Juicy chicken meatballs with pasta covered in a thick tomato sauce

A great midweek meal is this chicken meatballs in thick tomato sauce

  • SERVES: 4
  • PREP TIME: 10 mins
  • COOK TIME:  30mins
  • DIFFICULTY: easy

Chicken meatballs in thick tomato sauce

This lovely midweek meal is a Jamie Oliver number.

I was in a panic to get food on the table for the fam.

And I pretty much always have sausages, bacon lardons and minced chicken in the freezer.

So, that I can whip up a midweek meal.

The next step was to find a quick, healthy and tasty dish to cook.

Which is how I came to these chicken meatballs in thick tomato sauce.

I’ve done chicken meatballs before, very decadent meatballs, which I highly recommend.

But this week was tasty and healthy.

However, meatballs on the surface of things are easy.

But it’s ensuring they stay juicy and don’t dry out when cooking.

Tips for juicy meatballs

Here are a few basics steps to ensure juiciness, not dryness.

Especially as lean chicken won’t have the fat of pork or beef to help with that side of things.

So, we need to get ingredients into the meatballs that will add the ‘fat’, boost flavour and keep them moist.

Add panade


Fair enough, I had never heard of it.

Panade is a French word that translates literally to “bread mash”.

So, it’s a fancy way of saying mix bread pieces or breadcrumbs with liquid (milk, buttermilk, yoghurt, stock, water).

And panade is the key to juicy meatballs.

Just use a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs and whole milk.

Also, by mixing seasonings into panade, rather than into the ground meat, you won’t be overmixing i.e. tender, juicy meatballs.

5 cooking methods for juicy chicken meatballs

  • Oven-roasted: Bake on a baking tray lined with a baking sheet at 180-200C°/400°F for 12 to 15 minutes.
  • In a mini-muffin pan: Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin and place one meatball into each well. Bake at 200°/400°F for 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Browned under the grill, then simmered: Place the meatballs on a greased rimmed baking sheet and grill on high for five minutes. Transfer to a pot with sauce and simmer with sauce for five to seven minutes.
  • Slow cooker with sauce: Pour sauce into a slow cooker. Submerge the raw meatballs in the sauce. Cover and cook on the LOW setting for two hours.
  • Cooked in stock: Bring your stock to a boil. Add the raw meatballs, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

Health benefits of chicken

First of all, a couple of non-health benefits – chicken is quick to prepare and it’s very versatile.

From roasts to meatballs.

But it does have a lot of health benefits, such as:

  • Rich in Protein – It’s a great source of lean, low-fat protein which contribute to muscle growth
  • Good for the Heart
  • Keeps your bones healthy: Apart from protein, chicken is rich in several minerals like phosphorus and calcium, that helps keeps bones in mint condition
  • Boosts Metabolism – Vitamin B6 (or B-complex vitamins) in chicken will keep blood vessels healthy, energy levels high, and metabolism burning away calories

So, chicken has many health benefits but is it better than eating red meat?

Getting chicken right

It’s great to go for chicken due to its leanness and its nutritional value.

But none of that really counts, if you’re not making good consumer decisions.

And as you will know, that means paying a little more for chicken that has been raised well and not on an industrial scale.

Because not only are you devaluing the nutritional intake.

But the industrialised farming of chickens is also causing a hefty impact on our environment.

It’s true that producing beef is by far the worse.

But chicken also has a huge impact.

All these chickens need feeding and it’s usually processed, concentrated feed made largely from soya.

And a lot of soya comes from South America where they are destroying forests to grow soya.

Which means, just like beef or pork or lamb.

We need to buy consciously – know the source, know the farming methods, support locally as best you can.

And just like red meat, cut back on how often you have it.

What do I buy?

The big question when shopping is, organic, free-range, indoor, corn-fed chicken… what do I buy?

Check out my post, here, which helps unravel some of these marketing terms.

So you can make a more informed choice.

Chicken meatballs in thick tomato sauce

Course Main Course
Keyword chicken meatballs, easy meal, healthy meatballs, meatballs, one pan meal
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 people
Cost £



  • 500 g high-quality minced chicken
  • 3 slices of bread, crusts removed (plus extra breadcrumbs, if needed)
  • 50 ml milk
  • 1 garlic clove
  • a few sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 50 g olives
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • olive oil

Tomato sauce

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 x 400 g tins of quality chopped tomatoes


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/350ºF.
  • Into a bowl, roughly cut or break up the bread, then add the milk over top and mix together, then set aside so the milk absorbs into the bread.
  • Peel the garlic, and finely chop the parsley, then into a blender, add the soaked bread, olives, capers, garlic and parmesan – blitz until combined.
    Next add the eggs and pulse briefly.
    Into a large bowl, add the minced chicken, the mix from the blender, salt and pepper for seasoning and gently combine.
    Now, make the mixture into small balls, about 2.5cm wide (if the mixture is a little too wet to work with, add some extra breadcrumbs until it comes together).
  • Place the meatballs on a grease proof baking tray, drizzle generously with oil and bake in the oven for 30 mins, turning the balls halfway so they’re golden on all sides.
  • While they are cooking, make your tomato sauce by heating 2 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, adding the crushed, peeled garlic cloves and cook until soft (don't let them go brown).
    Tip in the tinned tomatoes, add some water (1/2 an empty tin) and cook for approx. 10 mins or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Add some salt and pepper for seasoning.
  • Finally, add the sauce to the dish 5 to 10 mins before the meatballs have finished cooking.
    While this is happening, put your pasta on (following the packets instructions).
  • Serve on a large platter with pasta, then pout the meatballs in the sauce over top, sprinkle with parsley and let everyone dig in!


Recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver


Recipe by Jamie Oliver