Baked Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Butternut Squash and Spinach Orzo is a great choice when you're craving comfort food on a cold Fall or Winter night. This recipe will show you how to make chicken meatballs from scratch, but you can simplify this recipe by using store-bought ones. You can also make this pasta dish meatless by using plant-based meatballs. This recipe is very flexible and easily adaptable.
Chicken meatballs with orzo
This creamy chicken pasta uses a winning combo of ingredients: baked chicken meatballs, roasted butternut squash, spinach, orzo, garlic, cream, and Parmesan cheese. It's a perfect comfort food to make during the colder months of the year. I used store-bought peeled and pre-cut butternut squash which saved me a ton of time and made the whole recipe a breeze! Making chicken meatballs from scratch is also easier than you think! This is a perfect recipe for a cozy family weeknight dinner but also appropriate for entertaining guests.
This delicious recipe is packed with veggies and protein - a perfect and nutritious dinner to make on a busy weeknight. It has everything you need in a complete meal: protein (chicken meatballs), veggies and fiber (butternut squash and spinach), and pasta (orzo).
Substitutions and variations
What I love about this recipe is that it is very flexible and easily adaptable.
- Ground meat. You can use ground chicken, ground turkey, or ground beef in this recipe.
- A good substitute for butternut squash is sweet potatoes. This way you can make this recipe year-round by using sweet potatoes when the butternut squash is not in season.
- Seasonings can include dried oregano, fresh thyme, Italian seasoning, smoked paprika, regular paprika, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, etc.
- Cheese. You can totally skip the Parmesan cheese or use a different cheese, such as Asiago, Pecorino Romano, or Gruyere.
- Use store-bought chicken meatballs if you have a favorite brand that you enjoy.
- Make it meatless by use store-bought plant-based meatballs.
- Toppings. When serving, you can add grated Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs, or cracked black pepper to the orzo pasta.
How to make it gluten-free
- Panko breadcrumbs. To make chicken meatballs gluten-free, make sure to use GF panic breadcrumbs or GF breadcrumbs.
- Make this recipe gluten-free by using GF orzo or long rice instead of regular orzo.
Other chicken orzo recipes you might like
- Creamy Chicken Orzo with Butternut Squash and Spinach
- Chicken Orzo with Cherry Tomatoes, Spinach, and Basil Pesto
More butternut squash and orzo recipes you might like
- Butternut Squash and Black Bean Orzo with Sausage
- Creamy Butternut Squash and Sausage Soup with Orzo and Spinach
- Creamy Butternut Squash Orzo with Sausage
Baked Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Butternut Squash and Spinach Orzo
Roasted butternut squash
Bake chicken meatballs
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix all ingredients for chicken meatballs with a large fork or spoon in a large mixing bowl.
- Make about 20 or 25 small meatballs (by rolling them with your hands) and place them on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 30 minutes until cooked through.
Roast Butternut Squash
- In a large bowl, toss cubed butternut squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.
- Spread the squash on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in one layer, without overcrowding.
- Roast in the preheated oven at 400 F on the middle rack at 400 F for 20 or 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
- Roast the squash at the same time as you're baking the meatballs. Proceed with the rest of the recipe in the meantime.
- To the large, high-sided skillet add 1 cup of uncooked orzo, minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the orzo on medium heat, stirring, for about 2 minutes until browned.
- Add 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 or 10 minutes, occasionally stirring to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the orzo is cooked through.
- Add spinach, and stir it in until it wilts on low-medium heat.
- Add ½ cup of half-and-half, stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add roasted butternut squash and baked chicken meatballs to the cooked orzo. Top with fresh thyme.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.