Raise your hand if you miss natural light? ::raises hand:: My photos are nothing special in the spring and summer, but once I lose the natural light all bets are off. And it makes me so sad because I know people choose recipes in part because of the drool-inducing photos. So, my apologies, but you'll have to trust me that this was incredible.
On our flight home from California SP and I both watched cooking shows on the plane. During an episode of Giada's show she made Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs. It looked so delicious I knew I had to make it as soon as we got home.
I made a few modifications, subbing campagnelle for the orecchiette since I had a box in the pantry. Really, any small shape will do. I also used diced tomatoes because I'm weird and don't like loose tomato skin. Because I used canned tomatoes, I measured out the liquid in the can and then topped it off with chicken broth.
This was truly outstanding, with light, tender meatballs and a delicious sauce made even better by the addition of fresh, melty, gooey mozzarella cheese. The recipe made enough food to feed an army, which was good because we were all fighting over the leftovers.
Pasta with Chicken Meatballs
Slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
1 pound small cut pasta, such as orecchiette, campagnelle, penne, etc.
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon ketchup
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
chicken stock (amount will vary, see directions)
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, juice reserved
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or more Pecorino
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the chicken and gently stir to combine. With wet hands (this is key, otherwise the chicken will just stick to you rather than form into meatballs), roll the chicken into mini meatballs. Make them as big or as small as you want. You'll need to wet your hands often so keep a bowl of water nearby.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. 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 juice from the tomatoes to a large measuring cup. Add enough chicken stock to make 1 1/2 cups total. Add the chicken stock, tomato juice and tomatoes to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Add the pasta to the skillet. Add the Parmesan and toss, adding reserved pasta water, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Add the mozzarella cheese and chopped basil. Gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.