Monday, July 7, 2014

Chicken Arugula Meatballs

Chicken Arugula Meatballs
Serves 6-8
Difficulty level: Gourmet
Chicken Arugula Meatballs...on bed of tomato sauce
Chicken Arugula Meatballs with Capellini, arugula pesto & fresh Arugula

You may remember my last meatball post from November 2012. That was a MEAT meatball.  A knife and fork meatball…. This is not. This is equally amazing, just different.  And I believe it is even better the next day and the day after… as well as freezing and eating weeks after. A lighter version of classic meatball, these are flavored with pine nuts, raisins, cheese and arugula. Try this over angel-hair pasta with tomato sauce or arugula pesto sprinkled with chopped fresh arugula, or pass the meatballs as hot hors d’oeuvre on a bed of a zesty tomato sauce. Leftover meatballs are delicious as a filling for a hoagie-style sandwich: spread crusty Italian bread with tomato sauce, tomato chutney or Arugula Pesto, add the meatballs and top with fresh arugula. Once you have made these wonderful meatballs you will be making them regularly for all occasions or a weekend meal.
  • 2 lbs. ground chicken (mix of white and dark meat best)
  • 2 C fresh, unseasoned bread crumbs (divided)
  • ½ C grated Parmesan cheese, more for garnish
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 rib celery, grated, discard fibrous parts
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 C golden raisins, chopped
  • ¼ C toasted, chopped pine nuts
  • 1/3 C Arugula Pesto (divided) (recipe below or see recipe for Minestrone Soup with Cranberry Beans and Arugula Pesto)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 bunch of arugula, washed, drained, stems removed and chopped (divided)
  • 4 Tb olive oil
  • ½C dry white wine
  • ½ lb angel hair pasta (capellini), cooked al dente
For a great tomato sauce as shown in the photo, see my previous post:

Grate the onion and celery. Place on paper towel briefly to dry. Combine the chicken, ½ C bread crumbs, ½ C Parmesan, onion, celery, garlic, raisins, pine nuts, 2 Tb of arugula pesto (see below), salt, pepper and eggs in a large bowl and gently stir to mix. Add about 1 C of the chopped arugula to the chicken mixture and stir to mix until all ingredients are well blended. 
Grated onions and celery

Ready to shape into meatballs

Shape the mixture into 1-2 inch round meatballs. Lightly roll each meatball in the remaining breadcrumbs and chill 1 hour until ready to cook. Chilling will keep the meatballs from breaking apart when cooked.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the meatballs in 2 small batches for about 2 minutes before rotating and turning to brown all over, 6-8 minutes total browning time. It is important to not turn the meatballs too early or they may fall apart. Let them form a golden brown, crusty exterior before turning. Reduce heat and cook 4-6 minutes longer. Add 1Tb additional oil if needed. Remove the meatballs from the skillet and keep warm.
Meatballs after browning them
Add the white wine to the skillet and deglaze, scraping all the brown bits from the bottom.  Add the pasta, the remaining pesto, and the meatballs to the skillet and toss in the remaining arugula. Cook about 1 minute, just until the arugula wilts. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with Parmesan if desired. Enjoy!

Instead of cooking the meatballs stovetop, you can bake them in a cast-iron skillet in the oven. Heat half of the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet in a preheated 400-degree F oven for 5 minutes. Add the meatballs in 1 layer, then cook, uncovered, 15-18 minutes, turning once, until golden brown on all sides and cooked through. Repeat with remaining olive oil and meatballs.  Additionally, ground turkey can be substituted for chicken if you prefer; spinach can be used instead of arugula.


See also: Larue’s Classic Meatballs

To make Arugula Pesto: (makes 1½ C – you will need much less –  use with other recipes as noted below)
  • 5 C firmly packed arugula, washed, drained and stems removed
  • ½ C firmly packed parsley
  • ½ C slivered almonds
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 9 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • ½ C extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ C grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste 

To make the Arugula Pesto:
Combine the arugula, parsley, almonds, lemon juice, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times until a paste forms, stopping several times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until the mixture is smooth.
Fixin's for the pesto
Add the Parmesan, salt and pepper and pulse several times until well mixed. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use. This can be made 1-2 days ahead and stores for a week in the refrigerator.

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