Orecchiette With Mini Chicken Meatballs

"From Giada De Laurentiis on the Today Show, with a couple of modifications. Prep and cooking times are estimates, but I find that from start to finish I need about 1.5-2hrs to make this dish. Also, I have found the meatball mixture to be too wet when using 2 eggs, but my mom never has trouble with that, so I put a step into the directions to use 1, mix, and check to see if it's too dry before adding the second egg. If you make this earlier in the day, place in a 150-200* F oven and hold for up to 3 hours. The mozzarella gets all melty and delicious. (FYI, any size of mozzarella balls are fine, so long as it's 8oz of fresh mozzarella. I've used bocconcini, 8oz balls, ovoline, and ciliegine.) The prep is a bit intensive (mostly getting the meatballs together and made). This is a popular enough dish in our house that I now make the meatballs ahead and freeze them. If making meatballs ahead, do not add the broth or tomatoes, just brown the meatballs, bag, and freeze. When I use frozen meatballs, I just defrost them, start a pan going with the broth and tomatoes, and then add the meatballs and continue from there."
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  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Lightly beat one egg.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, egg, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, salt, and pepper. If too dry, lightly beat and add second egg.
  • Add the chicken and combine well.
  • Using a melon baller (or a teaspoon measure) to scoop up the mixture, roll the seasoned chicken into ¾-inch mini meatballs.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the meatballs and brown the tops, about 2 minutes longer.
  • Add the chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl and add ½ cup of the Parmesan. Toss to coat the orecchiette lightly, adding some of the reserved pasta water to help make a sauce.
  • Add the meatball mixture, bocconcini, and ½ cup of the basil and combine. Garnish with the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan and the remaining basil.

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  1. This was my review on the Food Network website: I think you have to take into consideration that this is a recipe that is to appeal to kids, so I think most kids would like what adults would consider "bland". For my family, though, we like things a little more jazzed up. I added a clove of garlic to the meatballs and a shallot to the pan just before the liquid was added. I also added a little wine (probably 1/4 C) before adding the chicken broth to equal the full amount of liquid. As some other posters suggested, I also added fresh spinach for more veggies. I don't even think you would need the extra mozzarella cheese (I added fresh mozzarella, cubed) if you also added fresh parmesan at the end. I also added a fair amount of salt when it was finished. I thought it had just the right amount of "sauce"--not too liquidy, not too dry. I think I'll be making this one again with these additions.



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