Last week Steph spent a night at her best friend's house, and she came home raving about the dinner they had. The recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis, and it was a big winner in our own home last night. (Thanks, Devora!)
It takes a fair amount of work, but none of it is technically difficult. Pete and Julie had fun making the little meatballs with me, although letting them handle raw meat gives me the howling fantods. ("Don't touch anything!") Pete knows this, so he kept taunting me by saying, "Note to self: This is not cookie dough! Do not put it in your mouth!"
As soon as we finished dinner, Julie asked hopefully, "Will there be leftovers?" (Yes—it makes a lot.) I can't believe I forgot to take a photo—it was very pretty. Here's a photo that I think does it justice.
Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs¼ cup plain bread crumbs
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon ketchup
¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken
¼ cup olive oil
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used 2 pint-size containers.)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided use (But as you will see below, I used only ½ cup total.)
8 ounces bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella balls), halved (If you can find only large ones, just cut 'em smaller.)
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, divided use (But as you will see below, I used only ½ cup total.)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the pasta.
In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Pecorino, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken and mix well with your hands. With a melon baller or a teaspoon measure, scoop mixture and roll into ¾-inch mini meatballs.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook 4 minutes or until browned, turning over halfway through cooking. Transfer meatballs to plate once they are browned.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook until tender but still firm to the bite,
stirring occasionally, 8–10 minutes. When the pasta is done, stick your
Pyrex measuring cup right in the pot and reserve some of the
pasta water before draining pasta in colander.
When all the meatballs are done, pour off any fat remaining in skillet. Increase heat to medium-high and return all meatballs to skillet; add the chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes.Transfer the drained pasta to a large serving bowl and add ½ cup of the Parmesan. Toss to coat the orecchiette lightly, adding ¼ cup reserved pasta water (or more if necessary) to help make a sauce. Add the meatball mixture, bocconcini, and ½ cup of the basil and combine. Garnish with the remaining ½ cup each of Parmesan and basil. (I didn't do this last bit of garnishing—there seemed to be plenty of both in there.)