Growing up, I hated meatballs. Mostly because I hated red sauce and I associated meatballs with red sauce and spaghetti. I mean, how else do you eat meatballs?! It wasn’t until I went to college that my opinion of meatballs changed. One of my best friends came back from Christmas break our Sophmore year of college with a giant bag of meatballs that her mom had made. I was pretty grossed out by it but wanted to be polite so I made myself a plate of spaghetti with about a teaspoon of red sauce and ONE meatball. And I loved it.
They aren’t exactly the healthiest food but I have learned through various trial and error that meatballs made with unconventional ground meat (pork, chicken, turkey) can actually be much tastier than the traditional ground beef, especially because you can pair it with different types of flavors. Aside from my favorite pork meatballs, this chicken version is made often in our house and I usually keep a bag in the freezer for fast meals. And here’s the great part-I learned that meatballs don’t have to be eaten with red sauce OR spaghetti
Ground chicken is one of those things that I feel like is fairly underused and under-appreciated. It has so much versatility and is much healthier than it’s beef or even turkey counterparts, so I suggest you give it a try!
To make these meatballs, start out by soaking about a cup of torn apart bread pieces in some milk to get them nice and soft. After about five minutes, squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and tear it up even further to get tiny little pieces. Alternatively, you can throw it in the food processor at that point too for just a pulse or two to get a more bread-crumb like consistency.
Meanwhile, saute some onion, garlic, pancetta, salt + pepper in a pan. The pancetta is the star of these meatballs, it adds such a great smoky, salty flavor!
Once the onion is soft, add this mixture to the ground chicken, softened bread and chopped parsley and mix it all together with your hands.
Then, using your handy cookie dough scoop (or your hands), form the meatballs!
Then, mix a little tomato paste with some olive oil and brush the top of each meatball with this mixture. This makes them more reminiscent of a traditional meatball and acts as the perfect compliment to the pancetta. Tomato paste is very inexpensive and will last forever in your fridge, so don’t be apprehensive about purchasing this ingredient!
Finally, bake them on the top rack of your oven for about 15 minutes or until they are cooked through. They smell amazing while cooking and they go perfectly with roasted veggies, a quinoa salad, or, PASTA!
- 1 cup of italian bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces
- 1/3 cup of milk
- 3 oz of sliced pancetta, chopped
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, diced
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1 pound of ground chicken
- salt + pepper
- 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Soak the bread in a bowl with the milk until soft, about 5 minutes
- Squeeze the bread to remove excess milk and then break it up into very small pieces. Discard milk.
- Heat a saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and add the onion, garlic, pancetta, 1/2 teaspoon of salt + dash of pepper. Saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes
- Lightly beat the egg and add it to a bowl with the ground chicken and onion/pancetta mixture. Add bread and parsley and using your hands, combine thoroughly
- Form meatballs using your hands or a cookie scoop and place on a baking sheet lined with foil and lightly sprayed
- Combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil with tomato paste and brush the top of each meatball with the mixture
- Bake in the top portion of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through