Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shells with Mini Chicken Meatballs

This is one of the funnest (is that even a word??!) pasta dishes I have ever made!  And sooooo yummy....

Let's start with the fun.

You know me:  I like making things.  So, I made mozzarella cheese.  For the experience, yes.  But also specifically for this dish.

And meatballs?  So fun.  If you have a food processor, you can make your own ground chicken.  Just trim excess fat and dice, and toss it in the bowl of your processor.  Whir away!  If you don't have a food processor--no worries!  You can buy ground chicken.

And as for the yummy part?  This was absolutely delish!  Simple ingredients, simple flavors that maintained their integrity.  Not hardly a spice was used to mask the flavors of the chicken, the cheese, the pasta.


Shells with Mini Chicken Meatballs
Source:  Giada's Kitchen

1 pound small shells pasta (or any other small pasta shape)
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (much more flavorful than curly parsley)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbl. milk
1 tbl. ketchup (or tomato sauce)
3/4 cup grated Roman cheese
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella cheese balls)
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves  (my favorite!)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, Romano cheese, salt and pepper, and ketchup.  Add the ground chicken and combine well.  Using a melon baller (or a teaspoon measure) to scoop out the mixture, roll the seasoned chicken into 3/4-in. mini meatballs.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Turn the meatballs and brown the tops, continuing the rotate the meatballs until cooked through.  Add the chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of pan.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Toss to coat the pasta, adding some of the reserved liquid to help make the sauce.  Add the meatball mixture, mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup of the fresh basil.  Combine.  Garnish with remaining Parmesan and basil.  Serve immediately.

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