Meatballs Worthy of Grandma’s Gravy

This week’s meal makeover sets its eyes on the beloved meatball. With a slightly lighter texture than traditional varieties, our reinvented chicken meatballs are just as versatile as the original. Moist and flavorful, these meatballs are great as a stand-alone appetizer or the perfect companion to whole-wheat pasta and sauce.

Contrary to popular belief, meatballs are not solely claimed by Italian cuisine; they have played a part in the culinary history of many cultures. Food historians cannot say for sure where the first meatball originated, but Apicius, an ancient Roman gourmet born in 25 AD, references the dish in an early cookbook.

As with traditional meatballs, the egg and breadcrumbs in this recipe act as a binder and allow the mixture to retain a moist texture. Whole-wheat breadcrumbs are used to increase the fiber and a hint of Parmesan cheese imparts a notable richness.

While fresh herbs are always a great addition, given its moistness, this is one dish where use of dried seasonings is recommended.

One of the secrets to a great tasting meatball is in the molding of the meat. Make sure your meatballs are firm enough to bind together, but beware of packing them too densely. While the meatballs should be cooked thoroughly, be sure not to overcook them as they may become dry and less tender.

This recipe makes about two-dozen petite meatballs. Double the recipe and freeze the extra meatballs to help hasten your prep time for next time. Because once you taste them, they’re destined to become a family favorite.

Chicken Meatballs - Makes 6 servings (4 meatballs per serving).

1 lb. ground chicken breast
1 egg
1/2 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl. Hand-knead mixture until evenly mixed. Make 1-inch balls from mixture.

Using a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over high heat. Cook meatballs until all sides are browned, about 8 or 9 minutes.

Remove with slotted spoon and place on a plate covered with paper towels. Add to your favorite homemade spaghetti sauce and serve.

Per serving: 190 calories, 9 g total fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 0 g carbohydrates, 15 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 250 mg sodium.

The Author:

AICR offers a Nutrition Hotline (1-800-843-8114) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday-Friday. This free service allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR is the only major cancer charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. It provides a range of education programs that help Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. It has provided more than $65 million for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR’s Web address is www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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