We had our first sign of snow before Thanksgiving, but the last couple of days have been filled with a cold, chill-you-to-the-bones rain. It’s pretty miserable. Days like this call for hearty, comforting meals. I typically turn to pot pie, my winter favorite, which is why there are so many recipes for it on the site. It’s not always in the cards for a weeknight dinner, though, so I wanted to find something that could be my go-to recipe for especially cold and nasty nights. Enter these chicken meatballs.
We enjoyed these meatballs two nights in a row – once on their own with some lovely homemade bread and once tossed with pasta. The fact that I was willing to eat essentially the same dinner two nights in a row should tell you something because that (almost) never happens. The super flavorful meatballs are browned and then baked in a lusciously creamy tomato sauce. If that’s not enough, everything is covered in mozzarella and Parmesan. Not one just to stop at melted cheese, I popped this bad boy under the broiler to really blister parts of the cheese. I can’t resist anything with cheese like that (see here), especially when there’s a creamy tomato sauce waiting underneath it.
- YIELD: 6-8 servings
For the sauce:
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, liquid reserved
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
⅓ cup heavy cream or half-and-half
For the meatballs:
½ cup panko
⅓ cup grated onion
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1½ pounds ground chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
To make the sauce, add the tomatoes to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, adding a bit of the reserved liquid if necessary to smooth the mixture out. Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the onion just until it begins to soften, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato mixture and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. Set aside.
To make the meatballs, combine the panko, grated onion, parsley, basil, Parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic and egg in a large bowl. Stir together with a fork just until blended. Mix in the ground chicken and knead together gently until evenly combined. Form the mixture into meatballs about 1½-inches in diameter.
Heat the oven to 400º. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs to the pan in a single layer (you may need to do this in two batches). Cook, turning occasionally, until all sides are browned.
Once all of the meatballs are browned, transfer them to the pan with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella and additional Parmesan over the top. Bake until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes. If you would like to brown the cheese a bit more, place the meatballs under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the oven and garnish with the fresh basil. Serve warm.