Have you ever cooked with ground chicken before? I had a sort of disgusting experience with ground turkey several years ago and have been sort of skeeved out by anything other than ground beef since then, and it's not even like I turn to that form of protein on any regular basis either. But in the hunt for how to find different ways to use chicken, I came across this recipe and it looked so enticing that I decided to jump in and give it a try...and I'm so glad I did. This was a 100% success in my house and I can't wait to make it again!!
Though it's March now and I really want to start making lighter spring dinners again, the reality is that it's still frigid and what we're all still craving are those hearty winter meals. Besides the wonderful flavors and textures, what I loved about this dish, is that you feel like you're eating a hearty meal, but without all the heaviness because it's chicken and the meatballs are light and somewhat fluffy. Plus, the whole thing is covered by a wonderful light homemade tomato cream sauce, that makes this even more special and unique.
You start by pureeing whole tomatoes and making a simple tomato sauce into which you add a bit of cream at the end. The whole thing takes 10-12 minutes tops.
Then you make the meatballs ( I used white meat ground chicken) and brown them in a little olive oil in a frying pan.
Afterwards, you place them into the pan with the tomato sauce, sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan, place the pan into the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, which leaves you plenty of time to make some pasta and a salad. Not bad for a weeknight, huh?
Skillet Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Cream Sauce
Makes 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes total
For the Tomato sauce
1- 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, reserve the liquid
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shake red pepper flakes (omit if you don't want it spicy or add more if you like more spice)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
For the Meatballs
1/2 cup panko (I used Italian seasoned)
1/3 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 lbs ground chicken (I used white meat)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
For the Topping
4 oz. shredded mozzarella
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1. To make the sauce: Puree the tomatoes in a food processor or blender until smooth. If you need to, add some of the reserved tomato liquid to help smooth it out. In a large deep oven-proof skillet, melt the butter and saute the onion for about 1 minute over medium-high heat. When onion has softened a bit, add the tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes and stir, allowing it to cook for about 30 seconds or so. Now stir in the pureed tomatoes, lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5-8 minutes, until the mixture has thickened a bit. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the cream and set aside.
2. To make the meatballs: In a large bowl, using a fork, mix together the panko, grated onion, parsley, basil, Parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic and egg. Now add the ground chicken and using your hands, mix everything together gently but thoroughly. Form the mixture into small 1 1/2 inch meatballs and place onto a plate. Using a large pan, heat the olive oil and brown the meatballs in a single layer, turning so that they are evenly browned on all sides (you may have to do this in 2 batches depending on how large your pan is.)
3. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place the browned meatballs into the pan with the tomato sauce. Top with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes,m until the cheese is melted and the meatballs are cooked through. Serve immediately with a side of pasta or on some Italian bread.
Note: Recipe adapted from http://www.annies-eats.com/2014/01/24/baked-chicken-parmesan-meatballs-in-tomato-cream-sauce/