When culinary creativity fails you, turn to a simple weeknight meal that always delivers. Simmer fragrant chicken meatballs in a rich tomato sauce and serve with al dente cooked spaghetti, and your family will be all smiles and mmm’s.
We’ve all been there. On a weeknight, with a brain that simply cannot come up with an idea for dinner, 30 minutes to cook and very few ingredients in the fridge. Have no fear, because the perfect quick dinner is here. A classic pasta dish, a crowd pleaser that elicits oohs and aahs around the table. Healthy, delicious and incredibly easy to make.
ABOUT CHICKEN MEATBALLS
Ok, so here’s the deal. Chicken is incredibly lean, which isn’t ideal for meatballs. You generally want them to keep moist, and not dry out if you happen to cook them for a few minutes too many – which is why we need to add either fat or fluid to them to give them that perfect consistency.
Also, chicken on it’s own doesn’t have that deep flavor that we all love in beef meatballs. It needs some support from herbs and spices to reach the hights we’re looking for.
– Breadcrumbs: soaked in a little bit of milk or water, this stabilizes the meatballs, and gives the ground chicken a little more structure.
– Sour Cream: prevents the meatballs from going gry, and adds smoothness to the consistency.
– Tomato Paste: brings the sauce into the actual meatballs, and gives them an umami oomph.
– Parmesan Cheese: grated Parmesan gives the meatballs a pop, with small grains of goodness pairing perfectly with the tomato.
– Herbs: here, you can experiment with anything you like. For a more traditional Italian flavor profile, use dried basil, oregano and parsley flakes. Or kick in some cilantro for a middle eastern twist.
ABOUT THE SAUCE
I only have one piece of advise for the sauce. Keep it simple. Don’t overdo it and try to create something that needs to simmer for 4 hours here – after all, you just have 30 minutes to cook this whole meal, so let’s stick with the basics.
– Fresh Tomatoes: get them as ripe as you possibly can. Overripe even. This gives the sauce a sweeter flavor.
– Canned Tomatoes: buy the most expensive ones you can find. They’re still going to be pretty cheap, but the best ones are SO much better than the cheapest ones.
– Tomato Paste: creates the third level of tomato flavor, the base on which the other two types of tomatoes rest on.
– Chicken Stock: we don’t want the sauce to taste like chicken soup, but just a small amount of chicken stock brings all the other ingredients together and rounds the sauce off perfectly.
– Parmesan Cheese: gives the sauce a slightly grainy structure, making sure it clings better to the spaghetti.
– Herbs: Don’t overdo it on the herbs in the sauce. Just a teaspoon of mixed herbs is enough.
Kalle Bergman is a food writer and media entrepreneur who is the founder of Honest Cooking and PAIR Magazine. As a food writer, his writing has been regularly featured in publications like Gourmet, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post and Serious Eats. He is obsessed with simple food, more often than not from his native Scandinavia.