Table of Contents
  1. Why this recipe works.
  2. Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.
  3. Here’s how to make this recipe.
  4. These pro tips will make this recipe a success.
  5. Frequently asked questions about this recipe.
  6. You'll love these other pasta recipes.
  7. Watch how to make this recipe.
  8. Have I convinced you to make this recipe?
  9. Chicken Zucchini Meatballs Recipe

These fresh and quick chicken zucchini meatballs are a great way to enjoy an easy summertime dinner. After the meatballs are seared, a flavorful tomato sauce is created in the same pan. Whether served alone or on a bed of pasta, the meatballs and tomato sauce are the essence of summertime ingredients!

Why this recipe works.

I did not grow up with meatballs. The idea of a meatball lived in my mind as something that a movie would show with spaghetti, but I had never experienced. The older I grew, the more I realized that meatballs are dependent on your heritage or where you grow up. We had ham balls, and while they were not traditional meatballs, nor were they ever served with pasta, they were amazing. The idea of a zucchini chicken meatball comes out of my non-traditional view of a meatball. With no established meatball rules, I made these chicken and zucchini meatballs. A perfect way to use the simple flavor of zucchini and chicken seasoned with herbs and finished with a fresh tomato sauce that tastes straight from the garden. A meal can be made when served with pasta, and it all comes together in under an hour.

Large skillet filled with cooked chicken zucchini meatballs with tomato sauce all around after coming out of the oven with bowl of pasta and salt to the side.

Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.

  • Ground chicken is an easy way to use lean ground meat that can take on any flavor. Look for ground chicken breasts for the best quality.
  • Zucchini should be used when they are small to medium so there is less seedy pith. If using a large zucchini slice in half, scrape the seeds, and discard.
  • Grape tomatoes work perfectly in this recipe because they do not contain a large amount of liquid. Plus, they’re perfectly sized to provide a nice-sized bite, and they cook to a softened texture quickly, which is ideal for a weeknight dinner.
  • Garlic is sliced and used to enhance the fresh tomatoes for a quick sauce. Slicing the garlic allows them to keep and brighter flavor without turning bitter.
White marble surface filled with all ingredients needed to make chicken zucchini meatballs including raw ground chicken, zucchini, grape tomatoes, basil, lemon, bread crumbs, spices, and more.

Here’s how to make this recipe.

  1. Prepare the zucchini. Using a grater, grate the zucchini into small strips. Place the grated zucchini in cheesecloth in a strainer set over a bowl. Fold up the sides of the cheesecloth and press with both hands to squeeze out the liquid from the zucchini. Discard any of the liquid.
  1. Prepare the meat mixture. In a bowl, combine the ground chicken, strained zucchini, breadcrumbs, whole milk, beaten egg, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and salt. Mix everything together until evenly combined. 
  1. Form and cook the meatballs. Using a cookie scoop or your hands, form the meatballs and place them on a baking sheet. Heat olive oil in a skillet on the stove. Once heated, place the meatballs in the oil to begin cooking. Turn the meatballs to brown on all sides. Once cooked, remove the meatballs to a clean baking sheet. This may need to be done in two batches.
  1. Prepare the tomato sauce. Leave all of the fond in the skillet from cooking the meatballs. Add the sliced garlic and let it cook for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Slice the grape tomatoes in half and add them to the skillet with the garlic along with the salt. Stir the tomatoes around to work up some of the browned bits in the skillet and let the mixture cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the tomatoes begin to look syrupy. Tear up half of the basil leaves and sprinkle them on top of the tomatoes.
  1. Combine the sauce and meatballs. Add the browned meatballs to the tomato sauce, nestling the meatballs into an even layer. Cook in the preheated 375°F oven for 8 to 12 minutes to warm everything through. Remove and serve as desired, sprinkling with the remaining basil leaves, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and lemon zest.

These pro tips will make this recipe a success.

  • The best zucchini for this recipe are small to medium in size. But if you have a large zucchini that you’d like to use, simply slice it in half and remove any of the interior seeds. Then grate the zucchini as you would a smaller size.
  • While it may seem like an extra step, make sure to squeeze out the excess liquid from the zucchini. This will create a much better chicken meatball once cooked, as less liquid will be in each meatball.
  • Crack the egg into a separate bowl to ensure that no shell makes it into the meatball mixture. Then beat with a fork to ensure the yolk and whites are combined. If the egg is not beaten separately from the meat mixture, it can be difficult to ensure both parts of the egg are evenly distributed.
  • To ensure the meatballs are fully cooked, make sure to check the temperature before removing them from the oven. The interior temperature of each meatball should be 160°F.
Round white plate with chicken zucchini meatballs and tomatoes nestled on top of penne noodles with fresh basil torn on top and skillet with rest of meatballs to the side.

Frequently asked questions about this recipe.

Can a different type of meat be used in place of the chicken in this recipe?

Yes, other meats will work. Try ground turkey or ground beef as apt substitutes.

Can paper towels be used instead of cheesecloth to strain the zucchini?

Yes, paper towels can be used, but they will sometimes tear with the amount of liquid that’s extruded from the zucchini. Cheesecloth has a better ability to hold together while allowing liquid to pass through the holes in the material.

How long does this recipe last once prepared?

After serving and storing in the refrigerator, the leftovers will last 7-10 days.

What should this recipe be served with?

Pasta is the perfect accompaniment to the sauce and meatballs. To be more non-traditional, try it with quinoa, on top of a salad, or in a sandwich.

Browned chicken zucchini meatballs sitting in cooked tomatoes with slices of browned garlic around all in skillet.

Watch how to make this recipe.

YouTube video

More summer recipes to try

Have I convinced you to make this recipe?

I hope you make this recipe and put some food on your table. Leave a comment and share a star rating so you can let others know how much you love this recipe. This helps show others that this is a recipe they, too, can make, enjoy, and love!

White plate with penne topped with cooked tomatoes and chicken zucchini meatballs with pieces of basil and a sprinkle of salt on top.

Chicken Zucchini Meatballs

4.92 from 12 votes
These fresh and quick chicken zucchini meatballs are a great way to enjoy an easy summertime dinner. After the meatballs are seared, a flavorful tomato sauce is created in the same pan. Whether served alone or on a bed of pasta, the meatballs and tomato sauce are the essence of summertime ingredients!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 20 meatballs

Ingredients

For the meatballs

  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • ½ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the tomato sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 lb grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup basil leaves separated
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Place the grated zucchini in cheesecloth or a kitchen towel. Squeeze the zucchini to release and discard excess liquid, about ¼ to ⅓ cup. Place the drained zucchini into a large bowl.
    2 cups grated zucchini
  • Add the ground chicken, bread crumbs, milk, egg, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and kosher salt. Mix the ingredients together until they are well combined.
    1 lb ground chicken, ½ cup fresh bread crumbs, ¼ cup whole milk, 1 large egg, 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning, ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, ½ tsp black pepper, 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Using a #40 cookie scoop (about 2 tbsp), make meatballs and roll into a ball. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet, about 20-22 meatballs.
  • Once the meatballs are prepared, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large 12-inch skillet. Once the oil is hot, brown the meatballs in two batches, turning to brown on all sides, 2 minutes per side. They will not be cooked all the way through. Returned the partially cooked meatballs to the baking sheet.
    2 tbsp olive oil
  • When all the meatballs are browned, add the sliced garlic to the warm skillet. Cook for 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant. Then add the sliced grape tomatoes. Sprinkle with kosher salt and half of the basil leaves. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes begin to burst, 4-6 minutes.
    2 cloves garlic, 1 lb grape tomatoes, ½ tsp kosher salt, 1 cup basil leaves
  • Once the tomatoes burst, add all of the meatballs to the skillet on top of the sauce and place the skillet into the preheated 375°F oven. Bake until the internal temperature of the meatballs register 160°F, 8-12 minutes. If serving with pasta, cook the pasta during this time. When baked, tear the remaining basil leaves on top, grate fresh Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and serve.
    1 tsp lemon zest

Notes

  • The best zucchini for this recipe are small to medium in size. But if you have a large zucchini that you’d like to use, simply slice it in half and remove any of the interior seeds. Then grate the zucchini as you would a smaller size.
  • While it may seem like an extra step, make sure to squeeze out the excess liquid from the zucchini. This will create a much better chicken meatball once cooked, as less liquid will be in each meatball.
  • Crack the egg into a separate bowl to ensure that no shell makes it into the meatball mixture. Then beat with a fork to ensure the yolk and whites are combined. If the egg is not beaten separately from the meat mixture, it can be difficult to ensure both parts of the egg are evenly distributed.
  • To ensure the meatballs are fully cooked, make sure to check the temperature before removing them from the oven. The interior temperature of each meatball should be 160°F.

Nutrition

Serving: 4meatballsCalories: 297kcal
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Difficulty Easy
Method Cooking

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Kaleb

I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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13 Comments

  1. 4 stars
    This is a splendid recipe, although I think that it would be better if there was just a normal tomato sauce instead of the sliced tomatoes and I did have to add in more breadcrumbs to thicken up the batter for the meatballs. Besides that this is a wonderful recipe, especially with pasta

  2. 5 stars
    Terrific inspiration recipe! Added spices, omitted milk and used turkey. Rave reviews from guys who normally don’t see the veggies I’ve added into a dish. No leftovers for me because the clean up crew claimed them for their lunches today.

  3. 5 stars
    Wouldn’t change a thing! This was fabulous. We had it over penne and it was a nice change from the typical tomato sauce. Definitely a keeper!

  4. 5 stars
    I made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious!!! I wouldn’t change anything! I will definitely be making this dish again.

  5. Made it! Yummmm! Used a different squash. Served over penne pasta and garnished with chopped fresh spinach. All vegetable matter for the recipie including herbs came from my garden. Substituted nutritional yeast for Parmasan chz, and white wine for milk ro make non dairy for my daughter. Fantastic!

  6. 5 stars
    Made just the meatballs and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes. Perfectly soft and moist! Will probably try a half recipe of the sauce later this week, assuming there are any meatballs left!

  7. Hi Kaleb, I enjoy your Chicken Zucchini Meatballs! I’ve made them 3 times and will continue. I have made them with the tomato sauce and spaghetti squash. I have made them without the sauce and froze half; the other half was a great source of protein for a couple of days. Love your recipes! Do you have a cookbook? Thanks, Renee from MD!