We had some friends from Kansas who are in Utah for the holidays come over for dinner a few days ago. For some reason that day I was craving spaghetti so I planned to just make that for dinner. Kevin reminded me that Dan doesn’t like spaghetti, as in there's only one food he really dislikes and it’s spaghetti. Not the sauce, but the actual spaghetti pasta, it gives him the heebie-jeebies. Weird. He said he likes all other pasta. I then remembered some meatballs I’d had in one of Paige's classes back in Kansas and I decided those are what I’d make and serve with penne pasta.
Try as I might, I can’t seem to do justice to savory food in photos. Kevin got me a light box for Christmas, maybe once I figure that out I’ll get better. But I did snap a few pictures of these fabulous meatballs. One of the keys to making these is to make them small—the more the merrier, then everyone can have a plateful of meatballs instead of just one or two big ones. This recipe makes 60 meatballs with one pound of ground poultry. Another great reason to make these meatballs is that they freeze well. Check out Paige's post about them from a few months ago. These are perfect for pulling out of the freezer when you need a quick meal.
The meatballs were very well liked by our company (they begged for the recipe ;). Paige has posted the recipe on her blog, which is adapted from an article in Food & Wine magazine back in the 90’s.
Chicken & Arugula Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, by Paige Vandegrift, adapted from Food & Wine Magazine (My changes are in red—Katrina)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sautéing the meatballs (I ran out of olive oil and used canola)
3 thin slices pancetta or bacon, (about 2 ounces), chopped (I used bacon)
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 oz. arugula (or spinach), stemmed and finely chopped (I used spinach)
1 pound ground chicken (dark meat is best) (I used ground white turkey meat and it was a 19 oz. package)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs (I used Panko bread crumbs)
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese (about 1 ½ ounces)
2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large shallots, minced
¼ cup brandy, white wine or water is also fine (I used some chicken stock)
One 35-ounce can Italian (Roma) peeled whole tomatoes with juice, coarsely chopped in a food processor (this is a difficult sized can to find, a 28-oz. can is fine, but you can add half of a 14-oz. can if you like a lot of sauce) (I used both a full 28 oz can and a 14 oz can)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme (I used about 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large non-reactive skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the pancetta/bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the arugula and cook, stirring, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, bread crumbs, cheese, capers, egg, ¾ teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Add the arugula mixture and beat until well blended. Roll the mixture by teaspoonfuls into ¾ -inch balls.
In a large skillet, heat some more olive oil. Add half of the meatballs in a single layer and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned all over, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a large plate. Repeat with the second batch of meatballs, adding more oil if necessary. Discard the fat and wipe out the skillet.
In the same skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the brandy/stock/water, whichever you’re using, raise the heat to high and cook until evaporated. Add the tomatoes and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes.
Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer over low heat until hot through and very tender—15 to 20 minutes. Serves 4 to 6. Serve with one pound of any pasta if desired.
I sauteed them in three batches.
These are some great meatballs and a simple tomato sauce. To go with the pasta and meatballs, I decided to make a Fresh Crispy Pear Salad that Suzanne at Thru The Bugs on My Windshield posted recently. I just served the salad with some mixed greens and it was great as well.
You can get the recipe on the link above to Suzanne’s blog. Check out her amazing pictures! Served with some good crusty whole grain bread, this meal was perfect and I could eat it everyday and was happy to share it with company!