Chicken Florentine Meatballs

5 from 23 votes
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Baked chicken florentine meatballs with homemade tomato sauce! Tender pieces of white meat combined with fresh spinach for a healthy meal full of flavor. 

Chicken florentine meatballs in a cast iron skillet.

These chicken florentine meatballs are super tender, packed with spinach in each bite, and ready in a snap. A big pot of tomato sauce simmers as you mix, shape, and bake the meatballs. Viola! Instant appetizer or maybe a family dinner if you decide to serve it with pasta or spaghetti squash.

I have a chicken florentine and meatball obsession. It hasn’t always been this way, but ever since I married my Italian husband, I’ve been on a mission to create the perfect recipe. It’s fun to combine different flavor combinations to give you a unique, tasty creation each time. Now that I’ve got the meatball base down, I decided to add vegetables to the mix for a healthy meal!

Spinach and chicken meatballs on a sheet pan.

How to prepare chicken meatballs

After receiving vigorous Italian cuisine training with Jason’s mom, Joan, and Grandma Rose, I’ve been experimenting and tweaking my meatball recipe over the years. The hubby is a tough critic when it comes to his favorite meals, but I suppose I appreciate his honesty.

I’ve realized there’s a secret when it comes to Italian family cooking, the cooks making their famous dishes don’t measure out the ingredients! They typically go by look, feel, and experience. Well, I’ve written this chicken florentine meatballs recipe down so we can all recreate the yumminess!

The meat-to-breadcrumb ratio

  • 1 pound meat
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 large egg

Due to the chicken meat being so lean, a quick 20-minute bake in a 400-degree oven roasts them to perfection. To add that nice brown crust, a few minutes under the broiling turned the meatballs up a notch.

Spinach makes the chicken meatballs look green.

Chopped spinach goes into the meatball mixture to switch up the flavor profile, and it adds nutritional benefits. I was a little surprised at how green the meatballs looked, but they were really pretty once browned from the broiler. The spinach color stayed a lovely vibrant green, making for an eye-catching and intriguing dish.

There must be an unspoken rule that you should never, ever, EVER serve meatballs without a sauce. Or at least that’s my opinion. It’s just so much more satisfying to roll, dip, and smother each meatball in a tasty tomato sauce. Raise your hand up high if you agree!

Chicken florentine meatballs in a lodge skillet.

I made a very quick and fool-proof tomato sauce as the first step so that it has time to simmer and concentrate into a delicious sauce. I always look for San Marzano canned tomatoes when I don’t have super ripe fresh tomatoes for the sauce.

San Marzano plum canned tomatoes are imported from Italy. They are special because they are picked at maximum ripeness and have a natural sweetness and low acidity that just makes the sauce irresistible.

Green meatball with bite taken from it.

This chicken florentine meatball recipe is very versatile because you can make it as a snack before dinnertime or serve it with lasagna rolls, bread, or salad to make it a full meal. My family usually requests these with a big bowl of spaghetti, then leftover meatball sandwiches the next day for lunch. How will you enjoy these healthy meatballs?

How does using a panade help make meatballs tender?

For this chicken florentine recipe, I added some milk to help create a panade with the panko breadcrumbs. A panade is a mixture of starch and liquid that is added to ground meat to help keep the size and shape of the meatball intact while retaining moisture and tenderness. Because ground chicken is so lean, adding a little more moisture and fat from the milk absorbed into the breadcrumbs adds a little insurance. Nobody enjoys dry meatballs, I promise!

Chicken Florentine Meatballs

Baked chicken florentine meatballs with homemade tomato sauce! Tender pieces of white meat combined with fresh spinach for a healthy meal full of flavor.
5 from 23 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 12 meatballs
Course Appetizer, Entree
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients  

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup yellow onions, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 ounce crushed tomatoes, canned San Marzano recommended
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 cups baby spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

Tomato Sauce

  • Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add garlic and onion, saute until onions are translucent, 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir to combine. Add tomatoes, salt and oregano stir and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

Meatballs

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a sheet tray with foil and lightly coat with oil and set aside.
  • In a large bowl combine chicken, egg, garlic, chopped spinach, panko bread crumbs, milk, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
  • Roll meatballs in 12 equal portions, about 1 ½-inches, 2 to 3 tablespoons in size. Evenly space them on the baking sheet.
  • Place pan in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Turn oven to broil and cook meatballs another 2 to 3 minutes, until they are golden-brown on top. Serve with sauce.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 12 meatballs
Calories 103kcal (5%)Carbohydrates 8g (3%)Protein 12g (24%)Fat 3g (5%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 38mg (13%)Sodium 285mg (12%)Potassium 171mg (5%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 1500IU (30%)Vitamin C 9.9mg (12%)Calcium 80mg (8%)Iron 0.9mg (5%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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20 Comments Leave a comment or review

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think that would work great Dennis! It will be very flavorful and tender with the pork 🙂

  1. Molly says

    How do you suggest making meatballs gluten free? I was diagnosed with celiac last week and this recipe was on my list to do before that news 🙂

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Molly! I’m sorry to hear that you were diagnosed with celic 🙁 Not to fret, we can find substitutions! I have used 1 cup finely chopped brown mushrooms please 1 tablespoons cornstarh or arrowroot starch in the mixture to replace the 1 cup of breadcrumbs. Do not add the milk. You can also look for gluten free bread crumbs or make your own 🙂

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Lisette- Yes, I think you could add in 1 cup diced tomatoes after you add in the garlic and allow it to reduce down to remove the excess moisture. Or you can simply simmer the sauce longer until it thickens. The paste is added to deepen the tomato flavor and add thickness to the sauce quicker.

  2. Trish says

    I made these today. Sub’d feta instead of parm. Added a teaspoon of chicken base and cooked them in the air fryer. Fantastic!

  3. Jan says

    Regarding Chicken Florentine Meatballs; can you sub frozen chopped spinach drained for the fresh spinach and, if so, would one 10 oz pkg be correct?

  4. Jeannie Bird says

    Made these yesterday and doubled the recipe. Used 1 lb chicken and 1 lb turkey. Doubled the cheese and garlic. They are really great! I made the mistake of putting them into the tomato sauce in the pot and the sauce overwhelmed them since they are so fine and delicately flavored. Chopping the spinach was pretty labor-intense but I will definitely make these again – perhaps for cocktails snacks. Thanks so much for sharing this great recipe!

  5. Valerie says

    Oh wow! These are really good!! I could have chopped my spinach a little finer, but it’s no matter. I had a pound of ground chicken in the freezer that I bought on sale without a plan and this was the perfect vehicle for it! I’m going to add this into my rotation of dinners.

  6. Oleg says

    Hi,

    Could you please add an alternative metric, since I had to convert ounces, pounds…to grams?
    Used 300g of chicken, 50g spinach, 83g of bread crumbs and 43g of milk. Meatballs were nicely formed. As a result, when cooked for 20 min at 205C in the oven, meatballs were dry at the end. Do you know what went wrong?

    But the sauce was amazing!

    Learning to cook, just shared my result 🙂
    Thank you