When I got to thinking about all of the things that go into Chicken Caesar Salad, I quickly realized that other than the chicken and lettuce, there’s not much else I can eat off of the salad. Croutons? Off limits. Cheese? Nope. Creamy dairy-based dressing? Strike three.
So I decided to throw the salad idea out the window and focus on taking all of the bold, salty flavors of traditional Caesar salad and packing them into a chicken meatball. These Chicken Caesar Meatballs, when served with some crunchy seasonal greens and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice, taste delicious in their own right but really do remind me of Caesar salad.
When I tell you about the key ingredient, please don’t cringe.
I don’t know how anchovies got such an awful reputation, but they are an absolute staple in Italian cooking. Up until I made this recipe, I hadn’t used them but maybe once or twice. Since adding them to these chicken meatballs, I’m officially an anchovy lover! Straight from the jar they taste salty and briny, but when you lightly cook them in some olive oil with onions (as you’ll do for these meatballs), they take on a lovely nutty flavor almost like roasted nuts. And your house will smell like an Italian restaurant, too!
To cut the strong flavor of the anchovies, I added plenty of herbs to these meatballs as well as some lemon zest. I served them with some greens and steamed green beans for a fabulous lunch that I’m already wanting to make again.
Heads up: you don’t need to add any salt to the meatballs, just some black pepper. The anchovies are salty enough for the whole batch. If the whole anchovy thing just weirds you out, you have my permission to omit them from the recipe. They won’t taste as authentically Caesar, but they’ll still be a flavorful meatball.
These meatballs would be delicious served over spaghetti squash with homemade pasta sauce, or dropped into a hearty soup of greens and onions in cooler weather. I also eat them cold with grainy mustard straight from the fridge as a snack.
Any way you serve them, these Caesar meatballs will be a hit with Italian food lovers. Try them out and let me know what you think!
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
- 1 tablespoon (packed) jarred anchovy filets
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon salt-free Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Add the anchovy filets and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies break down and "disintegrate" into the scallions and garlic, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, parsley, lemon zest, Italian seasoning, pepper, and scallion mixture until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Divide the meat into quarters and divide each quarter in half, yielding 8 portions. Form 2 meatballs out of each portion, for a total of 16 meatballs. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through, until cooked through and lightly browned.