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chicken meatballs with pasta in skillet

Orecchiette with Baked Mini Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Cream Sauce

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 29 reviews
  • Author: Katya
  • Prep Time: 25 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 4-5 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Italian


Baked mini chicken meatballs with tomato cream sauce and orecchiette pasta. This one pot wonder meal is a family favorite!


Units Scale


  • 1/2 cup plain Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. grated white onion
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Pasta + Sauce

  • 6 oz. dry orecchiette pasta, about 2 cups
  • 1 cup Tomato Basil pasta sauce (I love Rao’s brand)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1/2 cup mini mozzarella balls (“pearls”)
  • Fresh chopped parsley or basil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish, optional



  1. In a bowl, combine Panko with milk. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until milk is absorbed. To the Panko, add the chicken, egg, onion, parsley, sour cream, salt and pepper. Mix the mixture by hand just until combined. The mixture should be quite wet. Let rest for 10 minutes before forming into balls.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. If using aluminum foil, lightly spray with non-stick spray. You’ll also want to turn on your oven broiler so it has time to pre-heat.
  3. Lightly oil the palm of your hands with olive oil, form the chicken mixture into 1 1/4-inch meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Broil the meatballs for 4-5 minutes on the middle rack or until lightly golden on the outside. Keep an eye on them as you don’t want them fully cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Pasta + Sauce

  1. Cook pasta al dente in salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water and drain the rest.
  2. In a large deep skillet, heat pasta sauce over medium heat until warm and lightly bubbling around the edges. Stir in cream and bring to a light simmer.
  3. Add meatballs tossing to coat with the sauce. Simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly and meatballs are cooked through. Meatballs should be super moist, tender, and white on the inside.
  4. Stir in cooked pasta to the sauce and the reserved pasta water. Give it couple stirs with a spoon and then add the mozzarella balls.
  5. Garnish with fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese, if desired.


  • Pasta: You can substitute any short-cut pasta for the orecchiette. The amount is the same.
  • Cream: I’ve made this dish with heavy cream and half and half. Heavy cream will give you smooth and velvety sauce. Half and half produces slightly thinned out sauce but tastes just as good.
  • Pasta Water: Adding starchy water to the sauce will produce creamy and silky sauce with least amount of oil on the surface, plus it will help the sauce adhere to the pasta. Start off with 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water and add more if needed.
  • Mozzarella: I usually find the mini mozzarella balls next to fresh mozzarella. You can substitute Ciliegine, which are slightly bigger mozzarella balls. Just cut them in half before adding to the pasta. Or you can use a ball of fresh mozzarella. Chop it and measure out 1/2 cup.
  • For more substitutions, see “frequently asked substitutions” in the body of the post.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 419
  • Sugar: 6.9 g
  • Sodium: 863.2 mg
  • Fat: 11.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 49 g
  • Protein: 28.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 110.9 mg