This recipe is a change from the traditional meatball recipe.  The meatballs and sauce are great with pasta, but taste great over rice as well.  The chicken meatballs are a little on the wet side when you roll them, but this helps to keep them a bit more tender during the cooking process.  I bake the meatballs which is a bit healthier than frying, but you could fry them as well if you desire.  Serve with plenty of extra parmesan cheese for an enjoyable family dinner.

Makes about 24 hearty meatballs, serves 4-6


for meatballs:

  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • 3 slices cooked, chopped bacon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 2 large eggs, gently beat
  • 4 minced scallions
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
  • 1 thick slice Italian bread (crusts removed), soaked in milk
  • kosher salt and pepper

for mushroom tomato sauce:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 24 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons vodka
  • 1 large bunch basil, leaves torn, plus extra for garnish
  • kosher sat and pepper to taste


for sauce:

Heat olive oil and butter on medium heat.  Add onions and sauté for several minutes until translucent and fragrant.  Add mushrooms and garlic and continue to sauté until mushrooms have released their juices.  Add tomatoes, bayleaf, torn basil leaves and vodka.  Season with salt and pepper and oregano.  Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover and lower heat allowing sauce to cook down (at least 20 minutes, but a couple of hours is even better as it enhances the flavor of the sauce)

for meatballs:

Prepare your meatballs while sauce is simmering.  Preheat oven to 400.  In a small bowl, combine milk and bread and allow the bread to soak up all the liquid.  Place all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix with your hands to incorporate all the ingredients and get then well distributed.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roll a heaping tablespoon of chicken meatball mixture in the palm of your hand into a ball and place on prepared sheet about 1 inch apart.  The mixture will be moist. You can prep the meatballs to this point and refrigerate them until you are ready to bake if needed.   Bake the meatballs for about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to red sauce.  Allow meatballs to stew in sauce on low uncovered for an additional 20 minutes. Garnish sauce with plenty of fresh basil.  Serve over pasta or rice.