Chicken meatballs are given a saucy upgrade in this flavor-packed weeknight recipe. A classic Italian piccata sauce bursts with bright, zesty flavor, bringing simple chicken meatballs to new heights in less than 30 minutes!
Piccata gets its name from the Italian word meaning "to pound." A traditional chicken piccata is served with thinly pounded slices of meat that are coated in flour. Here, I take all the same flavors and sauce as a classic chicken or fish piccata. But, I swap out pounded meat with ground chicken to create a picatta-inspired chicken meatball recipe. This recipe is so quick and easy; I know you're going to love it!
The piccata sauce is what makes these chicken meatballs so special. Lemon, garlic and white wine are reduced until their flavors are super concentrated. Just a touch of butter or ghee is all you need for a velvety, rich sauce that’s still somehow light and delicate in less than 5 minutes.
Like my sheet pan roasted meatballs and veggies, these chicken meatballs are a great addition to your weeknight dinner rotation. Serve with bread, basmati rice, or plain pasta or couscous for catching all the sauce.
Table of Contents
Ingredients for Chicken Piccata Meatballs
This chicken meatball recipe features all the flavors of the Italian classic. Plus, the ingredients are found at most full-service grocery stores.
- Ground chicken: Leaner than ground beef, ground chicken has a mild flavor that’s perfect for soaking up all the boldly bright and garlicky flavor.
- Egg: Acts like glue, holding the meatballs together.
- Garlic: Flavors both the meatballs and the sauce.
- Fresh parsley: Adds a pop of color and freshness.
- Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs improve meatballs’ consistency by soaking up some of the liquid and giving some textural variety to the ground meat. If you’re avoiding gluten, you can substitute with gluten free breadcrumbs.
- Italian seasoning: A combination of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram, Italian seasoning adds loads of flavor with just a couple of teaspoons.
- Paprika: Sweet or Smoky paprika gives these meatballs a mild kick. Use smoky for a bolder flavor.
- Salt and pepper: Bring out the flavor of both the meatballs and their sauce.
- Olive oil: Any high quality extra virgin olive oil you have on hand will do. For this recipe, I use Nocellara, a deliciously buttery Italian variety from our shop.
- Ghee: Ghee is butter that has had the water and milk solids removed from it. Find ghee in the oil or international section of your supermarket, or substitute with unsalted butter.
- Lemon: It wouldn’t be lemon piccata without lots of fresh lemon! We use both the juice and zest for this tangy sauce. You know how we feel about citrus around here. Fresh is best!
- White wine or chicken broth: A dry white wine gives you the brightest, most flavorful sauce. If you don’t do wine, you can use chicken broth.
- Capers: Capers are a key ingredient in a classic piccata sauce. They bring briny, salty bursts of flavor, which I love. I tend to buy the water-packed variety. However, if you’re using salt-packed capers, then I would soak them in water or milk for 20 minutes, then rinse well.
How to Cook Chicken Meatballs
You don’t need to plan ahead to make this simple dinner recipe. Piccata sauce comes together in minutes with just a few ingredients. To make chicken piccata meatballs:
- Season the chicken: In a medium mixing bowl, add 1 pound of ground chicken, 1 egg, 2 minced garlic cloves, ½ cup of chopped parsley leaves, and ¼ cup breadcrumbs. Next, season the meat mixture with 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon paprika, and a big pinch of kosher salt and black pepper (about ½ teaspoon each). Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and mix to combine.
- Bread the meatballs: Spread ¼ cup of the breadcrumbs onto a large plate. Form the chicken mixture into small meatballs, about 1 heaping tablespoon each. Roll each meatball in the breadcrumbs to coat.
- Sear the meatballs: Coat a large nonstick pan with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, arrange the meatballs in one layer. Next, brown or sear each meatball. To do this, turn and rotate the meatballs, occasionally until each side is golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Once the meatballs are seared on all sides, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. (They’ll still be somewhat raw in the middle, but we’ll finish cooking them shortly.)
- Make the piccata sauce: Turn the pan to medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter. Whisk until melted, then add 3 minced garlic cloves and stir until fragrant. Whisk in the juice of 2 large lemons, ½ cup white wine, and ¼ cup capers.
- Finish the meatballs: Turn the heat to high to bring the sauce to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to low and nestle the chicken meatballs back into the pan. Toss or spoon a bit of the sauce on top. Cover and simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Garnish and serve: Sprinkle on the zest of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley leaves. Serve the meatballs hot, topped with plenty of piccata sauce.
Tips for Cooking Chicken Meatballs
This fail-proof meatball recipe is super easy. You really can’t go wrong with garlic, lemon, and white wine! Here are some of my tips to make these meatballs get extra golden brown, juicy, and delicious.
- Chicken is a lean meat, so it can be more fragile than pork or beef. Mix the ingredients well. The egg and breadcrumbs should do the trick. For extra security, knead the mixture with your hands for a few minutes to further strengthen it.
- Give the meatballs space when searing. If you have a smaller pan, brown the meatballs in batches. To get a nice sear, you need to cook them quickly with a super hot pan. Throwing too many cold to room temperature meatballs in the pan can lower the heat too drastically, making them harder to sear.
- To check if the chicken is cooked through, use a meat thermometer in the center of your biggest meatball. The internal temperature should register at 165°F. Other good indicators are that the meat at the center is no longer pink and the juices are clear.
What to Serve with Chicken Piccata Meatballs
Like Polpette In Sugo (Italian Meatballs In Tomato Sauce), these chicken meatballs can be considered a full meal on its own. That said, a leftover pool of delicious piccata sauce on the plate is a missed opportunity! Scoop these meatballs–and plenty of sauce—over simple basmati rice, plain couscous, or pasta.
What should I drink with chicken meatballs? I love this question. This easy recipe is perfect not only for a weeknight, but it’s also one of my go-tos for dinner parties all year. When it’s cold, kick things off with Italian Mulled Wine. Or, start with an Aperol Spritz in the hotter months.
More Easy Dinner Recipes
Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
From 100% Nocellara del Belice olive variety, cultivated in the ancient city of Agrigento, Sicily.
Chicken Piccata Meatballs
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 5 garlic cloves (divided)
- ¾ bunch parsley, leaves chopped
- ½ cup breadcrumbs (divided)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil (about ½ cup)
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 2 large lemons, 1 zested, both juiced
- ½ cup dry white wine or chicken broth,
- ¼ cup capers, drained and rinsed
- Season the chicken: In a medium bowl, add the chicken, egg, Italian seasoning, paprika, 2 minced garlic cloves, ½ of the chopped parsley leaves, and ¼ cup of the breadcrumbs. Add a big pinch of kosher salt and black pepper (about ½ teaspoon each) and a drizzle of olive oil. Mix to combine.
- Bread the meatballs: Onto a large plate, spread the remaining ¼ cup breadcrumbs.
- Shape the meatballs: Form the chicken mixture into small balls (about 1 heaping tablespoon each). Roll them in the breadcrumbs to coat.
- Sear the meatballs: Into a large nonstick pan set over medium heat, add enough olive oil to coat (about 3 tablespoons). Once the oil begins to shimmer, arrange the meatballs in a layer without touching. Sear, turning until each side is golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. (You do not need to fully cook the chicken meatballs at this point, they will finish cooking in the sauce.) Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
- Make the sauce: Leaving any leftover chicken fat in the pan, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the ghee or butter. Stir over medium-high heat until melted, then add the garlic. Stir until fragrant, then add the lemon juice, white wine, and capers. Season with salt to taste, then ring the sauce to a boil.
- Finish the meatballs: Turn the heat to low and nestle the meatballs back in the pan. Toss or spoon a bit of the sauce on top. Cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and are no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes.
- Serve: Sprinkle on the lemon zest and remaining chopped parsley (about 2 tablespoons). Serve hot, with plenty of piccata sauce spooned over top.
- If your pan is small, brown the meatballs in batches to avoid overcrowding. Overcrowding causes the temperature of the pan to drop, which prevents the meatballs from getting golden brown.
- If you don’t have a nonstick pan, preheating the pan before you add the oil will help prevent sticking.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams and spices.