Zucchini Parmesan Chicken Meatballs with Lemon Pasta Carbonara…classic creamy Italian carbonara sauce, updated with crisp zucchini parmesan meatballs and tossed with caramelized lemon and fresh basil. Finish the pasta off with fried caper breadcrumbs for a delicious crunch. Perfect easy summer dinner, any night of the week. Everyone in the house will enjoy this dish!
If I had to choose the recipe for you to all be making this week, tonight even, it would be these meatballs. The crazy thing…and I’ve said this before, but for someone who has really avoided making meatballs in the past, I sure have taken a liking to them.
So far I’ve shared butter chicken meatballs, coconut curry chicken meatballs, sticky sesame ginger meatballs, and the very delicious and popular, Greek meatballs. Yep, a lot of meatballs, but you know something? They’re delicious, easy, and always well-loved.
Which brings me to today’s meatballs.
Side note, let’s start keeping track of how many times I say the word meatball throughout this post.
This is my end of summer meatball pasta. In keeping with the unplanned theme of the week, this is the perfect late summer meets early fall dinner. AND it’s a fun, delicious way to sneak zucchini into everyone’s meal.
Start with the meatballs.
They’re a simple mix of ground chicken, shredded zucchini, and parmesan. Think of the flavors you love in a really good chicken parmesan, but in the form of a cute little meatball, and with the addition of zucchini. The zucchini helps to keep the meatballs moist while baking.
Once the meatballs are formed, arrange them on a baking sheet with lemon slices. Bake until they just begin to crisp. Now add breadcrumbs and capers to the pan. Return everything to the oven and cook until the meatballs are cooked throughout and the breadcrumbs golden.
Keep the crumbs and capers together, these are the crunchy fried caper breadcrumbs I mentioned above.
Next chop the lemon slices and toss with lots and lots of fresh basil. Now toss them with the pasta carbonara.
There are a few moving steps to this, so to recap you have your meatballs, your breadcrumb topping, and the lemony basil mix to toss with the pasta. It’s all made on one sheet pan to simplify the process and keep the dishes down too.
Tip? Make your own fresh breadcrumbs with a loaf of day-old bread. Simply pulse the torn pieces of bread in a food processor, or simply tear the bread into smaller pieces. It’s so easy to do and really adds a lot of flavor to any recipe calling for bread crumbs.
Meanwhile, work on the pasta carbonara.
While the meatballs are cooking, start the pasta.
You’ll need eggs, parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, and either spaghetti or bucatini pasta. The key to a good carbonara is to serve it right after tossing. So having everything prepped and ready to go before cooking is key.
Whisk the eggs with parmesan, garlic, and fresh basil. Boil the pasta and as soon as the pasta has finished cooking, immediately toss it with the eggs. This step is really important…but don’t worry it’s also really easy. Just be sure to toss, toss, toss for a good minute until the sauce thickens. The heat from the pasta cooks the eggs and produces the silkiest, smoothest, and creamiest pasta sauce. It’s melt in your mouth good.
At this point, toss in the lemon basil mix to add a touch more flavor.
By the time the meatballs are finished cooking, the pasta should ideally be ready too. So serve everything up immediately.
Twirl the pasta onto your plates, add those parmesan meatballs, and top with the crispy, crunchy golden fried caper breadcrumbs.
And that’s it. Not too tricky, right?
But so very delicious! And the biggest bonus? Your kids will love this too. Perfect back to school dinner…or you know…back to homeschooling dinner.
Looking for other weeknight pasta? Here are a few ideas:
Lastly, if you make these zucchini parmesan chicken meatballs with lemon pasta carbonara, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Zucchini Parmesan Chicken Meatballs with Lemon Pasta Carbonara
Calories Per Serving: 649 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 zucchini, grated
- 1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 lemon, sliced and seeds removed
- 2 tablespoon drained capers
- 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup fresh basil
- 1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with oil. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.2. Add the chicken, grated zucchini, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, the parmesan, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a bowl. Mix to combine. Coat your hands with olive oil and roll the meat into tablespoon-size balls (this will make 20-22 meatballs). Place on the prepared baking sheet. Arrange the lemon slices around the meatballs. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. 3. Remove from oven, slide the meatballs to one side of the pan, add the remaining 1 cup breadcrumbs, and the capers. Toss the crumbs and capers with 2 tablespoon olive oil and the red pepper flakes. Return to the oven and cook another 5 minutes, watching closely, until the meatballs are cooked through and the crumbs golden. 4. Remove the breadcrumbs from the pan. Season with salt. Remove the lemon from the pan. Finely chop the lemon slices and mix with 1/2 cup fresh basil, reserving the mix for tossing with the pasta. 5. Meanwhile, make the carbonara. Whisk together the eggs, parmesan, garlic, and basil, in a large serving bowl.6. Boil the pasta until al dente. Before draining, scoop out 1 cup pasta water, then drain. Immediately add the hot pasta to the egg/cheese mixture, tossing quickly (to ensure the eggs do not scramble) until the eggs thicken and create a sauce. Thin the sauce with the reserved pasta water, until it reaches your desired consistency. Add the butter and about a 1/4 of the reserved lemon basil mix, gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.7. Divide the pasta between plates. Top with meatballs, breadcrumbs, and additional lemon/basil, to taste. Twirl the pasta up...EAT and ENJOY.
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To Make Fresh Breadcrumbs: Pulse torn bread in a food processor until roughly the size of peppercorns. I like to use ciabatta or crusty sourdough bread. If using fresh crumbs, toast them 3-4 minutes in the skillet first.