Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs

I have been wanting to make this particular recipe for a long time. Although it has received some mixed reviews, I just couldn't resist it. There is just something about those cute little mini chicken meatballs and those fluffy little balls of bocconcini mozzarella. Not to mention,this recipe uses one of my favorite pasta shapes: orecchiette. I love how the shape of the orecchiette allows the pasta to "cup" all the other ingredients. It just makes me happy!

I did make some changes to this recipe. I read online that the chicken meatballs were rather loose and hard to form. Many people suggested reducing the recipe down to one egg instead of two. One egg for one pound of ground chicken made perfect sense to me, so I went with that. The recipe also calls for only 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs to bind the mixture. I think I easily used at least one cup of breadcrumbs to bind the mixture. It was pretty loose. When the meatballs were completely mixed and ready to be formed I realized that something very important was missing: GARLIC!

I double-checked the recipe and nope, no garlic. How can this be so, Giada? I remedied this situation by using 3 big cloves of garlic, mincing them into the meatball mixture. Also, Giada sautes her meatballs. I pretty much despise sauteing or frying meatballs, so I baked mine for about 20 minutes at 350F. Sauteing/frying meatballs does give more color, but I'll stick with baking mine, even if they are on the pale side.

The mini chicken meatballs are added to a sauce made from chicken broth and fresh tomatoes (or in my case, canned diced tomatoes) and cheese....lots of cheese - yum! The sauce was a tad on the bland side so I added more GARLIC! Do you see the theme here? I used my mini grater and grated about 4 regular sized cloves of garlic right over the sauce while it was cooking on the stove.

Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs, adapted from Food Network
* 1 pound orecchiette pasta
* 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs (NOTE: you may need almost 1 full cup to bind)
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
* 2 large eggs, lightly beaten (NOTE: one egg is more than enough)
* 1 tablespoon whole milk
* 1 tablespoon ketchup
* 3/4 cup grated Romano
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 pound ground chicken
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock, hot
* 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
* 8 ounces bocconcini mozzarella, halved
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
NOTE: I added 3 large garlic cloves (minced) into the meatballs. I also added about 3-4 regular sized garlic cloves (grated) into the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the chicken and gently stir to combine.

Using a melon baller (or a teaspoon measure), form the chicken mixture into 3/4-inch pieces. With damp hands, roll the chicken pieces into mini meatballs.

In a large (14-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the meatballs over and brown the other side, about 2 minutes longer. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tomatoes are soft and meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and add the Parmesan. Toss to lightly coat orecchiette, adding reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Add the meatball mixture, mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup of the basil. Gently toss to combine. Garnish with the chopped basil.

We loved this recipe with the adaptations. I think that Giada had children in mind when writing this recipe and therefore wrote it on the bland side, without a lot of aromatics. It is a very kid-friendly dish, but the meatballs could easily be spiced up however you like. I think it's one of those recipes that you have to just build on and take in your own direction. I'll definitely be making it again and I'm really looking forward to that little container of leftovers that I hid in the fridge.

Now cooking the recipes of Giada De Laurentiis


  1. I would have added garlic too...Sounds great!

  2. I agree with bo. Garlic is great on everything. Your pasta meatball looks super comfy and very..what do you call it..bountiful :)perfect for fall days. Especially those that are cold

  3. Those meat balls look positively adorable. I can see why this dish would be such a favourite for kids.
    *kisses* HH

  4. Must. Have. Garlic! All of your additions/changes sound great--I like recipes you can change up and do your own way. And I am a meatball baker too--so much easier. Great potluck pick! ;-)

  5. It sure is s pretty dish and I'm with you on the garlic. I tend to add at least double what most recipes call for.

  6. This recipe is pretty irresistible! I have this one on my short list, especially now that you've tried it. And, um...YEAH! Must have the garlic. My kids would notice if there wasn't garlic...I've taught them well ;) Love the little bocconcini balls, too...looks great, Kim!

  7. I forgot to mention last week that I reduced the egg to 1 for a pound of meat; that's what I normally do. And I think you hit it dead on. My problem with the recipe was the lack of garlic. When we ate the leftovers, I added garlic and onion powder to the pot and we liked it much more. I'm glad this turned out well for you!

  8. Kim I love the core of this recipe and agree with you on building onto the recipe! Just by reading through it, it appears Giada created something more fit for toddlers but with a few adaptions (like yours) this would be an awesome weeknight meal :o) I love orecchiette pasta too, they are just so hard to find in my neck of the woods. Also your first picture is incredibly delicious loooking :o)

  9. LOL, I always have to HIDE my leftovers! I think your version is definitely worth a try

  10. I love the changes you made in this recipe - I can't believe it didn't have garlic to start out with!

  11. I always double or triple garlic in a recipe. You can never have too much garlic! This looks beyond delicious Kim. I love the little meatballs. I wish I had your container of leftovers.... :o)

  12. Yum! I agree that garlic should have been in the recipe. I put garlic in everything.

  13. I'm so glad you found a way to make it better. I was so disappointed when MM posted that her version did not live up to her expectations. The pictures looked like it could be so yummy.

    Garlic is so good and I use it in everything. I use it so much I think my fingers permanently smell of garlic. Not that I can tell anymore I'm so used to it.

  14. I made that recipe last year, and I agree that it needed "something". Of course garlic is the logical solution!

  15. No garlic? That's crazy talk, that's what that is....

  16. What is Giada DOING going light on the garlic? Seems like a ridiculous proposition to me. This meal sounds really delicious though. I love mini meatballs.

  17. Sounds like a great combination of flavors, especially with the added garlic.

  18. You know what is great about this recipe? Is that it has a good base and then you can take it from there adding garlic or other herbs. You can recreate this dish with just a few additional ingredients.

    I really like the idea of the mini-chicken meatballs.

  19. wow this is an awesome recipe love it love the idea of chicken meatballs first class

  20. I, too, adore orecchiette. I generally make them with broccoli rabe and sausage. The chicken meatballs sounds like a yummy change of pace. I'm with you on the garlic thing AND I would add onion. I once tried Ina's spaghetti and meatballs and was appalled that she used neither in her meatballs. I also eschew frying meatballs; I either bake them in the oven or cook them right in the sauce. I'll bet this recipe would be good with Ina's sausage meatballs (used for her version of wedding soup). Yikes, looks like I have another dish to try.

  21. Oh, good eye! How can Giada forget the garlic? That is so un-Italian,ha ha. This looks like the perfect weeknight meal to comfort anyone after a long day. Great photos too!

  22. Orecchiette is one of my favourite pastas too, and I love the idea of the little meatballs, little bocconcini, and little cherry tomatoes all snuggling into those "little ears" of pasta - that just got me thinking maybe some green olives would be good in this too. I think I would like some extra garlic to give this a bit of ooomph, but my partner would probably adore this completely unadulterated (guess he's just a big kid really :-)) I agree with you too on baking the meatballs - even more so if they're little miniature ones I think - who could be bothered standing over those!

  23. I love Giada recipes and this one sounds really good with your adds-Thanks!

  24. That looks SO yummy! Glad you added the garlic.

  25. I think you nailed it when you said this is one to build on. Most of my favorite recipes started off as something else that evolved through several cooks.

    You did great on this one, Kim.

  26. Yes - always add garlic! Great looking dish. I bake my meatballs too - I find it easier. Actually, I like my meatballs overcooked. I like the crust. ;-)
    Definitely a dish I'll try soon. Thanks for the tips!

  27. This looks amazing. I have kind of an aversion to making meatballs--I just hate handling raw meat because the texture grosses me out. But, if you put a plate of this in front of me already made, I KNOW I'd be happy to eat it. Especially with the extra garlic. :)

  28. You are so funny...I thought I was the only one who was in love with orecchiette! My local store doesnt carry it so I have to go to a specialty shop that does and it cost about $5 for a box...I am so bad but I have to splurge for my orecchiette!

  29. love THE garlic in you're version! I would deffinatly ad garlic if i where making this pasta.

  30. Good call on the garlic. This recipe looks great.


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