Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Parmesan. For some reason that's all I can think of. Until now! I had an epiphany... a vision. "Why not meatball Parmesan?", I thought. This came out soooo good. It took a little prep, but it was WORTH IT!
For the meatball mix:
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1-2 sprigs fresh oregano
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground veal
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 2 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 cup shredded provolone
- 2 Tbls grated parmesan, or pecorino romano, more to finish
- 1 egg
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup bread crumbs (Mix of Panko and fresh toasted bread crumbs)
- 2 Tbls olive oil
- Salt and pepper
In a large pan over medium-high heat, saute the onions in olive oil until translucent, about 5 min. Meanwhile, tie the thyme and oregano sprigs together with kitchen twine. Add the red bell pepper, garlic and herb bundle to the pan and continue to cook another 5 min, stirring often. Season lightly with salt and pepper, stir and take off the heat to cool. Remove herb bundle once cool.
Add beef, veal and pork (you can sub other meat(s) if you like) to a large bowl, season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper, and stir just to incorporate the different meats. Add next 7 ingredients, (parsley through egg) as well as the cooled onion-pepper mixture, and mix with your hands to incorporate. Add 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, and continue to mix with your hands. Add more breadcrumbs, until you get a firm, yet moist meatball that holds it's shape. Let the mixture chill in the fridge for about 15 min.
Once chilled, form 1 1/2" ball, (I use an ice cream scoop) and place on a sheet pan. Chill in fridge, covered, until ready to use. Meanwhile make the tomato sauce...
For the tomato sauce:
(adapted from New Classic Family Dinners by Mark Peel)
- 3 Tbls olive oil
- 4-6 garlic cloves (green roots removed), thinly sliced
- 1- 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed and strained of seeds (reserve juices)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1/4 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
- 1- Handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced
Heat the olive oil with the sliced garlic in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat and simmer the garlic gently until transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ½ teaspoon salt, and the pepper and simmer 45 minutes, stirring often to make sure the sauce does not stick to the pan, until thick. Be sure to crush the tomatoes with the back of your spoon to get a finer texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir in the basil and remove from the heat. Allow the basil to infuse for 15 minutes or longer, then remove. This will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator, and freezes well.
Making Meatball Parmesan:
- 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (Panko and fresh-toasted breadcrumbs)
- 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbls grated parmesan
- 2 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbls Italian dressing
- Oil for pan-frying
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup shredded provolone
- Reserved warm tomato sauce
Preheat the oven to 350º
Set up a "breading" station by placing the flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in one pie dish. Then, in another pie plate, add the breadcrumbs, remaining salt and pepper, parmesan and parsley and stir. Finally, whisk the eggs with the Italian dressing, in another bowl and set aside.
Prepare a frying pan with about 1/2" of oil, over medium heat. (You want the temp to be around 325º-350º)
Take the meatballs out of the fridge, and set up your breading station. Dip the meatballs into the flour mixture, and shake off excess flour. Dip each floured ball quickly into the egg wash, and the roll in the breadcrumb-herb mixture. Place meatballs back onto the sheet pan. When ready to fry, rest a cookie rack on a sheet pan and set aside.
Fry the meatballs in the pan, (DO NOT overload the pan!) about 3 minutes per side, until nice and crispy-brown. Place meatballs onto the cookie sheet pan setup, and place in oven until ready, about 5 min. Meatballs should firm to touch.
On a parchment-lined sheet pan place 3 meatballs in a tight triangle, and drizzle them with a spoonful of sauce. Add a small handful of cheese, and repeat the process. Place them in the oven, for about another 10 minutes until you are happy with the melted cheese. Scoop this onto bread, spaghetti, a plate, your hands. : ) Serve with more sauce.