Orecchiette with Chicken Meatballs

It's cloudy with a chance of meatballs.  Sounds perfect, doesn't it?  Growing up, meatballs were one of the special treats when we had spaghetti.  If mom had time, she made them.  There wasn't ever much time, so meatballs became a really special treat.  I loved them.  I might have wished that our meatballs fell from the sky like rain as in It's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, but that didn't happen...they were, however, just as rare!

Today, it doesn't have to be cloudy, meatballs are frequent and vary.  They can be made from different meats, they can have different additions and different spices.  So many opportunities to be creative.  The meatball in this dish is plain and simple, nothing unique.  It leaves the door open for twists and turns the next time it is made.  Which means, it is all up to you....what do you like in your meatballs?

Orecchiette with Chicken Meatballs
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 pound orecchiette pasta
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp whole milk
1 Tbsp ketchup
3/4 cup grated Romano
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 pound ground chicken
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 can Mutti Cherry Tomatoes or 2-3 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
8 oz bocconcini mozzarella, halved
1 small handful of spinach leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Prepare pasta as per package directions.

In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, and the salt and pepper.  Add the chicken and gently stir to combine.

Using a melon baller or teaspoon scoop out the mixture and using damp hands, roll into small meatballs.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  In batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving until they are brown on the bottom, about 2-3 minutes.  Turn the meatballs over and brown the other side, another 2-3 minutes.  Continue with the remaining meatballs.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil if needed.

Return all meatballs to the skillet and add the chicken stock and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil scraping up any browned bits on the bottom.  Reduce the heat to low, add the spinach leaves and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through (and fresh tomatoes softened, if using) and spinach has wilted, about 5-6 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water.  Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl and add the Parmesan.  Toss orecchiette to coat.  Add a little of the pasta water if the pasta is sticking.  Add the meatball mixture, mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup basil.  Gently toss to combine.  Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

Is it cloudy at your house?  Is there a chance for meatballs?

Any day is a good one for meatballs!


  1. Looks really delicious Kathy and we'll have to give poultry meatballs a try some time. You may way to look at the last ingredient as it just says fresh leaves.

    1. Thank you! It is corrected. Poultry meatballs are good, but can be bland. I do find that I must season them well for us!


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