Lemony Chicken Meatballs & Cavatappi

I know that when it’s cold and rainy outside I tend to post comfort food ideas. Comfort food is comforting, of course, because it tends to be rich and fatty. As John likes to say, “Why does fat taste so good?” Here’s an idea for a meal that’s comforting, yet light and healthy.

It starts with chicken meatballs. I took ground, white chicken meat and combined it with bread soaked in milk, garlic, spices, and lemon zest before baking these in the oven. I ended up with soft and tender meatballs, bright with citrus flavor, and even better– hands and stress free since they bake instead of browning in a pan of oil.

Those meatballs were then combined with creamy white beans, chopped escarole and radicchio, chicken stock, and some butter before being spooned over whole wheat cavatappi. The greens gave some texture along with an undercurrent of bitterness to pair with the nuttiness of the whole grain pasta. With parmesan cheese running throughout and some extra for sprinkling on top of bowls of warm pasta, here you have a pasta and meatballs that provide warmth and comfort from the variety of flavors, but won’t weigh you down.


  • 13 oz ground chicken meat
  • 2 slices white sandwich bread, trimmed of crusts and soaked in 1/2 cup whole milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • cooking spray


  • 1 lb whole grain cavatappi or pasta shape of your choice, cooked according to package directions and reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water
  • 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 medium head escarole
  • 1 small head radicchio
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1.5-2 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan plus additional for passing at table
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Squeeze excess milk from bread then combine bread with ground chicken and remaining meatball ingredients, except the cooking spray. Mix with your hands until combined but do not over mix. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a cooling rack on top. Lightly spray cooling rack with cooking spray. Form meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. You should have between 24-28 meatballs. Place meatballs on cooling rack and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through, flipping meatballs and rotating tray about half way through cooking time.

While meatballs bake in the oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, escarole, and radicchio and saute until onions are softened and greens have wilted. Add the beans and butter and cook until butter has melted. Add chicken stock then stir to combine, cooking until chicken stock reduces by about 1/2. Add in 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese then adjust seasoning to taste. Combine with meatballs and cooked pasta and slowly stir in reserved pasta water until sauce is a consistency to your taste. Serve with additional parmesan cheese grated on top.

CSA Count: 3

Onion, escarole, radicchio


2 thoughts on “Lemony Chicken Meatballs & Cavatappi

  1. Corina says:

    These chicken balls look really good and baking them in the oven makes them healthier than normal too. I would probably add more chilli seeds to give them an extra kick.

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