I’m usually not big on ground meat, but I found some ground chicken the other day that was too well priced to pass up. Inexpensive and healthy are both high up on my requirements for meal planning lately, so this chicken meat seemed to do the trick. I looked around for a good ground chicken recipe and was a little put off by all the dry sounding dishes.

Then I found this recipe at Gourmet and felt like it might be the answer to our ground chicken needs. I’ve always had a soft spot for meatballs, but I typically find them rather flat tasting and boring, needing to be covered in a flavorful sauce instead of playing off of the meat’s own flavors. These were bound to be different.

Baked Chicken Meatballs
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 4

Ingredients

3 slices Italian bread, torn into small bits (1 cup)
1/3 cup milk
3 ounces sliced pancetta, finely chopped (you can substitute any number of bacon like products if you can’t find pancetta – here I used lardons, because it’s what I had on hand)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large egg
1 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 400°F with a racks the upper thirds. Soak bread in milk in a small bowl until softened, which will take just a few minutes.

2. Saute pancetta until the oil begins to release, then add in onion and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Keep over medium heat, stirring frequently until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Cool slightly.

3. Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, then discard milk. Lightly beat egg in a large bowl, then combine with chicken, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, cooled pancetta mixture, bread, and parsley. Form 12-16 meatballs and arrange in a  4-sided sheet pan.

4. Stir together remaining tablespoons of tomato paste and oil and brush over meatballs (this won’t mix particularly well, but you’re going for a glaze for the top of the meatballs, nothing fancy necessary) , then bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes (though mine took 15 because I made 16 smaller meatballs).

Serve with something peppery. Gourmet recommends a peperonata, but I had had a long day and didn’t feel like making another course, and instead chose to serve these meatballs with pasta and an arrabiata sauce. These came out beautifully and they were both light and full of flavor.

I think these meatballs would be better on their own next time than in a pasta dish. The texture though was absolutely perfect and I’ll definitely make miniature versions of these in the future for appetizers.

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