Lemon Chicken Florentine Meatballs with Couscous

The inspiration for this dish came from trying to get in some more greens for my 1 year old. These Chicken Florentine Meatballs are packed with grated zucchini and spinach and that just makes them even MORE tender! You get brightness from the lemon zest, tons of flavour from the sharp cheese and pulsed crackers or breadcrumbs, and then the pearl couscous base is just divine. You throw in the cherry tomatoes for the last 15 minutes in the oven and they come out perfectly roasted and sweet. It’s such a well balanced dish and it was also a hit for the toddler so win-win.

Something magical happens when you sautée some olive oil, butter, shallots and garlic (you know this already). BUT! Adding in the pearl couscous after that and toasting it so it becomes all nutty and golden – I’m telling you. Deglaze with some good quality chicken broth and let that simmer away. You would think that the process was a lot harder based on how unbelievably good this tastes but truly this is it. 

I get a lot of comments from people saying I don’t use enough seasoning but if I could just sneak them a bite of this pearl couscous I wonder if they’d change their mind! My motto is simple is best. I don’t want to overwhelm a dish by throwing it a bunch of seasonings. But I can understand that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

prep for florentine meatballs

Lemon Chicken Florentine Meatballs:

This recipe makes about 20 small-medium sized meatballs. If you don’t use them up you can definitely freeze the extras!

How to Make Lemon Chicken Florentine Meatballs with Couscous:

Step One:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Step Two:

Mix together all of the ingredients for the chicken meatballs: ground chicken, pulsed crackers (or breadcrumbs), chopped spinach, grated zucchini, grated cheese, salt, garlic powder, lemon zest and an egg. Mix to combine but be careful not to over mix or they’ll become tough and dense.

ground chicken and all of the other additions for the florentine meatballs

Step Three:

Form into small (ish) meatballs – this should make about 20. Keep your hands wet with water and work quickly as you form them. Place on a baking sheet with parchment/foil or I used a nonstick baking tray. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until they turn slightly golden brown on top.

raw chicken meatballs that are formed and ready to bake

Step Four:

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, add some olive oil and butter and sautée minced shallot and garlic for a few minutes. Add in the pearl couscous and toast for another 2 minutes until slightly golden brown.

pearl couscous cooking on the stove

Step Five:

Add in the chicken broth and bring to a bubble. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed and the pearl couscous are tender.

cooked pearl couscous after absorbing all the broth

Step Six:

During the last 15 minutes of the chicken meatballs cooking, add in some cherry tomatoes that are lightly coated in olive oil and salt directly to the pan. Let these roast and finish cooking with the meatballs.

baked chicken florentine meatballs with roasted tomatoes

Step Seven:

Time to plate everything up! The pearl couscous on the bottom, and top with the chicken florentine meatballs, roasted tomatoes, shaved parmesan and fresh basil. Enjoy!

cooked pearl couscous and chicken florentine meatballs with roasted tomatoes ready to plate up
Lemon chicken florentine meatballs with couscous

Storing Lemon Florentine Chicken Meatballs with Couscous:

Store any leftovers of this dish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. To reheat, gently warm the meatballs and couscous in the microwave or on the stovetop, adding a splash of broth to prevent dryness.

fresh basil from the garden

Tips for Forming the Chicken Florentine Meatballs:

  • Keep ingredients chilled to prevent stickiness
  • Dampen your hands lightly with water to avoid sticking
  • Use a tablespoon or mini ice cream scoop to ensure uniform sizes
  • Handle the mixture with care to keep the meatballs tender
  • Rinse your hands if the mixture starts to stick
  • Chill the mixture briefly if it becomes too soft to shape easily
  • Work quickly to maintain the texture of the meatballs
Lemon chicken florentine meatballs with couscous

Substitutions for Lemon Florentine Chicken Meatballs with Couscous:

  • Protein: Instead of ground chicken, you can use ground turkey, beef, or even a combination of meats for a different flavour profile
  • Spinach: If spinach isn’t your fav, feel free to swap it out with other leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, or arugula
  • Pearl Couscous: You can experiment with other grains such as quinoa, orzo, or farro
  • Gluten-Free: You can do gluten-free couscous or substitute with rice, cauliflower rice, or gluten-free pasta
lemon chicken florentine meatballs with couscous
Lemon chicken florentine meatballs with couscous

Lemon Chicken Florentine Meatballs with Couscous

A bright and zesty dish that's BURSTING with flavour. The chicken meatballs are soooo tender, the tomatoes are perfectly roasted, and the creamy couscous base is incredibly cozy. It's all topped off with shaved parmesan and fresh basil.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Serves 3 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 3/4 - 1 cup spinach chopped
  • 1 cup zucchini grated
  • 1/2 cup crackers pulsed
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheese grated (I used kerrygold dubliner)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1.5 cups pearl couscous
  • 3 cups broth
  • 1.5 cups cherry tomatoes
  • Basil
  • parmesan

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Mix together all of the ingredients for the chicken meatballs: ground chicken, pulsed crackers (or breadcrumbs), chopped spinach, grated zucchini, grated cheese, salt, garlic powder, lemon zest and an egg. Mix to combine but be careful not to overmix or they’ll become tough and dense.
  • Form into small (ish) meatballs - this should make about 20. Keep your hands wet with water and work quickly as you form them. Place on a baking sheet with parchment/foil or I used a nonstick baking tray. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, add some olive oil and butter and sautée minced shallot and garlic for a few minutes. Add in the pearl couscous and toast for another 2 minutes until slightly golden brown.
  • Add in the chicken broth and bring to a bubble. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed and the pearl couscous are tender.
  • During the last 15 minutes of the chicken meatballs cooking, add in some cherry tomatoes that are lightly coated in olive oil and salt directly to the pan. Let these roast and finish cooking with the meatballs.
  • Time to plate everything up! The pearl couscous on the bottom, and top with the chicken florentine meatballs, roasted tomatoes, shaved parmesan and fresh basil. Enjoy!

Leave A Comment

  1. Anonymous May 2, 2024 at 9:26 am - Reply

    4 stars
    Really good! I will say it some places it says to use Couscous and in others Orzo. We used Orzo and it worked just great.

    • Brita May 29, 2024 at 11:14 pm - Reply

      Just fixed this – thank you for flagging! So glad orzo worked well for you 🙂

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