Baked Rosemary Chicken Meatballs with Tomato Orzo

These baked rosemary chicken meatballs will become your new go-to winter dinner. The meatballs are full of flavor and baked with a drizzle of olive oil until golden and juicy. They’re served over creamy tomato orzo that has plenty of parmesan cheese and fresh spinach. It’s comfort food at its best. You can also easily double or even triple this recipe if you need a festive holiday dinner to feed a crowd!

plate of Baked Rosemary Chicken Meatballs over tomato orzo

baked rosemary chicken meatballs – the details

Last year, I shared these baked sage chicken meatballs, and they quickly became not only a go-to dinner of mine, but a favorite of yours. This recipe has been the most popular recipe on the site, with dozens of people making it over this past year.

Wanting to create a different version of the same recipe, I made a few small tweaks to the meatballs and to the orzo, and that’s exactly the recipe I’m sharing today! It’s slightly spicier, extra garlicky, full of warming rosemary, and has a punch of flavor from tomato paste and sweet sun-dried tomatoes.

meatballs on a sheet pan after baking

tomato orzo cooking in a skillet

The key to the chicken meatballs is using ground chicken thigh instead of ground chicken breast. The thigh meat of the chicken is much more tender and much more flavorful. You can usually find it packaged or behind the meat counter.

Once all of the other ingredients – soaked bread, shallots & garlic cooked in butter, red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parsley & rosemary, and salt – are added to the chicken, the mixture is rolled into balls and baked in the oven.

A drizzle of olive oil and baking the meatballs at a high temperature will help them brown on the outside, while the inside stays nice and juicy.

plate of Baked Rosemary Chicken Meatballs over tomato orzo

While the meatballs bake, you’ll make the tomato orzo. It starts with fresh rosemary sizzling in a skillet of melted butter & sun-dried tomato oil. The rosemary leaves become crisp (and make for a festive garnish) while also infusing the butter and oil.

This base of warming, inviting flavor is made even better by the addition of rich tomato paste, spicy red pepper flakes, dry white wine, and parmesan cheese.

You’ll love how fast the orzo cooks, and the result is something so creamy and decadent for the meatballs to be served over.


Baked Rosemary Chicken Meatballs with Tomato Orzo

baked rosemary chicken meatballs over creamy tomato orzo & spinach

servings: 4



Baked Rosemary 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 red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ lbs ground chicken thigh
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Tomato Orzo

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp sun-dried tomato olive oil (from the jar)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 2 ¼ cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 oz fresh spinach (approximately 2 cups)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


  1. For the meatballs, preheat the oven to 450°F. Prepare a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. Place the diced bread in a large mixing bowl and pour the warm water over top. Let soak, submerged, for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Heat a 12” stainless steel 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.
  3. Add the ground chicken, parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, parsley, salt, and shallot mixture to the bowl of bread. Mix until incorporated. Form the mixture into approximately 16 (2 oz) meatballs, packing them tightly. Place them onto the prepared sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and bake on the top rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
  4. For the orzo, wipe out the skillet and place it back over medium heat. Add the butter and sun-dried tomato oil. Add the rosemary sprig. Let it crisp on both sides as the butter begins to brown. Transfer the rosemary to a paper towel.
  5. Add the shallots and garlic to the butter and season with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and red pepper flakes until the paste is incorporated. Stir in the white wine and then add the orzo. Bring the wine to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer again, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 8 more minutes, stirring often.
  6. Add the heavy cream, spinach, and parmesan. Let the cream simmer while the spinach wilts and parmesan melts, stirring continuously. Season with salt if needed.
  7. Serve the chicken meatballs over the orzo. Garnish with the crispy rosemary leaves, more parmesan, and any extra chopped parsley.

plate of Baked Rosemary Chicken Meatballs over tomato orzo

14 thoughts on “Baked Rosemary Chicken Meatballs with Tomato Orzo

    1. Hi Betty! I’ve never made it dairy free, but my suggestion would be to replace the butter with olive oil. For the cream and parmesan cheese, you could try dairy free substitutes (I believe they have dairy free cream and cheese at most stores), but it might change the quality of the dish a bit. I hope this helps!

    1. Yes! I’ve made them with turkey before, and they work just as well. I’d suggest using ground turkey thigh (compared to breast) because it will give the meatballs a juicier texture with more flavor. Enjoy! -Kayla

  1. Such a delicious recipe! Only sub was using milk instead of heavy cream and didn’t feel it was missing anything. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Hi Catherine! Glad to hear you enjoyed this recipe! And thanks for sharing your feedback on the milk substitution – very good to know. -Kayla

  2. I haven’t tried the recipe yet – BUT I want to take a moment to share my appreciation for the details of the writing, and the photography. Wow. ♥️

    1. Aw thank you so much for such a great comment, Lena! I really appreciate the feedback, and I hope you get to enjoy some of the recipes soon! -Kayla

  3. Best chicken meatballs I’ve ever made. Very moist and flavorful. The tomato orzo was excellent but required a little more cooking then the recipe called for. I would serve this to guests with a salad. Thanks for a great recipe!

    1. Hi Beth! I’m so glad to hear you loved this recipe! Good to know on the orzo cook time – thank you for the feedback!!

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