Friends and family often say to me, "Teanna, you need to post simpler things on your blog. Your recipes are too complicated."
And to them I say, "What? You mean people don't like to sweat, curse, and cry in their kitchens while trying to juggle tons of ingredients, 3 burners and an oven like I do?"
But my friends and family are right. Sometimes simple is best. Yes, I like challenging recipes, but there are nights where I just want to throw something together with what is in my pantry.
Oh, and when I say "pantry", I mean "make-shift shelving that hovers between my kitchen and living room". This is New York City. There are no pantries in New York City unless you are a bajillionaire.
Last night, I opened my freezer and stared into its meager depths. Frozen fruit, veggie sausages, ice, frozen mocha buttercream (Seriously. I don't even know if you can freeze buttercream, but I did), short ribs... ah! Ground chicken. I always keep ground chicken on hand to make my favorite go-to, simple dish: Chicken Meatballs.
I normally serve these chicken meatballs as a salad atop arugula and sprinkled with fontina cheese with a basil pesto vinaigrette, which was inspired by a favorite lunch place of mine, Penelopes (I love to adapt salads that I have at restaurants). But this time, I wanted something different. I rummaged through my make-shift shelving. I have 15 different types of pasta (all people should have 15 different types of pasta. You'll never know when the mood will strike for trottoloni. I'm still not even sure what trottolini is, but I bought it because it looked cool), but grabbed what tugged at my heartstrings: spaghetti. I plucked a can of San Marzano pomodori pelati (whole peeled tomatoes) from the shelves, grabbed some fresh arugula and a half a ball of mozzarella from the fridge, and, finally, a head of garlic. I didn't know where I was going, but I knew wherever I ended up, it would be delicious.
I ended up making a quick sauce out of the tomatoes (sans juice), garlic, and a bit of olive oil and tossed my al dente spaghetti with said sauce and some fresh arugula. I shaved some fresh mozzarella on top and topped my dish with three tender chicken meatballs. I was in heaven.
So no crying, cursing, and very little sweating went on in my kitchen that night. Maybe I'll start to like the simpler things.
Spaghetti tossed with Spicy Tomatoes and Arugula with Chicken Meatballs
For the Meatballs:
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
For the Sauce:
1 35-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano, preferably)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1- pound spaghetti (or other type of macaroni)
1 cup loosely packed asparagus
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
For the Meatballs: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl until just incorporated. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roll meatballs into 12 balls, approximately 2" in diameter.
Arrange meatballs approximately 2" apart on baking sheets. Bake for 20-minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
For the Sauce: Remove the whole tomatoes from the can. Reserve the juice for another use. Roughly chop tomatoes (keep the juices that come out of the tomatoes for the sauce). Set aside.
Heat 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When glistening, add garlic and cook until garlic is brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes (and their juices) to pan and let cook for 2 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add parsley and red pepper. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside until ready to use.
To Assemble: Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and add arugula. Toss with sauce until arugula is just wilted. Sprinkle mozzarella atop spaghetti and serve immediately.