Mini Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Cream Sauce
Is it true that everything tastes better when it’s mini? Yes? Maybe? The mini chicken meatballs really are the star of this pasta dish. I know it might be shocking, but this recipe was my first time cooking with ground chicken and I think I loved it. While not exactly a one pot meal, since you cook the pasta in a separate pot, this recipe definitely falls into the one pot meal category for me. Not only does it dirty minimal dishes, it also goes from start to finish in less than an hour, both of which are requirements for my busy lifestyle.
Let’s talk about the meatballs for a minute, since ground chicken is so lean it can easily be dry. But don’t worry about these meatballs being dry, we are going to combat the dryness by soaking the breadcrumbs in milk to infuse them with moisture. These meatballs also get a nice flavor punch from the parmesan cheese.
Now the tomato cream sauce is made by combining marinara sauce and heavy cream, a winning combination in my book. For the marinara sauce, you’ll want to use a brand you love the flavor of as this brings the base flavor for the dish. If you’re like me and don’t keep jarred pasta sauce on hand, don’t worry, you can easily sub in your homemade marinara sauce in this recipe.
The mozzarella melts almost instantly in this recipe and adds a delightful cheesiness to the pasta.
Do you cook with ground chicken? What’s your favorite recipe that uses ground chicken?
The mini chicken meatballs really are the star of this pasta dish.
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 pound ground chicken
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups uncooked orecchiette or small shell pasta
- 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese cubed or pearls
- fresh chopped herbs basil or parsley
In a large mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the milk and let stand for about 5 minutes or until the milk is absorbed. To the breadcrumbs, add the chicken, egg, parmesan, salt, and pepper. The mixture will be wet. Shape the chicken mixture into 1-inch meatballs.
In a large saute pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Place half of the meatballs (more or less depending on the size of your pan) into the saute pan and cook 3-4 minutes or until browned, turn the meatballs and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. The meatballs will not be cooked through and will be slightly pink on the inside. Remove from the pan and cook the rest of the meatballs.
While the meatballs are cooking, cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and draining the rest.
Once all of the meatballs are cooked, remove them to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Add the marinara sauce and heavy cream to the pan (be careful of splatters) and stir to combine. Add back in the meatballs and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the meatballs are cooked through (meatballs will be white on the inside).
Stir in the cooked pasta and add the pasta water, if needed to make the sauce thinner. Gently stir in the mozzarella and fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
Adapted from this recipe. I changed up the meatball ingredients and a few of the amounts.