Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

Another great transitional recipe for those weird days between winter and spring, this creamy risotto-style dish is loaded with vegetables. It’s still warm and comforting, but the overall light feeling of the dish gives a nod towards warmer days ahead. I absolutely love it and I hope you do too!

Ingredients needed to make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

The ingredients are straightforward and veggie-heavy. A few notes on substitutions- I prefer using ground chicken in this recipe, but you could use turkey as well. If using frozen cauliflower rice, it may take longer to rid the pan of liquid before adding the goat cheese, as described below. I find fresh riced cauliflower in the refrigerated produce section in most grocery stores, and generally prefer it to frozen riced cauliflower! Here’s the list of everything you’ll need:

For the meatballs:

  • Olive oil
  • Ground chicken
  • Fresh garlic
  • Roasted red peppers, jarred
  • Fresh or dried oregano
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

For the risotto:

  • Grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Olive oil
  • Riced cauliflower
  • Shallot or yellow onion
  • Roasted red peppers, jarred
  • Tuscan kale
  • Chicken broth
  • Goat cheese
  • Whole milk or unsweetened dairy-free milk
  • Flour or tapioca starch, if gluten-free
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Tools used to make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

This is a wonderful meal to make on a weeknight because it’s made using just one large skillet! I prefer using a deeper skillet to make sure there’s enough room in the pan for everything, but you could also use a large Dutch oven if you prefer. Here’s a complete list of equipment for your convenience:

  • Large, deep skillet (at least 12 inches) or large Dutch oven
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Tongs
  • Stirring utensil, such as a wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • #40 (1 1/2 Tbsp) cookie scoop, optional

How to make Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Risotto with Chicken Meatballs

As always before beginning a recipe, make sure to read the entire recipe through. Part of stress-free cooking is taking time to do this simple step, as well as chopping and measuring everything that needs to be chopped and measured before you even turn on a burner. If you do those two tasks, I guarantee you’ll feel better tackling whatever recipe you land on, not just including ones I’ve written.

You’ll start by mixing the meatballs and forming them into balls. I like to use a cookie scoop to ensure all of my meatballs are the same size, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have one. You can eyeball them, keeping in mind the recommended size for these meatballs is about 1 1/2 tablespoons per ball.

Once formed, cook the meatballs over medium heat. You’ll need to work in at least two, if not three, batches to ensure your meatballs get a nice browning and don’t just steam from a crowded pan. When a recipe says work in batches, it’s for a reason more than just slowing you down!

After all of the meatballs have cooked, set them aside. In the same skillet you cooked the meatballs, lower the heat slightly and add the butter and olive oil. Stir in the riced cauliflower and scrape up any meatball bits from the bottom of the pan, which are going to add a ton of flavor to this risotto!

After the cauliflower has cooked for 1-2 minutes, add the garlic, onion, roasted red peppers, and chicken broth, then cover and cook for 5-7 minutes until the cauliflower has become tender.

At this point, you’ll remove the lid and check for liquid in the skillet. You can also add the kale at this point. We want to let as much of the liquid evaporate as possible before adding the cheese and milk, which is what gives this dish that “risotto” feeling. To do this, simply continue cooking the cauliflower, uncovered, over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated. Note: If using frozen riced cauliflower, there may be more liquid. Plan to increase the time needed to reduce the liquid.

Next, we’ll make a “slurry” of flour and milk. This is just a fancy way of saying we whisk flour into milk before adding to a hot pan. It helps the dish thicken and leaves us with a creamy “risotto” as the final product. If you’re dairy free, you can swap any unsweetened dairy milk you like. To make the dish gluten-free, as I often do, swap flour for tapioca starch or a gluten-free flour blend. Both options work! Once the slurry is made, add it to the cauliflower along with the goat cheese. Stir everything up until the goat cheese has melted and incorporated, and the whole dish is creamy.

Finally, you’ll stir in the lemon juice and crushed red pepper, then season again with salt and pepper to taste. Add the meatballs back into the skillet and serve hot!

Looking for other one-pan/one-pot recipes from The Ardent Cook?

Chicken and Dumplings

Wild Mushroom Farro with Parmesan and Microgreens

Potato, Leek, and Corn Chowder

Chicken with Nectarines and Crispy Prosciutto

Recipe Ingredients

For the meatballs 

2 tbsp olive oil

1lb ground chicken

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium roasted red pepper, finely diced, from a jar of roasted red bell peppers 

½ tsp dried oregano

A few shakes crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

For the “risotto”

Two tbsp grass-fed butter or ghee

1 tbsp olive oil 

Two 12-14oz bags fresh or frozen riced cauliflower 

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium shallot or small yellow onion, diced 

One 10-12oz jar roasted red peppers (minus the one used in the meatballs), drained and chopped

1 small bunch tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves very thinly sliced

½ cup chicken broth 

6oz goat cheese 

¾ cup whole milk or dairy free milk of choice

2 tsp flour, GF flour blend, or tapioca starch

Juice of ½ lemon

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients for the meatballs and mix well using your hands or a fork. Form into 1 1/2 tbsp-sized balls. Recipe makes about 15 meatballs, for reference.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook meatballs, flipping often to brown them on all sides, until cooked through, approximately 5-6 minutes. When all meatballs are cooked, set aside.
  3. Make the risotto. Lower the heat slightly and add the butter and olive oil. Add the riced cauliflower and scrape up any bits of meatballs from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper and let cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, chopped roasted red peppers, and chicken broth. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.
  5. Remove the lid and check for liquid in the pan. Continue cooking, uncovered, over medium heat until all of the liquid from the cauliflower has evaporated.
  6. While the liquid evaporates, vigorously whisk the flour into the milk to form a slurry. Once all the liquid has evaporated, stir in the goat cheese and the milk slurry and continue stirring until thickened.
  7. Stir in the lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes. Season once more with salt and pepper to taste, add the meatballs back into the skillet to warm, then enjoy!

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