and very tasty.
While the chicken meatballs bake, the orzo comes together quickly on the stovetop. I like to start it when the meatballs have about 15 minutes left in the oven so that it’s ready at the same time.
The process is simple, and the flavors are minimal but so incredibly tasty together – browned butter, more sage & shallots, white wine, fresh thyme, a splash of cream, and plenty of parmesan. I added in some spinach, too, just to get some greens in.
You can serve this and the meatballs as is or add on a roasted vegetable to really complete the meal. It’s so, so delicious…hopefully one of those recipes you keep coming back to over and over again!Print
Baked Sage Chicken Meatballs with Parmesan Orzo
baked sage chicken meatballs over creamy parmesan orzo & spinach
Baked Sage Chicken Meatballs
- 2 oz fresh italian bread, diced
- ½ cup warm water
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 ½ lbs ground chicken thigh
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp butter
- 8 sage leaves
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 cup orzo
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 small handful fresh thyme sprigs, tied in kitchen twine
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 2 oz fresh spinach (approximately 2 cups)
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- freshly cracked black pepper
- For the meatballs, preheat the oven to 450°F. Prepare a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. Lightly oil the parchment. Place the diced bread in a large mixing bowl and pour the warm water over top. Let soak, submerged, for at least 5 minutes.
- Heat a 12” skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Once melted, add the minced shallot and garlic. Cook for a minute or so until softened. Stir in the granulated garlic and red pepper flakes. Turn off the heat.
- Add the ground chicken, parmesan, sage, parsley, salt, and shallot mixture to the bowl of bread. Mix until incorporated. Form the mixture into approximately 15 (2 oz) meatballs, packing them tightly. Place them onto the prepared sheet pan. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and bake on the top rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
- For the orzo, wipe out the skillet and place it back over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Add the sage leaves. Let them crisp as the butter begins to brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sage to a paper towel.
- Add the shallots to the butter and season with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the orzo. Pour in the white wine and add the thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer again, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 6 more minutes, stirring often.
- Add in the heavy cream, spinach, and parmesan. Let the cream simmer while the spinach wilts and parmesan melts, stirring continuously. Season with salt to taste. Remove the thyme sprigs.
- Serve the chicken meatballs over the orzo. Garnish with the crispy sage, freshly cracked black pepper, more parmesan, and any extra chopped parsley & thyme leaves.
55 thoughts on “Baked Sage Chicken Meatballs with Parmesan Orzo”
Hi! Could I use ground turkey instead of chicken? Any modifications? Thanks so much!
Hi Kate! Yes, you could definitely use turkey. I’d recommend using ground turkey thigh for flavor and juiciness (leaner ground turkey breast may come out dry). I hope this helps!
Loved this dish….loved!
Easy to make and worth any effort.
Next time, I will decrease the water as my meatballs were very “loose.” They turned out fine, but spread out on the pan.
I also used a whole 5oz bag of spinach, because why not? More veg is fine with me.
So glad you enjoyed this! And thank you for the feedback – your modifications sound great! Definitely could always use more veg!
I made this for my kdis and me for lunch (they are spoiled and don’t like to take sandwiches to school so take hot food in a thermos). The orzo was really flavorful but I thought the meatballs could use some more sage. They were nice and tender but were missing a little something. My pasta lover kids wanted more orzo so next time I would increase the pasta. A good solid recipe for my collection!
Hi Kelly! Thank you so much for the feedback. Good to know your thoughts on adding a little more sage. I’m glad to hear you’ll be keeping this recipe in your collection, and I LOVE that your kids got to enjoy this dish as well!
SOOO good ! thank you! honestly if im in a rush i might just use frozen meatballs and make the orzo myself
So glad you liked this, Arya!! Frozen meatballs would be so convenient in a pinch!
This was the first recipe I have ever cooked by Kayla and OHHHHHH MY GOSH. This was incredible. The flavors were fantastic. So much depth, but so easy to make. I will certainly be making it again! 12/10!!!
I only used 1lb of chicken and was able to make 20 good size meatballs. I also added extra orzo, but will be doubling the orzo next time so we can have leftovers 🙂 Lastly, I subbed coconut milk for heavy cream and still had such a nice creamy factor, but was just easier on the stomach.
Hi Lauren! Thank you so much for your wonderful comment!! I’m SO glad you tried and loved this recipe! And I really appreciate the feedback on chicken amount, portion size, and the cream substitute idea! -Kayla
Amazing!! This is becoming a regular, orzo is phenomenal but we sometimes just make the meatballs and I’ve been using them as a protein for lunch.
Hi Kenzie! Thanks for the feedback. I’m so glad you love this! I agree – I love having the meatballs on hand. I’ll usually make a batch, freeze half of them, and eat them for lunch, too!
Made this tonight and it was fantastic! So savory and the crispy sage leaves are amazing garnish. Will definitely be making regularly!
Thanks so much for the feedback, Bryan! I’m thrilled you enjoyed this!!
Absolutely delicious. Making it for my Bunco group this week. Husband loved it!
Hi April! Thanks for sharing. I’m so glad you like this one, and I hope it’s a hit with the Bunco group! -Kayla
This was AMAZING! Ground my own chicken thighs and followed the recipe exactly as written. Will make this again, again and again!
Hi Pam! I’m SO glad to hear. Thanks for sharing!! (and freshly ground chicken thighs sound amazing)
Literally so good! As newly weds trying to combine diets, this is a recipe everyone can love!
LOVE to hear this!! Thank you!
Fantastic recipe! Definitely going into the rotation. The meatballs were by far, the best chicken meatballs I’ve ever tasted. Definitely worth grinding your own.
This was so delicious! loved the sage in both the meatball and the garnish. Wonderful pairing with the lightly creamed orzo.
We loved this and made enough for the next night. We pulled out the grinding attachment for our stand mixer and ground the chicken thighs ourselves. Fun project. My husband said, “keep this on our regular dinner rotation”. I am happy to do so!
can i make this dairy free
This dish was amazing. The flavors were incredible! The crispy sage was such a special touch. Thank you for another delicious recipe!
Made this for my boyfriend and he said it’s his favorite thing I’ve ever cooked!
He usually hates meatballs, so that should speak volumes about how delicious this is!
Did I miss the spinach in the ingredients list?
This was so so good!
Made this last night- delicious! Thanks for the idea!
Really enjoy this recipe, changed it up slightly, I found the meatballs were better fried, then cooked in the sauce to finish and I used slightly less wine and more stock, one of our favourites now!
Holy cow… this was amazing! Elegant comfort food! I thought it seemed complicated and would take awhile, but I was wrong. Once the ingredients were assembled, it went pretty quick – could definitely be a week-night meal. I didn’t change a single thing (other than to make a 1/2 recipe for our small family.) Will make again for sure!
I’ve never made meatballs this way and this will absolutely be my new go-to! Kayla you did it again by adding another classic to our cooking repertoire, we can’t wait to make this again!
Outstanding! Of course I made extra sauce and was generous with the cheese. Grateful I stumbled on your page!
I am excited to cook this on Saturday. What can I substitute the white wine for? I’m pregnant and don’t want to risk it.
Chicken stock can be used.
Delicious. Took a couple of hours but payoff was worth it. Followed the recipe except an extra 5 mins to brown the meatballs and an extra 5 mins cooking the orzo since it wasn’t finished yet.
Deeeelish! My very foodie fam loved this dish – total keeper. Only change I had to make is to add more stock to orzo through process as it was running too al dente and needed more time. Other than that, stayed true to recipe and wouldn’t change a thing.
Made this last night. Just followed the recipe exACTly. IT WAS SO SO SO DELICIOUS (and pretty!)
Delicious! Made with ground turkey thigh, and served alongside steamed broccolini drizzled with olive oil and finished with salt. We will be making this for company!
Love the sound of this recipe and plan to make it tonight, however my wife if slightly lactose intolerant. Wondering if I could replace the heavy cream with coconut milk?
I think that would be delicious! There’d be a slight coconut flavour, of course, but after having just eaten it I think it’d go nicely.
I’m also lactose intolerant but have used a lactose free cream
SO delicious. Finished the orzo with a squeeze of lemon juice. Served with an apple/toasted walnut/spinach salad. Would definitely make either the orzo or meatballs again, together or separate!
Any nutrition info for this recipe?
Ladies, Kayla gave more than enough instructions for you to run with. Cooking is an experience and it’s different for everyone even if you follow the instructions to the ‘T’. Take what she gave you and make it your own. Look at what’s in front of you and start by adding a little at a time. Let your intuition tell you when you’ve added enough (ancient ways), then taste as you go.
Not everyone is an intuitive cook. Or even experienced but want to try a recipe. What is wrong with asking for clarification? Nothing.
This recipe looks amazing! Can you specify the amount of spinach you recommend?
Would you estimate that 2 oz of Italian bread is a couple slices? Or maybe fractions of a cup of diced bread? Thanks!
It’s about two thin slices, I was able to measure using my scale
Maybe the recipe was altered since you read it, but I see “2oz (or about 2 cups)” in the list. Hope this helps.
I don’t understand step 2. I thought the meatballs would be browned in the pan before going into oven, but step 3 has them going right into the oven. Then step 4 says to wipe out the pan that was prepared in step 2 and not used. Can you please clarify?
The meatballs are baked as the title states. The skillet is used to cook the shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes which then get added to the meatball mixture. The skillet is used again for the orzo.
Just made this! Total fam hit and we have some sophisticated pallets I need to please. I found the need to add more broth as orzo cooked, wasn’t finishing on amount specified. Almost double but added slowly as I checked orzo. Absolutely a winner.
Would love nutrition info. LOVE your recipes. My family now thinks i can cook!?
Love you recipes, I just wish there was at least step by step pictures or even videos with your recipes