Meatballs are one of my favorite foods. I like them with any kind of meat and enjoy several vegetarian versions as well. I was taught how to make authentic Italian meatballs by my best friend’s mom, many years ago on a ski vacation. She showed me how to add milk to bread and squeeze out the excess liquid and to brown the meatballs in the skillet, before adding them to the sauce. I still incorporate most of these techniques today, whether I am making her Sicilian meatballs, or this dish of Chicken Meatball Rigatoni.
Rigatoni is a large cylinder shaped pasta, which soaks up marinara and can handle the flavors of the chicken meatballs. Rigatoni is one of those noodles that you usually use in Baked Ziti or other baked casseroles. The cheesy component of the dish is fresh mozzarella, which get gooey in the oven after baking.
This is not a complicated meal to make and it is absolutely delicious. It’s perfect to feed a crowd for a Social Sunday dinner and you might even have some leftovers for lunch during the week. I love to serve my Chicken Meatball Rigatoni with a light salad and some Italian red wine like a Sangiovese or Chianti.
1 pound ground chicken
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup fresh Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 jar Marinara sauce, homemade preferably
1 pound Rigatoni pasta
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Boil the Rigatoni for 10 minutes and drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
2. In a bowl, add ground chicken, Panko, Italian seasoning, Ricotta, Parmesan, milk, egg, salt and red pepper flakes. Using your hands, gently fold ingredients together. In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and place over medium heat. Shape meatballs into 2-inch balls and cook in the pan for 3 minutes. Flip meatballs over and place the lid on top to steam for 5 minutes.
3. Pour the marinara over meatballs and stir to combine. Turn the heat to simmer, cover pan with lid and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Dump cooked Rigatoni over meatballs and toss to combine. Pour the Chicken Meatball Rigatoni in an oven safe dish and dot with fresh mozzarella.
5. Place dish in oven for 10-12 minutes, cook until the mozzarella is melted. Sprinkle Chicken Meatball Rigatoni with fresh basil and serve. Enjoy!