I was looking through a past issue of La Cucina Italiana last night and came across a recipe I didn’t recall seeing before – a risotto with chicken meatballs.  It may have been that I automatically dismissed chicken meatballs as being something I would just never make so why bother continuing – but this time I was intrigued and stopped to read it.

I’m glad I did.

I’m not a fan of chicken sausage, ground turkey, or other poultry-replacement items. I just don’t see the reason. There’s no there there. By the time you add enough filler and spices to make it palatable you’ve probably negated any supposed health benefits you were expecting. And speaking of expecting, regular ground turkey is usually 15% fat – just like an 85/15 ground beef. And it includes skin and connective tissue and all that.  Yummy. All-white ground turkey is less fat, but it’s also dry and flavorless – unless you add fat to it. Why bother?!?

And ground chicken at the grocery store always looks skeevy to me. Totally unappealing. So… I chopped my own. I bought a package of organic boneless skinless chicken thighs and went to work. I roughly cut it and put it in the food processor. After just a few pulses I had a perfect chopped chicken for meatballs.

And I have to admit they came out pretty good. Very simple with a nice texture. They might actually be good in a soup. Winter is on the way… we’ll see..


Spinach Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

loosely adapted from La Cucina Italiana


  • 1 lb chicken thighs, chopped
  • 2 slices bread, torn in pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine

Place chicken thighs in food processor and coarsely chop. Soak bread in milk. Add parsley and spices. Mix with chicken.

Form into about 30 small meatballs.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs in one layer and sprinkle in carrots. Reduce heat and cover. Cook about 10 minutes. Add wine and cook – again covered – about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 4 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups chicken broth mixed with 1 cup water, hot
  • 1 cup grated parmesan or grana padano
  • 7 oz baby spinach
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Melt butter and oil together in large skillet. Add leeks and pancetta and cook until leeks are wilted and pancetta is beginning to brown – about 6 minutes.

Add rice and stir continuously until it is fully coated about 1 minute. Add 1 cup wine and cook until absorbed, stirring all the while.

Add 1 cup broth and stir until it is mostly absorbed. Continue adding hot broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until broth is mostly absorbed before adding the next.

Continue until rice is cooked. You may have broth left over. Stir in chopped spinach and stir until wilted and combined.

Add cheese and stir until combined.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve with meatballs and broth.


Nonna ate 4 meatballs and a pretty good portion of risotto. It’s always a telling sign when she remarks that there’s too much food on her plate – and then cleans it!