Food Glorious Food- Italian Chicken Meatballs (There’s a vegan version too)

Although my great-grandmother wasn’t from Italy, she was known for her Italian food. This petite little lady from Saint Kitts made a spaghetti and meatballs so memorable, it garnered wistful oohs and ahs at her memorial service. Nana made Italian food sing like Pavarotti or Caruso if I want to be closer to the time when she first began to make Italian food.

My great-grandfather, Hannibal, died before my grandmother’s youngest sister was born, but he had roots in the Genoa region of Italy with family in Venice and Rome. It’s a trip I hope to take one day soon. However, in the meantime, I can enjoy a taste of it with this take on Nana’s meatballs. I make it with chicken, and I’ve found a way to make the ingredients sing in a vegan version as well.

Chicken Meatballs

1 pound ground chicken breast (Vegans can use 2 packages of Beyond Beef Ground)

1 pound ground chicken

2 slices of day old bread (any type. Including gluten-free)

¼ to 1/3 cup of milk (dairy 2%, whole, non-fat) (non-dairy milks rice, soy, or light coconut milk)

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, divided  (including gluten-free)

3 tablespoons granulated garlic

1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan

2 celery stalks rough chopped

1 large sweet onion, rough chopped

2 tablespoons Italian seasoning

1 egg (3 tablespoons Aquafaba)

Peanut oil for frying

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Add celery and onion to a food processor and pulse until chopped fine. Set aside.

Crumble or tear the bread in a bowl and cover with milk. Set aside.

Add the ground chicken breast and chicken to a large bowl. Add the celery and onion mixture, and work to combine until it just comes together. Do not over work it.

 Sprinkle the granulated garlic, parmesan and Italian seasoning on the chicken. Squeeze the bread to release any excess milk and add it to the chicken. Gently combine the ingredients until it comes together. 

Add the egg and breadcrumbs. Here is where you’re going to eyeball it a little to determine how much of the breadcrumbs you’re going to need.. Gently work the mixture together until it’s combined. Again, it’s important not to overwork the mixture. It will make the meatballs dense and heavy.

 If you find you’ve used more than a ½ cup of breadcrumbs,  but less than ¾ cups, that’s fine. You’re going to use the reserve to roll the meatballs in once you’ve formed them.

Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Add the remaining breadcrumbs to a shallow plate or pie plate.

In a large frying pan or skillet, heat up about 4 tablespoons of peanut oil over a medium heat until it shimmers. Add the olive oil just before you begin pan frying the meatballs.

To make the meatballs, scoop anywhere from one to two tablespoons of the mixture and form it into a ball.  Roll in the breadcrumbs and set aside until you’ve made as many meatballs as you’d like. This recipe will make about 60 mini-meatballs and 40 small size meatballs or 30 medium size meatballs.

You will likely roll out enough meatballs for two small sheet pans. Leave one the fridge while your frying.

Add the meatballs to the hot oil and leave enough space in between not to create steam. This way you are sure the meatballs will brown fairly evenly. Depending on the size of the meatballs, you will fry each batch anywhere from 8 to 11 minutes. Be sure to mind the frying pan but resist the urge to keep moving them.

My tip for frying meatballs is to do so at intervals.  If you are frying for eight minutes, I turn them every two or four minutes.

These meatballs are great by themselves as an appetizer served at room temperature. They are great in a marinara over spaghetti or as a meatball hero with marinara and mozzarella, the choice is yours. Enjoy.

For Vegans, the best product is Beyond Beef Ground. It has the texture and the taste to sing in this recipe. As far as vegan Parmesan cheeses, Follow Your Heart Dairy Free Parmesan Cheese, Go Veggie Parmesan grated topping, and Violife Grateable Vegan Parmesan Cheese are good choices in terms of taste.

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