Sicilian inspired chicken meatballs in bell pepper tomato sauce

Sicilian chicken meatball

Chicken meatballs. I once thought these were sacrilegious.  Too healthy, lean and dry, and worst off, untraditional. My thinking of food, thankfully, continues to evolve. And if you’re a current believer that chicken meatballs are second-rate to beef/pork meatballs, I hope this recipe changes your mind.

This recipe for chicken meatballs makes sure the meatballs are full of flavor and moisture. Capers, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, and more are stuffed into the meatball. These also introduce notes of Sicilian flavors. The bursts of brine from the capers adds spark whilst the texture and sweet radiance from the sun-dried tomato shines. The milk soaked bread and eggs make sure this meatball remains succulent and soft. Nobody likes a hard meatball. The bell pepper tomato sauce is a bit different. The bell peppers give it a slightly sweeter taste. And it helps counterbalance the anchovy filets (also Sicilian) that are in the tomato sauce to create a simple, yet sweet and savory tomato sauce. And of course, pecorino cheese is the only one that will do to top of this Sicilian-ness.

Chicken meatballs will receive their due with this plate. This will turn heads.

Sicilian chicken meatballs

Sicilian chicken meatballs in bell pepper tomato sauce

Ingredients (serves 8):

For the chicken meatballs:

  • 2 lbs ground chicken 
  • 2 cups Italian bread, stale & torn
  • 2/3 – 1 cup milk
  • Handful, store-bought Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 pecorino cheese
  • 2-4 eggs
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt / Pepper

For the bell pepper tomato sauce:

  • 2 cans of canned whole tomatoes
  • 4-6 anchovy filets
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Handful, parsley
  • Touch of butter
  • Salt / Pepper

Prepare and form the meatballs first. In a bowl, pour the milk over the Italian bread chunks. Have the milk soften the bread for at least 15 minutes. Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until soft. In a large mixing bowl, add all the chicken meatball ingredients. Start first with only 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons olive oil. And before incorporating the bread soaked in milk, give the bread a bit of squeeze to forgo some of the excess diary.

Roll up your sleeves and mix the poultry up. This is where interpretation, your nose, and your feel come in and personalizes up the recipe a bit. Add more egg if the mixture feels too loose. Add more olive oil or milk or bread soaked in milk if it feels too dry. Add more breadcrumbs if it is too wet. And add more herbs or seasoning if the fragrance is not dancing around your nose as it should. Season the final mixture aggressively with salt and pepper.

Form the Sicilian chicken meatballs. Use the palm of your hands to shape them into slightly smaller than baseball sized. Place the meatballs onto a large baking sheet. Cover slightly with plastic wrap and place into refrigerator for a minimum 10-15 mins.

While the meatballs rest, prepare the anchovy and bell pepper tomato sauce. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the anchovy filets in olive oil. The filets will melt into the olive. Add the butter, bell peppers, onions, and garlic. Gently sauté for 10-15 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and tomato paste. Incorporate these into the vegetables. Then pour in the canned tomatoes. Season with parsley, salt and pepper and turn the heat to low. Cover the lid and have it simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.

When the sauce is all finished simmering away, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the chicken meatballs for 15 minutes. Then turn the broiler to hi and have them broil for another 5 minutes. We want a crust to form, if possible. Add the chicken meatballs to the sauce and have it simmer in the sauce for another 10-15 minutes.

Serve, hot or cold, with a sprinkle of pecorino cheese, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Step 4, sun dried tomatoes


Step 5, eggs and cheese


Step 6, bread crumbs


Chicken meatballs, pre cooking


Chicken meatballs, cooked


Chicken meatballs in sauce


Sicilian chicken meatball

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