There’s nothing like a bowl of traditional spaghetti and meatballs, right? Most of us grew up thinking that was the best meal ever created. How would you feel about lightening up those meatballs? Just a bit. Let’s try some chicken instead of beef. It’s pretty darn good.
If you are able to find Italian chicken sausage at your local market, that’s the one to choose. We are so fortunate to have a Whole Foods nearby and they offer their own mild chicken sausage. If you can’t find the chicken variety, go ahead and try making these with the pork version. The flavor will be similar …you’ll just have to rename them as chicken & pork meatballs!
All ingredients are gathered in one large bowl. Then gently combined with a fork. The ground chicken is very tender and mixes easily. The formed meatballs fit on one large baking sheet and hang out in the oven for about forty-five minutes. That’s it. No muss, no fuss.
At this point, these beauties are fully cooked and ready to enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce. To take things a step further, let’s continue on with some homemade marinara. It’s worth your time to give these guys a chance to swim around in some delicious tomato sauce for awhile.
When prepping your vegetables, it is important that they be finely chopped. They are meant to flavor the sauce, not to add chunkiness. That’s why I recommend that you grate the carrot. Once the sauce is finished simmering, the veggies should have “melted away.” You may not notice pieces of vegetables at this point but you can’t miss the added flavor.
Try to find San Marzano tomatoes for this one. They really are superior in texture and flavor. I use the whole plum tomatoes and break them up with my hand. We like the texture of the finished sauce to be rustic. If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can choose crushed tomatoes. Or use an immersion blender before adding the meatballs to the pot.
If I have some fresh celery leaves hangin’ out in my fridge, I’ll add them to the sauce for extra flavor. Totally optional. Just be sure to remove them when done, along with the bay leaves.
Now you just have to decide which way to go with these. Will it be spaghetti & meatballs? Or maybe you’re in the mood for a meatball sandwich. That will be up to you.
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 pound mild Italian chicken sausage (casing removed)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (2 ounces)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (5 ounces / 1 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped (2 ounces / 1/2 cup)
- 1 carrot, peeled and shredded (4 ounces / 1 cup)
- pinch of chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 - 28 ounce cans plum tomatoes
- 2 dried bay leaves
- handful of celery leaves (optional)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the ground chicken and sausage in a large mixing bowl, along with the remaining meatball ingredients. Combine gently with a large fork. Form meatballs, with your hands, to measure about 1 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter. Place them, with a small space between each meatball, on the prepared baking sheet. You should have a total of 28 to 30 meatballs.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Meatballs can be served with your favorite dipping sauce or simmered in tomato sauce.
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic. Saute' until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, thyme, salt & pepper. Saute' until all vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Break up the tomatoes with your hand or roughly chop them. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the juice. Add the bay leaves (plus optional celery leaves) and meatballs. Simmer for 40 minutes. Remove bay leaves and celery leaves; discard. Add grated romano cheese and mix well. Continue to simmer for additional 20 minutes.