Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pasta with Chicken Meatballs

Yesterday morning I was browsing through my google reader and came across this recipe on a fellow Daring Bakers's blog and it instantly grabbed my attention. You see, I used to think I did not like spinach but I was a fool I tell you, a fool. I started chopping it up and mixing it in with romaine for salads and also putting it into baked pasta dishes. I soon realized that it was silly of me to not like spinach, after all it has pretty much no flavor and it is very nutritious. So anyway, since I was in the middle of making my grocery list when I came across this recipe I made sure to add all of the ingredients for this meal to it.

Although Rachel Ray claims this is a "30 minute meal" it took me more than 30 minutes to prepare it (no one preps all my ingredients for me like they do for her on the show) and I sure did dirty a lot of dishes in the process. But hey it's ok my husband and I gave the meal a thumbs up and I was happy to make something new for my blog. This was a pretty good dinner that would be easy enough to whip up on a weeknight.

I did make a few slight modifications to the recipe. For the meatballs I omitted the fennel seeds and used a rosemary herb seasoning that I have instead of the fresh rosemary and of course reduced fat ricotta. As for the rest of the meal, I used whole wheat pasta and reduced the amount of spinach to only one box. Two boxes of spinach seemed like way to much. Also, for whatever strange reason my sauce never thickened, maybe because I did not use whole milk maybe it was rebelling against me who knows. :)

Florentine Mac and Cheese and Roast Chicken Sausage Meatballs
(Source: as seen on Culinography)

1 pound cavatappi corkscrew shaped hallow pasta
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken
Black pepper
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
1 egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs, plus more, if needed*
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 boxes, 10 ounces, chopped frozen spinach
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg, eyeball it

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place a large pot of water on to boil for pasta. When it comes to a boil, salt it and add the pasta to cook to al dente. Strain pasta reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

While the water is coming to a boil, in a large mixing bowl combine the chicken, salt and pepper, rosemary, fennel seeds, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano - a rounded handful, egg and bread crumbs. *If the mixture seems too wet, add a handful of bread crumbs and mix together.

Form 8 large round balls, about 3 to 4-inches. Coat balls in a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and lightly grease a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Arrange balls on the baking sheet and roast 17 to 18 minutes until juices run clear.

Defrost spinach in microwave 8 to 10 minutes on "defrost" setting depending on the microwave.
Place the boxes in a shallow dish to catch any run off.

While the meatballs roast, in a medium sauce pot over medium heat, melt butter, whisk in flour, cook 1 minute then whisk in stock and milk, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and thicken 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 cup grated Parmigiano and reduce heat on lowest setting.

Wring spinach completely dry in clean kitchen towel then separate as you add it to the sauce. Also add the reserved 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Toss pasta with the spinach-white sauce and adjust seasonings.

Serve Florentine Mac-n-Cheese with 2 meatballs per person along side.
Before you leave, one more comment. Is Rachel Ray on crack? Can someone explain to me why these are "roast chicken sausage meatballs". Wouldn't they just be "roast chicken meatballs?" :)


Liz said...

I am making this tomorrow!
I think she calls it "chicken sausage" simply due to the fennel in the recipe. Fennel seeds = sausage taste.

Ally said...

Oh man that looks yummy!

Anonymous said...

I saw this and took notice as well. Glad to hear it was a thumbs up! Looks great!

Anonymous said...

Looks so yummy! That pasta looks absolutely delicious with it!

Jessica said...

Mmm, looks tasty and healthy! LOL, yes Rachael Ray is indeed on crack :)

Britni said...

This sounds great. I think I may have to throw it on the menu for next week.

Sarah - The Home Cook said...

I'm making this tomorrow, although sans the meatballs. I also LOVE spinach! :)

That Girl said...

I do love spinach it's my fave vegetable!

Cassie said...

That looks delicious! The texture of the meatballs looks so perfect!

Deborah said...

I am a RR fan, and have made many of her meals. This one sounds delicious!!

Shelby said...

This looks great!

RR could be calling it sausage because of the seasonings used in flavoring the meatballs! :-)

Mama Mia said...

I love chicken meatballs, def. healthier than beef meatballs.

Anonymous said...

I used to think I didn't like spinach, too! Thank goodness for giving things a second try!

Glad you had a good experience with the recipe!