Mozzarella stuffed chicken meatballs with roasted tomato sauce

Preparation time
less than 30 mins

Cooking time
1 to 2 hours

Serves
Serves 4



From Saturday Kitchen

Ingredients

For the tomato sauce

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 100ml/3½fl oz red or white wine
  • 1 x 400g tin tomatoes
  • pinch of sugar (optional)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 500g/1lb 2oz fresh plum tomatoes, halved
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the meatballs

  • 750g/1lb 10oz chicken mince, made up of half breast meat and half thigh meat
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 50g/1¾oz breadcrumbs
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • 50ml/2fl oz double cream
  • 30g/1oz Parmesan, finely grated
  • generous grating of nutmeg
  • 20 mini mozzarella balls, plus extra for topping
  • 16 basil leaves

To serve

  • 200g/7oz pappardelle
  • 75g/2¾oz Parmesan, grated
  • few basil leaves

Method

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion. Gently fry until very soft and translucent, then add the garlic and oregano. Cook for a further minute, and then pour in the wine. Allow to bubble up for a minute or two, then turn down the heat and add the tinned tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Leave to simmer, covered, for as long as you can, but at least 1 hour, checking regularly and adding a splash of water if it appears to be getting dry. After the first 20 minutes, check the tomatoes for sweetness and add a pinch of sugar if you think they need it.

  2. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.

  3. Meanwhile, put the remaining olive oil and the balsamic vinegar into a roasting tin and season with salt and pepper. Mix, then coat the fresh tomatoes in the olive oil mixture. Roast for about 30 minutes or until soft.

  4. Put the roasted tomatoes in a sieve and press the flesh through into the tomato saucepan, extract every bit of lovely flavour from these beauties. Keep the oven on to cook the meatballs.

  5. To make the meatballs, put the chicken mince in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and add the onion. Fry gently until very soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Allow to cool a little then add to the chicken.

  6. Add the oregano, breadcrumbs, egg, cream, Parmesan and nutmeg to the chicken. Mix very thoroughly. Divide the mixture into 20 balls.

  7. Thoroughly drain the mozzarella balls. Flatten each meatball. Wrap each ball of mozzarella in a basil leaf and put in the middle of the meatball. Wrap the meat around the mozzarella and basil until it is completely enclosed. Shape gently into a sphere.

  8. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs on each side until well browned.

  9. Transfer the meatballs to an ovenproof dish and pour over the tomato sauce – they will not be completely covered. Slice the remaining mozzarella and arrange over the sauce, then grate over some more Parmesan. Bake in the preheated oven for around 20-25 minutes until piping hot.

  10. While the meatballs are baking, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Serve together, with more Parmesan grated over if you like. A few perky basil leaves on top look good too.

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