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.
Notes/Results: 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