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Sophie Wyburd’s Chicken and Ricotta Meatballs with Green Spaghetti

by Sophie Wyburd from Tucking In

Sophie Wyburd's chicken and ricotta meatballs are light as a cloud and served in a herby green sauce with spaghetti. Serve with a crisp salad on the side.

From the book

Sophie Wyburd


Red sauce has dominated the meatball market for too long, and I say enough’s enough. Okay, I also love the classic tomato sauce and polpette combo, but there is something lighter and fresher about this version that I sometimes prefer. The leanness of chicken mince enriched with milky ricotta and Parmesan creates an impossibly tender little thing to stab with your fork and twirl around in a silky green spaghetti skirt. Maybe you’ll twirl around the kitchen a little, you’ll like it that much. The meatballs can be prepared a day in advance, so you can whip this up in no time.

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400g skinless chicken thigh fillets
zest and juice of ½ lemon
250g ricotta
½ small bunch of parsley
70g fresh white breadcrumbs
80g Parmesan, plus 20g for sprinkling
100g watercress
Small bunch of basil
50g sunflower seeds
1 garlic clove
400g spaghetti
salt, pepper and olive oil


Cook time: 35 minutes plus resting.

Chop your chicken thigh fillets into pieces, then add these to a food processor. Add the lemon zest and 120g of the ricotta, as well as 1 teaspoon of salt and 15 twists of black pepper. Pulse until you have a smooth paste. Grate in 30g of your Parmesan, then finely chop your parsley and add this too, as well as your breadcrumbs. Give it a stir so it’s all combined.

Roll your mixture into 12 even-sized balls. Pop these on a tray, and place them in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.

Meanwhile, give your food processor a clean, then move on to making your pesto. In the food processor, combine the watercress, basil, sunflower seeds, peeled garlic clove and remaining 50g of Parmesan. Whizz it up to form a smooth green paste, then drizzle in 50ml of olive oil so that you have a smooth sauce. Add the lemon juice and the remaining ricotta, pulse the machine briefly, then season to taste with salt.

Bring a large saucepan filled with water to the boil, and season it with salt as though it were a soup you were about to eat.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Add your meatballs to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, turning them frequently so that they cook evenly and take on some colour on the outside.

Meanwhile, add your spaghetti to the pan of boiling water. Cook your pasta for a couple of minutes less than the packet instructions require, or until it is just al dente.

Once it’s cooked, tong your spaghetti directly into the meatball pan, along with a ladleful of the pasta cooking water. Add your pesto to the pan, and give it a good toss so that each strand of spaghetti is coated in the green sauce. Add as much pasta water as you need to get the sauce glossy. Adjust the seasoning if needed.

Divide the spaghetti and meatballs between plates, and serve it up with a little extra Parmesan.



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