Orecchiette. There isn’t enough that can be said about these little pasta cups. Their name literally means “little ears” in Italian due to how they are shaped. They make the perfect mini bowls and do a great job holding sauce, bits of meat, etc. They lend themselves perfectly to this recipe.
I’m obsessed with this recipe. I don’t even look at it anymore. Haven’t had to look at it in years. My mother gave it to me because I was obsessed with it and I have altered it to my liking. It comes from my girlfriend, Giada de Laurentiis. I want to be her, but that’s a story for another day. Her original recipe is here and it is SUCH a crowd pleaser. I like making it when I’m cooking for a group — there is rarely any left 🙂 <3
If you don’t love pics of raw chicken, I’m sorry — just trying to show the beauty that is these mini chicken meatballs!
Mini Chicken Meatballs with Tomatoes & Orecchiette
- 1 lb. ground chicken breast
- 1 tbsp. whole milk
- 3/4 c. seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
- 3/4 c. grated cheese (I use a Romano-Parmesan blend)
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1-2 tsp. each of following dried herbs: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 egg, slightly beaten (optional; only use if you feel as though your meat is dry and will need a little help sticking together when forming mini meatballs)
- 1/2 c. olive oil
- 1/4 c. grapeseed oil
- 1 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken stock
- 4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
- 12 oz. orecchiette pasta, cooked al dente
- 8 oz. bocconcini mozzarella, drained
- 1/4 c. fresh basil, finely chopped
- 1/4 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
- crusty bread to sop up all the goodness (optional, but if you don’t eat it with this meal, I’m pretty sure your priorities are skewed in life in general. Just making an observation. You don’t want to waste any of these yummy flavors!!)
~ In a large bowl, combine your raw ground chicken breast with milk, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, garlic powder, tomato paste, salt, pepper, dried herbs, and optional beaten egg. Nature gave us our two best mixing tools — our hands!! Get those babies in there and mix it all together! Your hands will smell amazing, btw! 🙂
~ Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Heat your olive oil & grapeseed oil in a large skillet while you roll out your mini meatballs. Using damp hands or a melon baller (I usually use my hands — no patience for a melon baller), form mini meatballs and place them on a lined plate. You can get up to as many as 48-50 mini chicken meatballs!!
~ Add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook it al dente; stir regularly because they have a tendency to stick together. They need to cook for a little bit longer than regular pasta so just be cautious.
~ Once you have *thoroughly* washed your hands, begin to brown the meatballs in batches. You’ll want to brown them 2-3 minutes per side. This process will take a while but it is unbelievably worth it! Remove the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels.
~ When you have browned all of the meatballs, add the garlic to the pan and briefly saute. YUM!! Smell that lovely scent 🙂 Don’t let it burn!!
~ Switch spoons and pour in your chicken broth. Make sure to scrape up all of the bits from the bottom as your bring the broth to a boil. This will take a few minutes. Add your tomatoes at this point, too!
~ Drain your pasta and put it back in the pot. Toss it with some olive oil to prevent it from sticking together too much.
~ Once the chicken broth is boiling, add the chicken meatballs back into the pan. Lower the heat to medium and allow the meatballs to cook all the way through, about five minutes.
~ Add the pasta into the pan and now comes the SECRET AMAZING INGREDIENT — the bocconcini!!
~ Top the pasta with the bocconcini and fresh herbs. Start to stir. Watch what happens. This dish is magical. It will make you instantly fall in love. <3 <3
~ Serve in bowls with that crusty bread I mentioned earlier….trust me….you NEEEEEDDD to sop up that broth. 🙂