I had no intentions of posting a pasta dish today especially since we hardly have pasta at the house thanks to my zero control self and I’m not blaming the pregnancy this time around. I seriously lose a sense of portion control when it comes to pasta. So it’s better that I not even go there. But I needed a quick and easy dinner meal last week to feed two little peeps (one of mine and one of my sisters), so I made this on a whim and it turned out surprising good. Why surprisingly? Just because when you have 30 seconds to prep a family dinner with half empty fridge, you never know which way it will go. So yes, surprisingly it turned out GOOD and nobody died. Always a bonus.
It’s a perfect skillet pasta dinner for busy weeknights. It’s quite easy and will probably take you less time to prep than what is noted below. You pretty much start off with making the meatballs but not just any meatballs. Baked chicken meatballs. Super, super moist and tender fall apart good. They are truly what makes this dish. And I’m not saying it just to say it. They are seriously that good.
If you ever tried cooking ground chicken you know how hard it is to get the meat super tender and moist. My little secret and I’m not even sure whether it’s a secret but I pack the ground chicken with shredded onion, Panko soaked in milk, and little bit of sour cream. You can probably substitute full fat greek yogurt or mayo for sour cream. But I wouldn’t do anything skim as you want to fatty these babies up for some flavor. Broiled in the oven halfway then dumped into a skillet with Tomato Basil sauce and cream.
I’m a sucker for anything mini and cute so I went with little orecchiette pasta which are a perfect compliment to the mini meatballs. You can use any type of pasta on hand really. But mini and cute are always better. I finished off the dish with mini mozzarella balls AKA “pearls” and fresh chopped herbs.
There’s definitely a lot of mini and cute going on here but not on flavor! Tender chicken meatballs with hot pasta smothered in tomato cream sauce is the ultimate weeknight comfort meal for the whole family. Serve this with fresh crisp salad and you’re set.
- ½ cup Panko
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ lb. ground chicken
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp. grated or shredded (in food processor) onion
- 1 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley
- 1 Tbsp. sour cream
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 2 cups uncooked orecchiette pasta
- ¼ - ⅓ cup reserved pasta water*
- 1 cup jarred Tomato Basil pasta sauce (I used this brand - it has clean ingredients)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup mini mozzarella balls ("pearls"-found next to fresh mozzarella)
- fresh chopped parsley or basil
- In a large mixing bowl, combine Panko with milk. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until milk is absorbed. To the Panko, add the chicken, egg, onion, parsley, sour cream, salt and pepper. The mixture should be quite wet.
- Turn on your broiler on HIGH.
- Shape the chicken mixture into 1¼-inch meatballs (I used 1 tsp. measuring spoon) and place in a single layer on a lightly coated with cooking spray or oil baking sheet.
- Broil the meatballs on HIGH for 3-4 minutes (I had my oven rack set in the middle) or until lightly golden and almost fully cooked but still slightly pink on the inside. Keep an eye on them so they don't overcook! Remove and let stand at room temperature while preparing pasta+sauce.
- Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Reserve ¼ - ⅓ cups of pasta water and drain the rest.
- In a large saute pan, heat pasta sauce over medium heat. Add cream and bring to a simmer. Add meatballs and simmer over low/med heat for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly and meatballs are cooked through. (Meatballs should be super moist, tender, and white on the inside).
- Add cooked pasta to the sauce and the reserved pasta water.** Give it couple stirs with a spoon and then add the mozzarella balls.
- Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve immediately.
**start off with ¼ cup of reserved pasta water and add more if sauce is still too thick
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