Is there any dish more versatile than meatballs? They can be appetizers, top pasta, fill sandwiches, and be slathered with red sauce, Alfredo sauce, or even barbecue sauce. You can make ’em out of just about any ground meat. They can be big or tiny. Italians make them, and so do Swedes. They can be pretty plain-some folks just roll meat (without seasoning or any other ingredients) in a ball and call it good. But most people add a little something for moistness, as a binder, and for flavor. Know what’s good in a meatball? A ball of cheese. A cheese ball inside a meatball is the best kind of meatball, in my opinion. And chicken meatballs are my faves. Unfortunately, the price of ground chicken is not my fave. At my grocery store they had only two brands of ground chicken, and the prices made me do a double-take. I could taste those mozzarella-filled meatballs in my mind-I mean, in my imagination. I can’t really taste with my mind. Even if I could, I think it’s worn out from doing other stuff. Anyway, I wanted those meatballs and where there’s a will, there’s a way. I purchased some boneless, skinless, chicken breast (and some mozzarella) and went home to hit up Google.
Honestly, how did we learn stuff before Google? We had to look it up in big books, called encyclopedias (google “encyclopedias” if you’re too young to know what they are). Google is so much faster-and takes up no room on the bookshelf. Of course, Google had the answer for me: you can easily grind your own chicken in a food processor if you don’t own a meat grinder. Or you can’t find your meat grinder. Whichever. And it isn’t hard at all. One note: grinding meat in a food processor will not produce anything that looks like the long, stringy stuff we know as commercially ground meat. It will be perfectly fine-maybe even better than commercially ground-for things such as meatballs, chili, or the ground meat in lettuce wraps. Grinding your own meat will give you control in two important areas: price per pound (which, for me, constituted a $4.50 per pound savings), and the ability to know exactly what’s in there. Okay, let’s do this!
Trim any visible fat remaining on the chicken. Weigh out (or make your best guess) one pound of chicken. Cut the chicken into chunks, place it on a waxed paper or parchment paper covered baking sheet, and pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes. If the food processor bowl and chopping blade will fit in your freezer, put that in, too. Chicken can get a kinda sticky and gummy when it’s ground. Partially freezing the meat (and the blade) helps with this problem. After 20 minutes, process no more than half of the chicken at a time by pulsing it. Just a few pulses, and my chicken was ready. It doesn’t take much, so don’t just turn on the food processor and let it go, or you’ll make chicken paste. Empty the first half of the chicken into a bowl and process the other half.
Mix some seasonings, bread crumbs, and an egg in with the ground chicken. For the mozzarella filling I chose the cherry-size balls of fresh mozzarella. Find these in the specialty cheese section of your grocery store. If your store doesn’t carry these you can buy a small package of fresh mozzarella and tear off small pieces. These handy little pre-made balls cost about a dollar more than packaged mozzarella and there’s enough cheese to make two recipes of meatballs.
Cooked meatballs look so yummy, but raw chicken meatball mix does not. Sorry. I usually have pretty detailed pics because it helps some folks understand technique. Don’t worry, these are going to grow up to be cute little meatballs. They just have to go through that awkward stage first.
Because ground chicken is so sticky, you will either need to spray (and keep spraying) your hands with non-stick spray to form the meatballs, or you can do what I do: have a small bowl of warm water handy and wet your hands frequently as you mold them. I just don’t like to have to stop and spray my hands constantly. Flatten out two tablespoons of meatball mix in the wet palm of your wrinkly hand, place a ball of cheese in the middle, and mold the meatball around it.
Bake the meatballs. Eat the meatballs. The End. Oh, wait, you know I still have a few more things to say. Like this recipe only makes 12 meatballs, but they’re big meatballs. Three of these in a sub or on top of pasta is very filling. You can definitely double the recipe, though, if you want more meatballs.
Even with taking the time to grind your own meat, these meatballs are simple to make, bake quickly, and taste scrumptious in a pasta dish or on a meatball sub. Save time by grinding the meat in advance so all you have to do is quickly make the meatballs. Okay, now eat (savor) those meatballs.
Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Meatballs
- 1 lb. ground chicken (instructions on how to grind your own given)
- 1/3 c. dry bread crumbs
- 2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 -2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp. onion powder
- 1 egg
- Salt and pepper
- 12 balls of fresh mozzarella, approximately one heaping teaspoon each
- Step 1 To grind your own chicken: cut chicken into chunks and place on waxed paper or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Freeze 20 minutes. It’s helpful to freeze the bowl and blade of your food processor as well if you have room for it in the freezer.
- Step 2 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray it with non-stick spray.
- Step 3 Remove chicken and food processor bowl and blade from freezer. Using no more than half of the chicken at a time, process by pulsing a few times-do not continuously run the food processor. Place first half of chicken in a large bowl and process the other half.
- Step 4 Mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, egg, and salt and pepper into the chicken. Make sure it’s well mixed.
- Step 5 With thoroughly wetted hands, scoop up two tablespoons of meatball mix and flatten it out in your hand. Place a ball of mozzarella in the middle of the meat. Mold the meat completely around the cheese to form a ball. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining meatball mix and cheese. You should have 12 meatballs.
- Step 6 Bake 15-19 minutes. (Baking time is affected by how finely or coarsely the chicken is ground.) Remove from baking sheet and serve hot with your choice of sauce over pasta or on a submarine sandwich. Recipe may be doubled.