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Spring Vegetable Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

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Creamy risotto studded with spring veggies and savory chicken meatballs is comforting, yet fresh and light. It’s the perfect meal to enjoy during the changing seasons. 

A bowl of asparagus and pea risotto topped with three chicken meatballs.

Why and When to Make This Recipe

In that space between winter and spring – when nights are still cold, but warm afternoons draw us outside – you need a meal that comforts, yet ushers in fresh and light flavors. A bowl of creamy risotto studded with spring vegetables and topped with savory chicken meatballs gets that job done! 

My favorite thing about this recipe is that it’s a complete meal. I don’t need to make a side dish or main dish because…this is the dish. (Although, I wouldn’t be mad about a little green salad as an accompaniment.) 

This meal comes together in about 45 minutes because we can cook two things at once. While the chicken meatballs bake in the oven, you can focus on preparing the veggies and risotto. Make your time in the kitchen more efficient by sneaking in a few moments earlier in the day to grab your tools and prep ingredients. 

My guys love this creamy risotto recipe with pops of fresh veg and ‘not bland’ chicken, so we enjoy it any time of the week. But, I wouldn’t at all hesitate to serve this when company is coming either. Who doesn’t love a comfort meal, especially when it presents like this? 

Grab some gorgeous spring veggies and get cooking!

Ingredients for risotto with chicken arranged on a table.

Gather Your Ingredients

I’ve provided substitutions next to the key ingredient to help you tailor this recipe to your needs or personal taste.

  • Arborio rice – this is an Italian, short-grain rice with a high starch content making it a classic choice for a creamy risotto. You’ll find it alongside other dry rice and grains in most supermarkets. You can use other types of rice and grains to make risotto, like a standard medium-grain white rice, farro or barley. However, the amount of cooking liquid and time on the stove will vary.
  • Aromatics – minced shallot and fresh garlic for the risotto and meatballs, respectively.
  • Cooking liquids – these will be absorbed by the rice as it cooks. The process starts with a dry white wine; I like using dry vermouth because it has an herbaceous quality that works really well with the spring vegetables. Something like a sauvignon blanc is also excellent (especially because you can enjoiy it with your finished risotto). Chicken broth (or chicken stock) make up the bulk of the liquid; it imparts seasoning and flavor along the way. I use regular broth, not low-sodium, and dilute it with a bit of water.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – the veggies get a quick sauté in oil for a crisp-tender texture.
  • Spring vegetables – fresh asparagus and English peas are synonymous with a spring harvest. I prefer young, thin asparagus spears. Fresh peas are’t always easy to find (there’s a short window for them at my local grocer), but frozen peas are absolutely acceptable. We are a divided house on asparagus…if you’re in the same boat, consider substituting with baby spinach or broccoli florets.
  • Unsalted butter – is melted into the risotto near the end and lends extra creaminess. 
  • Grated parmesan cheese – gives a creamy, nutty, salty bite to the risotto. It also lends it’s umami goodness to the meatballs. Pecorino Romano would be a nice alternative.
  • Ground chicken – I prefer a grind that is 92-93% lean. That extra bit of fat helps to create a more flavorful, tender meatball. If you prefer, look for a grind made from only chicken breasts that is usually labeled 98-99% lean. Ground turkey can be swapped in and still maintain a light, spring vibe.
  • Binders – an egg, mayonnaise and seasoned breadcrumbs all flavor and help the meatballs stay together.
  • Herbs + seasonings – dried Italian seasoning, kosher salt + fresh cracked black pepper, and fresh Italian parsley.
A table setting with two bowls of risotto and meatballs with glasses of wine.

Let’s Get Cooking

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you on your way.

Step 1. Make the chicken meatballs – Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large mixing bowl. With clean, wet hands (the best tools), divide the mixture into 12 equal portions and roll into meatballs. (You can eyeball it, or use a scale to make them all the same size.) Evenly space them on a sheet pan lined with parchment or aluminum foil. 

Step 2. Bake the meatballs – Bake for 16 to 18 minutes in a preheated 400°F oven in the upper third of the oven, then turn on the broiler and broil for 2 to 3 minutes to brown the tops.

Step 3. Prepare the cooking liquid – Combine the broth and water in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce to low to keep the broth warm. (You may not need all the broth, but reserve about one ladleful for the end to thin out the risotto if necessary.)

Step 4. Sauté the veggies – In another large saucepan or dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the asparagus and (fresh) peas; season with kosher salt and black pepper. Sauté for about 3 minutes depending on the thickness of your asparagus. (If using frozen peas, add them during the last minute just to defrost them.) Transfer the vegetables to a dish and set aside. 

Step 5. Sauté the shallot + toast the rice – In the same pot, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for about 2 minutes until translucent. Stir in the rice and cook for another 2 minutes until the edges of the rice become translucent. 

Step 6. Start adding liquid – Begin with the wine; stir almost constantly until the liquid has been absorbed. Now stir in about 1/2 cup of the warm broth at a time. Wait until all the liquid has been absorbed before adding more broth. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking or burning to the bottom of pot. Continue this process of adding broth, a little at time.

Step 7. Add the veggies – After 15 minutes of adding broth, return the vegetables to the pot so they begin to heat through. The rice should be al dente at around the 18 minute mark. 

Step 8. Finish with butter + cheese – Take the pot off the burner and stir in the butter until it is melted. Finally, stir in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Stir in a more broth if the risotto is too thick.

Plate the risotto immediately and top with chicken meatballs and a little fresh chopped parsley!

A photo collage illustrating four steps of cooking spring vegetable risotto.

Recipe Tips for Your Best Chicken Risotto Recipe

How do I get the timing right making the meatballs and risotto?

To make sure your meatballs are still hot when the risotto is finished, do not put them in the oven until you add the first ladle of broth to the risotto. Waiting until this step means the meatballs and risotto will finish cooking within a couple of minutes of each other. Don’t forget to set your oven timer, both for baking and broiling, so the chicken meatballs don’t overcook. 

Do I need to use wine?

Nope. You can use only broth. However, when you add the first ladleful of broth, also add a splash of something acidic…like a tablespoon or so of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to bring some balance to all the savory elements.

Why does the broth need to be hot?

Adding hot broth to the risotto maintains a consistent cooking temperature. If we were to add cold liquid, the risotto would cool down and need to come back up to temperature each time. 

Do I need to stir the risotto constantly?

No, you don’t actually need to stir constantly. However, frequent stirring is needed to make sure the risotto isn’t sticking and burning to the bottom of the pan.

What is ‘al dente’ when it comes to risotto? 

The rice kernels should be firm in the center but not crunchy. Taste as you go to get a sense of how the rice changes. When it has just reached the state of ‘al dente’ is when you should take it off the burner. It will continue to cook and become more tender from the residual heat. 

A final tip – Making risotto is all about look and feel. Don’t get too hung up on timing…if your risotto isn’t al dente at 18 minutes, add more broth and continue cooking and tasting.  You may also find it necessary to add closer to 1 cup of broth at a time the further along the risotto gets; feed it enough broth to absorb slowly. Likewise, if it begins to bubble a lot, adjust the burner down slightly to maintain an even simmer.

A table setting with bowls of risotto and meatballs next to a glass of wine.

Storing and Reheating

Storing leftover risotto + chicken meatballs – transfer leftovers into separate airtight containers and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days. You can also freeze cooked chicken meatballs: place on a sheet pan in the freezer for an hour or so, then transfer to an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for 1 to 2 months.

Reheating risotto – my preferred method is to reheat risotto on the stove top. Place risotto in a saucepan with a splash or two of broth, milk or cream, or water. Warm up over medium heat while stirring. Add a splash more liquid, as needed, to achieve a creamy consistency. To reheat in the microwave, combine risotto with a splash of liquid and cook in bursts, stirring in between; again, add more liquid as needed.

Reheating meatballs – If frozen, thaw meatballs in the refrigerator overnight. Place them on a sheet pan and cover with foil to prevent drying out. Reheat in a 300°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

A close up of asparagus and pea risotto topped with golden chicken meatballs.
A bowl of asparagus and pea risotto topped with three chicken meatballs.

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

Linda Feller
Creamy risotto studded with spring veggies and savory chicken meatballs is comforting, yet fresh and light. It's the perfect meal to enjoy during the changing seasons. 
Prep time.13 minutes
Cook time.32 minutes
Custom time.25 minutes
Total time.1 hour 10 minutes
Course.Main Course
Cuisine.Italian
Number of servings.4
Calories per serving.852 kcal

Ingredients

Chicken Meatballs (makes 12)

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoon mayonnaise
  • ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound ground chicken, I prefer 93% lean

Risotto

  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 10 ounce fresh asparagus, thin spears, cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1 cup English peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry vermouth, or white wine, like sauvignon blanc (omit + sub with more broth if you like)
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ½ cup grated parmesan

Instructions

  • Adjust a rack to the upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil (spritz foil with cooking spray).
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg and mayonnaise together. Mix in the breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper to evenly distribute. Add the ground chicken and with clean hands, mix together until combined.
  • Divide the meat mixture into 12 equal portions. (You can eyeball it, or use a scale.) With clean wet hands, roll each portion into a ball and evenly space them on the sheet pan. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil for 2 to 3 minutes to brown the tops. (To make sure your meatballs are still hot when the risotto is finished, do not put them in the oven until you add the first ladle of broth to the risotto.)
  • Combine the broth and water in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce to low to keep the broth warm. (You may not use all the broth, but reserve about one ladleful for the end to thin out the risotto if necessary.)
  • In another large saucepan or dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the asparagus and (fresh) peas; season with kosher salt and black pepper. Sauté for about 3 minutes depending on the size of your asparagus. (If using frozen peas, add them during the last minute just to defrost them.) Transfer the vegetables to a dish and set aside.
  • In the same pot, heat the remaining tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for about 2 minutes until translucent. Add the rice; cook and stir for another 2 minutes until the edges of the rice become translucent.
  • Add the wine; stir and cook until the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Stir in about 1/2 cup of the warm broth at a time. Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed before adding more broth. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking or burning to the bottom of pot. Continue this process of adding broth, a little at time. (As it increases in volume, you may need to add more broth with each addition or adjust the burner down if it is cooking too quickly.)
  • After 15 minutes of adding broth, return the vegetables to the pot so they begin to heat through.
  • The rice should be al dente (firm in the center but not crunchy), at around the 18 minute mark. Take it off the burner and stir in the butter until melted.
  • Finally, stir in the grated parmesan. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Stir in a more broth if the risotto is too thick.
  • Immediately divide the risotto between 4 serving bowls and top with meatballs.

Notes

  • General note – Making risotto is all about look and feel. Don’t get too hung up on timing…if your risotto isn’t al dente at 18 minutes, add more broth and continue cooking and tasting.  You may also find it necessary to add closer to 1 cup of broth at a time the further along the risotto gets; feed it enough broth to absorb slowly. Likewise, if it begins to bubble a lot, adjust the burner down slightly to maintain an even simmer.
  • Storing leftover risotto + chicken meatballs – transfer leftovers into separate airtight containers and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days. You can also freeze cooked chicken meatballs: place on a sheet pan in the freezer for an hour or so, then transfer to an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for 1 to 2 months.
  • Reheating risotto – my preferred method is to reheat risotto on the stove top. Place risotto in a saucepan with a splash or two of broth, milk or cream, or water. Warm up over medium heat while stirring. Add a splash more liquid, as needed, to achieve a creamy consistency. To reheat in the microwave, combine risotto with a splash of liquid and cook in bursts, stirring in between; again, add more liquid as needed.
  • Reheating meatballs – If frozen, thaw meatballs in the refrigerator overnight. Place them on a sheet pan and cover with foil to prevent drying out. Reheat in a 300°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 852kcal | Carbohydrates: 84g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 196mg | Sodium: 2183mg | Potassium: 1057mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1601IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 265mg | Iron: 8mg
Keywords.oven, spring, stove top
Did You Make This Recipe?Be sure to share a comment below!

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