Friday, October 14, 2011

Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs

While the rest of the world feels like baking sweet cookies and pies, autumn makes me crave savory food. The cool air and gloomy skies make me want to spend all day making soup and bread. Stick-to-your-ribs kind of food... comfort food.

Well we've had plenty of that cool and gloom since October hit... it's rained ten out of the fourteen days we've had so far. Is it sick that I love it? Sometimes I think I should move to Seattle, because I'm happiest in a hooded sweatshirt with the fresh smell of rain in the air. Give me a warm latte and an umbrella, and I'll spend more time outside this time of year than during the summer. I'm an autumn girl, through and through.

This is a perfect autumn pasta dish. It's a great way to use up any straggling tomatoes left over from summer's bounty, and the hearty chicken meatballs give it amazing savory flavor. Plus there are three different kinds of cheese in it. Like gratuitous amounts of cheese. How can you say no to that? And well, you know me... I love any excuse to eat pasta. With a warm, broth-based sauce, hearty chicken meatballs, and melty mozzarella cheese, it's almost as comforting as a big bowl of soup!

Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs
slightly adapted from Giada's Kitchen
yields 4 to 6 servings

1 pound orecchiette pasta
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon ketchup
3/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces bocconcini (small mozarella balls), halved
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, salt, and pepper. Add the ground meat and combine well. Using a melon baller or teaspoon, scoop up the chicken mixture and roll into 3/4-inch mini meatballs.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the meatballs, turning only once, until brown on both sides (about 2 minutes per side). Transfer browned meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the chicken broth to the pan and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add back the meatballs and the tomatoes to the pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the tomatoes have softened and the meatballs are cooked through (about 5 minutes).
3. Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl and add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Toss to coat the orecchiette lightly, adding some of the pasta water to help make a sauce. Add the meatball mixture, bocconcini, and 1/2 cup of the basil and combine. Garnish with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan and remaining basil.


  1. This sounds like perfect savoury comfort food :)

  2. Though I do love baking in the fall, I also crave comforting dishes just like this one. This looks hearty and so delicious!! Love the little chicken meatballs!

  3. I'm so glad to find meatball recipes that don't contain pork--this looks great!

  4. Yum i love orecchiette pasta! This looks like such a comfort meal!


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