Saucy Chicken and Arugula Meatballs

In Italy, meatballs are usually made with beef or veal, browned, simmered in a simple sauce, then served with bread and a green salad. These are made with chicken and arugula, a popular Italian combination, but not one generally used in meatballs. Making the meatballs small ensures that they cook quickly and that the sauce maintains its fresh taste.

slideshow Great Comfort Food Recipes

  • Servings: 4
KEY: Spring, Winter, American, Italian, Make Ahead, Dinner

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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sautéeing the meatballs
  • 3 thin slices pancetta or bacon (about 2 ounces), chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large bunch arugula (about 6 ounces), stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
  • One 35-ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes with juice, coarsely chopped in a food processor
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

How to make this recipe

  1. In a large nonreactive skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the pancetta and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the arugula and cook, stirring, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, bread crumbs, cheese, capers, egg, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Add the arugula mixture and beat until well blended. Roll the mixture by teaspoonfuls into 3/4-inch balls.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil. Add half of the meatballs in a single layer and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned all over, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a large plate. Discard the fat and wipe out the skillet.
  4. In the same skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the Cognac, raise the heat to high and cook until evaporated. Add the tomatoes and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick, about 8 minutes.
  5. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer over low heat just until heated though, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead

The meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated separately for up to 1 day. Return both to room temperature before proceeding to Step 5.

Suggested Pairing

The capers and pancetta in this dish call for a meaty, acidic Italian Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese blend, such as Capezzana Carmignano or Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco.

Contributed By Published May 1997

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