Meatballs! Everybody loves them and every culture has their own version. The Italians have polpettas, Mexicans have albondigas, and there is an Indian recipe for meatballs in cashew gravy that is on my list of things to make soon. I’ve been making meatballs with my mom since I was a kid and they were always the same–breadcrumbs, some mix of beef, lamb and veal or pork, eggs, parsley, garlic and onions with a few variations (one favorite when we were kids was to stuff them with cream cheese and deep fry them–awesome, but heart stopping!). Since then my go-to recipe has been from the Rao’s cookbook and I can pretty much make them in my sleep now. My son has been asking for spaghetti and meatballs for days and today I was rifling through the freezer and found some marinara sauce I froze a couple of weeks ago (click here for that recipe) and a package of ground chicken. I thought, why not?? Though not commonly used for meatballs, the ground chicken is not the mystery ingredient in this recipe. The mystery ingredient is….wait for it…..instant mashed potatoes! Weird right? But so tasty in a meatball! Who knew?! First of all I feel compelled to state that I have never made instant mashed potatoes at home before and wouldn’t usually have them in my cabinet. However when Hurricane Irene passed through CT I got them as part of my easy to make stash in case we were starving and without power. They never got used but I hate to waste anything so I still have them. Anyway, they found their way into these meatballs because I needed a gluten free starch component and this seemed like a fun experiment. These were tasty right out of the pan but when simmered in sauce for a couple of hours they really became sublime.
Makes about 16 1-inch meatballs
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 cup instant mashed potatoes
1/2 yellow onion finely diced or pureed
1 small garlic clove minced
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 egg lightly beaten
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup lukewarm water
Olive oil for frying
Combine ground chicken, potatoes, onion, garlic, parsley and cheese. Add the beaten egg and water then season with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick saute pan and cook a small test piece of the mixture. Cook thoroughly and taste to be sure the seasoning is right. Adjust as necessary and form the rest of the meatballs. Saute them in the olive oil turning as they brown. If you are adding them to the sauce for a bit before eating then it’s OK if they are slightly pink in the middle because they will finish cooking in the sauce, but if you want to eat them immediately make sure they are thoroughly cooked in the olive oil. Even though they are fried in a small amount of olive oil, these are relatively low fat in comparison to your average meatball. If you are serious about low fat then these can be baked to further reduce the calories and you could also omit the Parmesan cheese.
Gluten free, kid friendly and just plain yummy!