My dear husband has been begging me to make meatloaf for years. Unfortunately for him, I'm not exactly known for being a people-pleaser. Though I am open to experimentation, especially if it is a healthy spin on a classic. Also, if it is described as positively creamy, without requiring gobs of cheese. And that's exactly how these turned out: rich, creamy and gone in minutes.
The first time, I served my balls with fresh pasta and a drizzle of olive oil. Next they were the main attraction at our holiday party. Whatever the occasion, I vow they will never be served in loaf form.
I tinkered with the recipe because my local grocer only sells ground chicken in 3/4 pound packages, and the original version naturally calls for a full pound. The HORROR. There's nothing worse than being forced to purchase extra of something just to fit the recipe. So I retooled things to fit the quantities I could easily find. If your grocer happens to only sell it in full pound packages, click through to Smitten's proportions.
Adapted from Gourmet, via Smitten Kitchen
Serves 10 as hors d'oeuvres or 4 served with pasta
2 slices Italian bread, torn into small bits (2/3 cup)1/3 cup milk
1/4 lb pancetta, finely chopped (swap in Canadian Bacon if you can’t find pancetta)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
3/4 pound ground chicken
2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsleyExtra-virgin olive oil
1. Soak the bread in milk until softened, about five minutes. Preheat oven to 400° with a rack positioned in the upper third.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and cook pancetta for several minutes. Add the onion and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper until softened, about 6 minutes. Allow mixture to cool slightly.
3. Squeeze bread to remove excess milk, then discard milk. Lightly beat the egg in a large bowl, then combine with ground chicken, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, pancetta mixture, bread, and parsley.
4. Form 12 meatballs and arrange in a 4-sided sheet pan (I used a 9×13 roasting dish). Stir together remaining tablespoons of tomato paste and oil and brush over meatballs (the paste/oil does not mix in any cohesive manner, but just smoosh it on), then bake in upper third of oven until meatballs are just cooked through, about 20 minutes.