We were craving for eggplant or chicken parmesan the other day. What we didn’t want was a big heaping platter of the gooey goodness. I came up with these lighter on the belly chicken parmesan meatballs. Before you start calling me no-fun by not loading up the plate with a gooey, stick-to-your ribs meal, trust me on how good these are.
This recipe definitely was spiked by our love of meatballs. One of the things I really like about making meatballs is that the recipes tend to make more than enough for two people so I can tuck some away in the freezer for when we come home hungry from a business trip or just do not feel like cooking. As well they are great for feeding a crowd, especially this chicken parmesan version. I loaded this recipe with fresh herbs, which helps keep meaty dishes on the lower calorie train but still full of flavor while enhancing the natural meat flavors. I added a little panko only to help bind everything together, as well is served as the breaded crumbs that would usually be on that slice of eggplant or chicken cutlet. The fun part of these meatballs are the little cheese surprise in the middle, gooey, cheesy goodness, that is only a bite! All that is left is some of your favorite tomato sauce and a bowl of pasta if you feel the need for it.
A couple tips to help make your meatball cooking experience easier:
- Use a high heat oil to lightly fry them. I like sunflower oil as it has a nice clean taste and doesn’t interfere with the other ingredients.
- Keep the heat at medium-low, just hot enough to brown the meatballs without burning them or setting off the fire alarm.
- Use a soup spoon to move the meatballs around the pan as it helps keep their round shape. DO NOT LEAVE the spoon in the pan when not using it or it will heat up, and you will burn yourself.
- I only like to brown the meatballs, then I simmer them with stock, wine or the tomato sauce. Run wild with it!
- 2 pounds ground chicken
- ½ cup panko
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan
- ½ medium yellow onion, finely minced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 4 tablespoons mixed parsley and rosemary (about 2 sprigs of rosemary and a handful of parsley)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 egg
- 24 mini mozzarella balls (often called cherry sized) or larger ones cut in half
- ¼ cup sunflower oil or your favorite high heat oil
- 1½ - 2 cups your favorite tomato sauce - depends on how saucy you want things to get
- tomato sauce
- Combine all ingredients except mozzarella balls, sunflower oil and tomato sauce in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands mix well.
- Form meatballs, stuffing a mozzarella ball or a half of a ball, depending on the size of meatballs you want, into the middle of each meatball, and forming the meat mixture around it. Set aside and finish making all of the meatballs.
- In a large frying pan heat the sunflower oil over medium heat.
- Add about 4 -5 meatballs to the frying pan. Do not crowd them, you want plenty of room to move them around. Lower the heat to a medium-low, about a 3 on my stove.
- Using a soup spoon, gently move the meatballs around the pan, lightly browning all the sides. The soup spoon helps keep the rounded shape. Do not overcook - they will continue cooking in the oven.
- Remove the meatballs from the pan and place on a paper towel. Repeat the process until all of the meatballs are browned.
- Pour the tomato sauce into the same frying pan (as long as it is oven proof). Nestle the meatballs into the sauce.
- Place into a preheated 350 degree oven, and bake until bubbly; about 25 - 30 minutes.