Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Italian Chicken Meatballs with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Orzo

I’ve never been very good at cooking without a recipe. Other people can take whatever ingredients they have in-house and whip up a fabulous meal - no recipe needed. Not me, I need to follow a recipe, step-by-step.

But I just cooked a fabulous dish using no recipe (nod to Sam Sifton’s “no recipe recipes”) and I want to share it with you.

Last week I bought a package of AmyLu Italian-style Chicken Meatballs at Costco (OK, they’re not my family’s traditional meatballs, but they’re really pretty good!) and wanted to do something with them besides just plopping them into tomato sauce and serving over pasta. As an aside, these meatballs are Paleo-friendly, if you’re following that; they have16 grams of protein, are low in fat, calories, carbs, gluten-free, have no added sugars, and the chickens are raised antibiotic-free (I’ve included the nutrition panel for your reading pleasure). 

Looking in the fridge, I came up with fresh spinach and baby Bella mushrooms; in the cupboard I had a small package of orzo, and I always have garlic, EVOO, Parmigiano cheese, and fresh basil on hand. 

It was so good I made it two days in a row, not just because it was delicious and easy, but, of course, I wanted to test it before posting. I can report now that if you are looking for a terrific dish to serve to your family, one that you can get on the table in less than 45 minutes, this is it. If you’d like to serve wine with it, I recommend a Sicilian white: Anthilia from the wonderful Donna Fugata vineyard, or a Grillo, both are excellent. 

Mangia bene!

Italian Chicken Meatballs with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Orzo

Author - Terry Krongold

Recipe serves 2 but can easily be doubled.


4 TB extra virgin olive oil, halved 

4 cloves garlic, sliced

Kosher salt 

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh spinach (amount left up to you, but IMHO, the more the better!)

Red pepper flakes, optional, to taste

1 C orzo pasta 

6-8 baby bella mushrooms, sliced

12 chicken meatballs (pre-cooked), cut in half*

5-6 leaves fresh basil, torn

Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated


1. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 TB olive oil. Add half of the sliced garlic and sauté until just starting to become aromatic 

(I like to add a few grains of Kosher salt over the garlic as it cooks). 

2. Bring a pot of water to boil for the orzo.

3. To the sauté pan, add the spinach, season to taste with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) and cook until just starting to wilt, then remove from pan.

4. Add orzo to the boiling water, cook approximately 7-8 minutes (or according to package directions).

5. Add remaining 2 TB oil and garlic to the sauté pan; add mushrooms, salt and pepper,  and cook about 5 minutes until starting to soften.

6. When orzo is cooked, drain and set aside.

7. Add the meatballs to sauté pan, heat thru about 5 minutes.

8. Add orzo and spinach back to pan; toss all pan ingredients together and heat briefly, about 2 minutes.

9. Add handful of grated cheese and the torn basil. Toss everything together.

10. Plate and add a bit more grated cheese (to taste).

*feel free to use homemade pre-cooked meatballs - here is a great recipe from eatingwell.com for them!

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