Marry Me Chicken Meatballs

published Nov 18, 2023
Marry Me Chicken Meatballs Recipe

Juicy chicken meatballs baked in a velvety sun-dried tomato and Parmesan cream sauce.

Serves4 to 6

Prep25 minutes

Cook22 minutes to 25 minutes

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Marry me chicken meatballs in Dutch oven.
Credit: Kristina Vanni

As a regular home cook who also happens to be a food writer, I’m all too familiar with recipes that promise to be the best or the simplest or even life-changing. Some dinners live up to the hype, while others don’t even come close. So when I heard about a skillet dinner that was good enough to evoke marriage proposal-level praise, I had my doubts. 

That skillet dinner of golden, seared chicken breasts finished in an Italian-inspired cream sauce was legitimately delicious (and also happens to be the brainchild of The Kitchn’s very own Editor-in-Chief, Lindsay Funston). While the original is a stunner, with a few tweaks I’ve turned this dish into one that I can rely on in good times and in bad. Here’s how to make Marry Me chicken meatballs in a velvety Parmesan and sun-dried tomato cream sauce. 

What Ingredients Are in Marry Me Chicken Meatballs?

  • Ground chicken: For the juiciest meatballs, make sure to buy ground chicken, which is a mix of white and dark meat and not ultra-lean ground chicken breast. Ground turkey is a good substitute.
  • Parmesan cheese: The cheese goes into the meatball mixture and the sauce.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes: Intensely sweet and savory at the same time, nothing compares to sun-dried tomatoes. Tomatoes packed in oil and dry-packed work equally well in this recipe.
  • Chicken broth: Use low-sodium chicken broth so that you can control the salt level of the final dish. 
  • Heavy cream: Provides richness and makes for a lovely pink hue.
  • Herbs and spices: Raid your pantry for onion powder, black pepper, dried thyme, and red pepper flakes to add flavor to meatballs and cream sauce. You’ll need fresh garlic cloves for this recipe too.
Credit: Kristina Vanni

How to Make Marry Me Chicken Meatballs

  • Make the meatball mixture. Stir the meatball seasonings, breadcrumbs or panko, milk, and an egg together in a large bowl before adding the ground chicken to avoid overworking the meatballs. Once the ground chicken (or turkey) is added, mix gently with your fingers until the mixture is just combined. 
  • Bake the meatballs. Form the meatballs into 2-tablespoon portions. The easiest way to do this is with a cookie scoop. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet until cooked through.
  • Simmer the sauce. While the meatballs are in the oven, start the cream sauce on the stovetop, building flavor with herbs, spices, sun-dried tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese.
  • Finish in the oven. Coat the meatballs in the sauce, then return to the oven until the meatballs are browned on top and the sauce has thickened slightly.

How to Make Marry Me Chicken Meatballs in Advance

The sun-dried tomato and Parmesan cream sauce is best made just before serving, but you can still get ahead on dinner by making the meatballs in advance. Make the meatball mixture and scoop into balls, then either refrigerate raw, or bake and then refrigerate up to 2 days in advance. You can even freeze the meatballs for up to 3 months; just thaw in the refrigerator before continuing with the recipe. 

Marry Me Chicken Meatballs Recipe

Juicy chicken meatballs baked in a velvety sun-dried tomato and Parmesan cream sauce.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 22 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4

    cloves garlic, divided

  • 2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese (or scant 1/2 cup store-bought grated), divided

  • 3 ounces

    sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil

  • 1/2 cup

    unseasoned dried or panko breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    ground chicken or turkey

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 cup

    low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • Fresh basil leaves, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Arrange one oven rack in the upper third of the oven and a second rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

  2. Mince 4 garlic cloves. Finely grate 2 ounces Parmesan cheese on the small holes of a box grater (about 1/2 cup) if needed, or measure out scant 1/2 cup store-bought grated. Coarsely chop 3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes (about 1/2 cup).

  3. Place half of the garlic and half of the Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup unseasoned dried or panko breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup whole or 2% milk, 1 large egg, 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a large bowl and stir to combine.

  4. Add 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken or turkey and use your fingers to combine the meat and flavorings. Handle the meat gently and do not overmix. Form the mixture into 32 to 34 (about 1 1/2-inch) meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each). Place on the baking sheet, spacing them about 1/2-inch apart.

  5. Bake on the middle rack until cooked through, beginning to brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a meatball registers at least 165°F, 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile make the sauce.

  6. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  7. Add the remaining Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth, and 1 cup heavy cream. Bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer gently, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed, until the sauce reduces slightly and turns golden around the edges, about 5 minutes. If the meatballs are not ready yet, take the sauce off the heat.

  8. Remove the meatballs from the oven. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to the sauce. Gently stir to coat the meatballs in the sauce, then spread into an even layer.

  9. Transfer the skillet to the upper rack and bake until the meatballs are browned in spots and the sauce is thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Garnish with torn fresh basil leaves if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The meatballs can be prepared and refrigerated raw or baked up to 2 days in advance or frozen in a single layer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before continuing with the recipe. If the meatballs are fully cooked, bake in a 400ºF oven until heated through before adding them to the sauce.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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