14 March 2013

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta

I don’t believe there’s a single person who doesn’t like meatballs. Not even vegetarians.

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta | Pavlova's Dog

Sure, they might choose not to eat them, but that doesn’t mean that converted vegetarians don’t miss them, or that lifelong herbivores don’t strive to create similarly good alternatives (I’m lookin’ at you, falafels).

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta | Pavlova's Dog

Because, as Jim Gaffigan once wisely said, when you break it down what is a meatball Sub but six cheeseburgers rolled into balls on an extra-long bun? Meatballs are the lie we tell ourselves that we’re not stuffing our face with multiple hamburgers because that would be greedy. We’re just having a portion of meatballs for dinner. (It probably doesn’t help that I scaled the ingredients up when making this so it makes about three dozen 1 ½ inch diameter meatballs).

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta | Pavlova's Dog

Oh, Jim Gaffigan has also had some other great thoughts on Subway which are worth watching.

I’m going to move on from that topic now though, because I don’t want any lingering association between the sad water-logged meat they serve in Subway and these chicken meatballs I’m about to write about. Because they are incomparable and mine win, sorry Subway (not really).

Plus, now even Ikea's are off rotation! I'm distraught. I actually need to go to buy a wardrobe but I'll never convince James to take me there now that my most cunning bribery option has galloped away.

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta | Pavlova's Dog

I stole and adapted the recipe from other recipes for Italian wedding soup. Yes, wedding soup is a thing! It’s comprised of mini chicken meatballs in a minestrone-style tomato broth with vegetables and small pasta shapes like stellini, served in bowls under a mountain of Parmesan. A pretty strong incentive for any commitment-phobes to take the plunge.

Only I didn’t want mini meatballs in soup. And I didn’t want them out of soup because I didn’t want them to resemble Popcorn Chicken (stop talking about fast food, Becca) and I also didn’t want to spend hours rolling tiny spheres of ground chicken. So I’ve a larger version, which will take less preparation time and comes with no nuptial commitments but retains all the good flavours.

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta | Pavlova's Dog

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta | Pavlova's Dog
There’s eggs and breadcrumbs, because we’ve got to bind this somehow. There’s parsley, because it goes so well with chicken. And parmesan, because it goes so well with chicken. Garlic, salt, and pepper, because they go so well with chicken. Then I added my own extras – a sprinkle of chili pepper (because it goes so well with chicken), and a last-minute moment-of-inspiration grating of lemon zest (because, duh, it goes so well with chicken).

And because I was feeling fancy, I made some creamy polenta on the side! I really was feeling fancy because this polenta was a present from Venice and has been sitting on our kitchen shelf waiting for a worthy occasion to be opened.

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta | Pavlova's Dog

So polenta is also good. Look at the ingredients list: winning combo. And - importantly, I feel - it changes the dish significantly from looking like a 6" Sub.

Let's have one more mouth-watering photo, then onto the recipes!

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta | Pavlova's Dog

Can you handle one more photo? Go on, indulge me and LOOK AT THAT FACE.

Chicken Meatballs and Creamy Polenta (and Lola) | Pavlova's Dog

Chicken Meatballs
Adapted (i.e.: enlarged) from the magnificent Jessica at How Sweet It Is

Yield: Around 16 meatballs, enough for 4-5 as a main dish
Time: 30 minutes

  • 1 lb (450g) chicken breasts
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley (or a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (the Parmesan is already adding salt to the dish!)
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon dried red chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (the zest from about half a medium-sized lemon) (Also optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • To begin, we need to mince the chicken breasts. Unless you can find pre-minced chicken, which I couldn’t. Simply cut into chunks and pulse in the food processor until all chunks have been pulverized. Stop while it still has some texture – we don’t want it to become a paste.
  • Add all ingredients into a large bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Take about an ice cream scoop’s worth of mixture and roll into a ball with your hands. Make sure it’s spherical and holding together but don’t pack too densely.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan until hot. We want to sear the meatballs on all sides and get a nice browned colour on their exteriors, and depending on how many you make/ how large the pan is, you may have to do this in batches.
  • Put seared meatballs on a foiled-lined baking sheet and cook for 6-8 minutes at 180°C/350°F until cooked through (or when a meat thermometer registers 165°F when inserted into one of the meatballs).

Creamy Polenta

Serves: 4
Time: 15 minutes

1 cup polenta
1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock
50g unsalted butter
50g (around 1/3 cup) parmesan, grated

  • Heat the chicken stock in a pot over a high heat until bubbling. Add polenta, making sure to whisk continuously to avoid lumps. Continue to whisk until the polenta is fully incorporated.
  • Lower the heat to a low simmer, add the butter, and allow the polenta to cook for around 10-15 minutes. You'll need to stir it occasionally to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • When the polenta has softened and cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan. Serve immediately and top with meatballs!


  1. Love the photos especially the last two.