I don’t get the big deal with chicken Parm, so it wasn’t the title of this recipe that drew me in—just the alluring photo of cheese-blanketed tomato-sauce-glazed chicken meatballs nestled alongside wilted spinach I spotted while paging through Dinner: The Playbook at the library. Apparently this is one of the most popular recipes at Dinner: A Love Story, but had somehow missed it until the book version. I figured meatballs are always a crowd-pleaser, and not surprisingly, our crowd of two was very pleased with this light, easy weeknight comfort meal.
Of course you can serve the meatballs with any vegetable side you want, but I like the red-and-green color contrast and the way the tomato sauce spills over and infuses the spinach. It’s pretty basic; I just heated 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; added 12 ounces fresh spinach, 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of red pepper flakes; stirred until wilted and seasoned with salt and pepper. You can do it while the meatballs bake.
1¼ pounds ground chicken
½ cup dried breadcrumbs (I used panko)
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 egg, whisked
Grated zest of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
14 ounces pizza sauce (I just doctored canned tomato sauce with dried oregano and basil, but this sauce would be even better)
About 4 ounces fresh mozzarella (16 thin slices)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix together the chicken, breadcrumbs, onions, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, fennel, egg, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Shape into 16 golfball-size balls and place a few inches from each other on a lightly oiled foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, mix a few tablespoons of your pizza sauce with the olive oil. Brush this mixture on top of each meatball. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove meatballs from oven and turn on the broiler. Spoon some pizza sauce on top of each meatball, and cover each with a slice of cheese. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.
- Warm remaining sauce in a small saucepan. Serve meatballs with a dollop of sauce.
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Good. You can also freeze the baked meatballs after Step 3. Thaw them in the fridge the day you want to eat them, then heat up in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes before continuing with the remaining steps.