Meet your new favorite fall comfort meal: Lemon Thyme Meatballs with Pumpkin Orzo. Juicy oven-baked chicken or turkey meatballs served over a creamy, rosemary-infused pumpkin orzo that comes together in one pot. It’s warm and cozy, optionally dairy free and easy enough to make on a weeknight!
There’s kind of a good story behind this meatball and orzo recipe… I actually came up with it last year while I was living in a college dorm room. I didn’t have a kitchen, just a microwave and an airfryer. I was craving something cozy for fall so I managed to use my two appliances to make something almost identical to the photos in this blog post.
After I had made my dorm-room version, I sent the recipe to my mom who tested it in using an actual stove and oven. I posted the recipe to instagram and everyone LOVED it! It was one of my most popular recipes of the year and know one had any idea I had cooked/photographed it in my 200 square foot dorm room.
So, now that I’m moved into an apartment with a real kitchen (yay!), I decided to give this recipe the love it deserves and write a real blog post.
How to make the best oven-baked meatballs
To make the Lemon Thyme Meatballs, you’ll start by sautéing shallots and garlic in a bit of olive oil. You’ll take half for the meatballs and leave the rest in the pan. This will later serve as the base for the pumpkin orzo.
Mix together the sautéed shallots/garlic with your choice of ground turkey or chicken thigh, thyme, lemon zest, breadcrumbs and salt. Use oiled hands to roll the mixture into balls and place on a sheet pan. Bake the meatballs until they are golden brown and no longer pink in the center.
Creamy pumpkin orzo
While the meatballs bake, make the pumpkin orzo. This creamy pumpkin orzo recipe is honestly the best part of the meal. It uses that same shallot/garlic mixture as a base with fresh rosemary, pumpkin purée and chicken stock for added flavor and nutrients. I like to use full-fat coconut milk to make it creamy and dairy-free, but heavy cream is also a great option!
You’ll toast the orzo for a few minutes with the aromatics before pouring in the liquid and bringing everything to a boil. Cook the orzo over a medium flame, stirring every so often, until al dente and almost all the liquid is absorbed.
The pumpkin orzo will continue to thicken and absorb liquid as it cools, so make sure not to overcook it! You want a consistency similar to the one pictured below.
Serve up your Lemon Thyme Meatballs and Pumpkin Orzo with a pinch of flaky sea salt and a lots of freshly ground black pepper.
For a heartier meal, add a roasted vegetable such as carrots, cauliflower or brussel sprouts. A simple side salad with a arugula and fennel is my favorite way to enjoy this recipe.
More fall recipes to try
- Pumpkin baked oatmeal
- One pot French onion pasta
- Creamy coconut pumpkin dal
- Butternut squash baked rice
- Apple cider baked beans
Made this recipe? I would love to hear what you think in the review section down below! Also, make sure to tag @wandering_chickpea on Instagram with your creations and save this recipe on Pinterest for later!