Meatballs are fun food. You need several meatball recipes in your repertoire. These are chicken meatballs, with quick pepperonata on the side. The mild taste of the chicken goes nicely with the sweet and vinegary flavor of the pepperonata. And just so you can see exactly how “good enough” my dinners can be, here’s a picture when I took a little less care with forming my meatballs. Ugly but still tasty!
Chicken Meatballs with Quick Pepperonata, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
- 1 c. bread (about 2-3 slices)
- 1/3 c. milk
- 3 oz. pancetta (you can buy pre-chopped pancetta at Trader Joe’s)
- 1/2 onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 egg
- 1 lb. ground chicken
- 2 T. tomato paste (The Good Enough Gourmet always buys tomato paste in a tube, to avoid waste.)
- 3 T. parsley
- salt and pepper
- 3 bell peppers (your choice of color)
- 1 1/2 T. olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 T. capers and/or olives
- 1 t. red wine or balsamic vinegar
- a few shakes red chile pepper flakes
1) Roast your peppers for the pepperonata first. You can do this in several ways. You can roast the peppers whole, which makes them easy to peel. But in my experience, roasting peppers whole involves turning the peppers so they char evenly on all sides and then putting the peppers in a bag so the skin separates from the flesh. Not hard, but too fussy for a weeknight when I’m also trying to make meatballs. You can cut the peppers into strips, toss them with olive oil and roast the strips and put up with the skin. I split the difference, cutting my peppers into four large, flattish pieces (just slice down from the top to the bottom on all four sides of the pepper), tossed the pieces with olive oil, put them skin side up on a foil-lined pan, and roasted them at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.
2) Start the meatballs. Tear the bread into small pieces and soak in the milk for a few minutes. Preheat your oven to 400 (if you haven’t already, in step 1).
3) Chop your pancetta, or better yet, do what I usually do and buy pre-chopped pancetta at Trader Joes – 1 package is perfect for this recipe. Chop your onion and garlic. Chop parsley.
4) Heat a small pan and when hot, add the pancetta. Cook for a couple of minutes until it renders its fat, and add the onion, garlic, and some salt and pepper. Cook until onion softens. Remove from heat and let cool a little.
5) In a large bowl, slightly beat the egg. Add chicken, 1 T. tomato paste, parsley, bread (squeeze out the excess liquid and discard), pancetta/onion mixture, and salt and pepper. Mix together.
6) Form meatballs and put on a foil lined pan. I sometimes use my small ice cream scoop to form my meatballs. Brilliant trick I read about! HOWEVER, you have to wash the scoop scrupulously since you’re working with raw meat. I might even consider buying a scoop just for meatballs to be on the safe side. Also, ice cream scoop meatballs are not shaped very nicely. My top picture is of meatballs formed by hand and the bottom is meatballs formed with the scoop. But how much easier and neater the scoop makes the process!
7) Combine 1 T. tomato paste with a little olive oil and brush on the top of the meatballs. It doesn’t stick very well, but do the best you can. As you can probably tell, I skipped this step in the bottom picture and it wasn’t the end of the world. The tomato paste topping does add extra flavor though.
8) Bake for 25 minutes.
9) For the pepperonata, combine the oil (1 T), vinegar, red pepper flakes, and capers and/or olives (the recipe calls for capers, but when I want to gild the lily, I buy a small assortment of olives from the Whole Foods olive bar – it makes the dish something to look forward to). Peel the pepper pieces if you feel so compelled (I do), slice them into strips, and add them to the oil/vinegar mixture. Add a little salt.