Chicken meatballs in tomato sauce (gluten-free)

Today, I’m thrilled to share a heartwarming recipe that’s as comforting as a hug from your grandma: Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Sauce. Bursting with wholesome ingredients and Mediterranean flavors, this dish is a perfect example of homemade goodness.

The post has extra tips to make sure the recipe comes out amazing on your first try. If you're in a rush, use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end! 👩‍🍳🔝
chicken meatballs in tomato sauce in a white frying pan

Chicken meatballs in tomato sauce

Did anybody say chicken meatballs in tomato sauce? My kids come running because they LOVE meatballs. Whether that the Thai chicken meatballs or the chicken meatballs in a skillet, we love meatballs – they make the best family dinner.

Six reasons to love this chicken meatball recipe:

  1. Gluten-Free: These chicken meatballs are perfect for those avoiding gluten. Instead of using regular bread crumbs, this recipe uses cooked rice, making the meatballs tender and delicious. So, if you’re following a gluten-free diet, you can enjoy these flavorful meatballs worry-free!
  2. Easy recipe: Making the meatballs requires some time, but with my simple recipe you will have a delicious, no-fuss dinner in no time.
  3. Family-friendly: Loved by kids and adults alike, there’s something irresistible about the classic combo of spaghetti and meatballs. what kid doesn’t like spaghetti with meatballs, right?
  4. Meal-Prep: Ideal for meal prep and freezer storage, these meatballs bring convenience to your table without compromising flavor. This recipe is freezer-friendly.
  5. Low-cost recipe: These chicken meatballs are very budget-friendly. The chicken thighs mince makes our recipe way cheaper than any takeaway you could get. And the best part? It’s not just about saving money; it’s about savoring a wholesome, homemade meal that’s undeniably better for you. Say goodbye to pricey takeouts and hello to a budget-friendly, nutritious feast!
  6. And don’t forget they are absolutely delicious! 

Chicken meatball ingredients

ingredients needed to make chicken meatballs
  • Ground c or chicken mince. I prefer chicken thighs over chicken breast for their rich flavor and juiciness.
  • Brown onion, finely chopped or grated (any type of onion works). If you have a small food processor, use it to ensure the onion is minced very finely.
  • Cooked rice, any rice variety works, I usually use basmati rice.
  • Baby spinach, finely chopped.
  • Large egg
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to season

Tomato sauce ingredients

ingredients needed to make tomato sauce
  • Brown onion: Finely diced.
  • Passata: Plain Italian tomato sauce.
  • Chicken or vegetable stock.
  • Maple syrup: To balance the acidity of the tomato sauce. You can use organic raw sugar as well.
  • Fresh garlic
  • Salt and pepper: To taste.

To serve:

  • Grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Spaghetti, gluten-free if needed.
  • Fresh parsley, or any other fresh herbs you prefer

See the full list of ingredients in the recipe card below👇

How to make chicken meatballs in tomato sauce

ingredients in a bowl to make meatballs.

STEP 1: In a large mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, cooked rice, finely chopped spinach, egg, salt, and pepper.

meatball mixture in a white bowl.

STEP 2: Use your hands to mix the ingredients to ensure that everything is well combined.

hands making a meatball.

STEP 3: Take a small amount of the meatball mixture, approximately 1 cookie scoop, and shape small balls rolling the meat between your palms. If the mixture is sticking to your hands, wet them with a little bit of olive oil or some water.

raw meatballs on a tray.

STEP 4: Place the meatballs on a baking sheet or a large plate until ready to cook.

Expert Tips:

If you have time, refrigerate the chicken mixture for 30 minutes before you roll the meatballs. It will help to keep them in the ball shape when frying.


Meatballs cooking in. frying pan.

STEP 5: Heat some olive oil in a large cast iron skillet or a frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry meatballs for 3-4 minutes on each side until crisp and golden; transfer to a bowl and set aside.

onions an garlic frying in a frying pan.

STEP 6: In the same frying pan (without washing), add a little olive oil and sauté finely diced onions and pressed garlic over low heat for 10-15 minutes until onions are soft and sweet.

STEP 7: Add passata, maple syrup, and chicken stock to the pan; bring to a gentle boil and cook on low heat for 5 minutes before adding meatballs.

chicken meatballs in tomato sauce.

STEP 8: Place fried chicken meatballs into the simmering sauce. Cover the pan with a lid, and let the meatballs simmer in the tomato sauce for 20 minutes, allowing flavors to meld.

spaghetti with chicken meatballs with tomato. sauce

STEP 9: While meatballs simmer, cook spaghetti.

Serve the chicken meatballs over a bed of freshly cooked spaghetti. Ladle the rich tomato sauce generously over the meatballs and pasta. Finish with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese for an authentic Italian touch.

Here you go, you have the best meatballs for dinner!

Expert Tips:

Small meatballs are cooked in 20 minutes, but cooking time will depend on the size of the meatballs. So if you would like to ensure they are fully cooked, use a meat thermometer to check their internal temperature. The meatballs should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), indicating they are thoroughly cooked and safe to eat.

You can cook uncooked meatballs in sauce without browning them first. Simply increase the cooking time by 10 minutes. 


spaghetti with chicken meatballs with tomato sauce

Variations:

  • Add 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese to the uncooked meatball mixture.
  • Incorporate some chopped parsley into the mix.
  • Add a splash of fresh cream to the tomato sauce just before you place the fried meatballs into the frying pan.
  • While this is a chicken recipe, lean ground beef or ground pork will also work great to make these Italian meatballs.
  • A 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning will add even more Mediterranean flavor to the dish.
close up photo of meatballs in tomato sauce

More ways to serve the homemade meatballs:

  • Sandwich:
    • Place the chicken meatballs in a crusty hoagie or sub roll.
    • Spoon some tomato sauce over the meatballs.
    • Add your favorite toppings such as melted cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes for a hearty sandwich.
  • Meatball Bowl:
    • Create a nourishing bowl by placing the meatballs on a base of cooked quinoa or brown rice.
    • Drizzle with the tomato sauce.
    • Add roasted vegetables or a fresh salad on the side for a wholesome, balanced meal.

❄️ How to Store

Refrigerate:

To store your Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Sauce in the short term, transfer any leftover meatballs and the sauce into an airtight container. Refrigerate promptly, and they’ll stay fresh for up to three days.

Freeze it:

Place cooled meatballs in a freezer-safe container, ensuring a tight seal to prevent freezer burn. Properly stored, they can maintain their flavors for up to two to three months, ready and waiting to come to the rescue on a busy weeknight.

Reheat:

To reheat, gently warm the meatballs and sauce in a saucepan over low heat. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a splash of stock or water.

Have you tried this recipe? If so, I'd greatly appreciate it if you could leave a star rating and share your thoughts in a comment. Your feedback means a lot to me, and it can also help others who are interested in trying it out. Thank you! 🌟👩‍🍳
meatballs in tomato sauce in a white frying pan.

Best chicken meatballs in tomato sauce.

Elena Elliott
Delicious gluten-free chicken meatballs in tomato sauce that your whole family will love. A great alternative to a takeaway dinner.
5 from 17 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course dinner
Cuisine Mediteranian
Servings 20 meatballs

Ingredients
  

Make the meatballs

  • 500 g Ground chicken or chicken mince I always use chicken thigh mince because it results in juicier meatballs.
  • 1/2 Brown onion Any onion will work very finely chopped or grated. If your food processor can handle a small amount like this, use it to chop your onion very small.
  • 1/2 cup Cooked rice I used basmati rice
  • 1 A handful of baby spinach finely chopped
  • 1 Free-range egg
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper
  • 3 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1/2 Brown onion finely diced
  • 500 ml Passata plain Italian tomato sauce
  • 1/4 Chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 tsp Maple syrup to balance the acidity of the tomato sauce.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Instructions
 

Make the meatballs

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, cooked rice, finely chopped spinach, egg, salt, and pepper.
  • Use your hands to mix the ingredients to ensure that everything is well combined
  • Take a  small amount of the meatball mixture, approximately 1 cookie scoop, and shape small balls rolling the meat between your palms. If the mixture is sticking to your hand, wet your hands with a little bit of olive oil or some water.
  • Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a large plate.

Fry the meatballs

  • Heat some olive oil in a large cast iron skillet or a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  • Fry meatballs for 3-4 minutes on each side until crisp and golden; transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Make the tomato sauce

  • In the same frying pan (without washing), add a little olive oil and sauté finely diced onions and pressed garlic over low heat for 10-15 minutes until onions are soft and sweet.
  • Add passata, maple syrup, and chicken stock to the pan; bring to a gentle boil and cook on low heat for 5 minutes before adding meatballs.

Cook the meatballs in the sauce

  • Place fried chicken meatballs into the simmering sauce.
  • Cover the pan with a lid, and let the meatballs simmer in the tomato sauce for 20 minutes, allowing flavors to meld.

Serve

  • While meatballs simmer, cook spaghetti.
  • Serve the chicken meatballs over a bed of freshly cooked spaghetti. Ladle the rich tomato sauce generously over the meatballs and pasta.
  • Finish with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese for an authentic Italian touch.

Notes

If you have time, refrigerate the chicken mixture before you roll the meatballs. It will help to keep them in the ball-shape.
Small meatballs are cooked in 20 minutes, but cooking time will depend on the size of the meatballs. So if you would like to ensure they are fully cooked, use a meat thermometer to check their internal temperature. The meatballs should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), indicating they are thoroughly cooked and safe to eat.
You can cook uncooked meatballs in sauce without browning them first. Simply increase the cooking time by 10 minutes. 
How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Sauce:
  • Refrigerate: Transfer leftover meatballs and sauce into an airtight container. Refrigerate promptly to keep them fresh for up to three days.
  • Freeze: Place meatballs and sauce in a freezer-safe container, ensuring a tight seal to maintain flavors for up to two to three months.
  • Thaw: Move frozen meatballs to the refrigerator to thaw overnight, allowing flavors to reawaken naturally.
  • Reheat: Warm meatballs and sauce gently in a saucepan over low heat. Add a splash of stock or water if the sauce thickens too much.

Nutritional information 

Amount Per 1 meatball
calories 101
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6 g 9 %
Saturated Fat 1 g 7 %
Monounsaturated Fat 3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 38 mg 13 %
Sodium 52 mg 2 %
Potassium 172 mg 5 %
Total Carbohydrate 5 g 2 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g 3 %
Sugars 0 g  
Protein 8 g 16 %
Vitamin A 10 %
Vitamin C 4 %
Calcium 1 %
Iron 4 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.
 
 
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