Chicken, Spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano Balls With Sautéed Tomatoes

A day with two very active kids is already strenuous but that doesn't compare to having one meal with them.  If I am preparing a dish that's a little bit out of the ordinary, or has one of the many ingredients, a hint of a flavor or even color that both kids don't like, expect a rollercoaster ride through dinner. 

My 7-year old son has a very straightforward classic Italian palate.  The kind that's surprisingly too mature for his age.  He eats almost everything now (we went through hard years too) but when he sees anything white or anything artificially colored like blue, in his plate, he freaks out.  He loves his chicken cooked with Marsala wine, his salad dressed with white balsamic vinegar, broccoli, beans, lentils, spaghetti con la bottarga (grey mullet roe), spaghetti con le vongole (clams) and McDonald's chicken nuggets packed in a Happy Meal box.  How do I compete with that?  

My 2-year old (almost 3) daughter on the other hand, copies everything that her big brother does and to my dismay, also his love for chicken nuggets.  Aside from chicken nuggets, she eats a LOT of bread, white rice and white pasta dressed with extra virgin olive oil and mixed with parmigiano reggiano.  If her brother doesn't like white and blue in his food, she doesn't like green and sometimes brown in hers.  Go figure.  She lacks the proper nutrients in her diet which worries us a great deal.  

I had some frozen spinach in the freezer and some fresh chicken.  I was very hopeful that both kids would give these chicken balls a chance.  If they don't like the tomatoes I prepared, I thought ketchup should do the trick.  They just came out too green but when covered with breadcrumbs, fried and smothered with ketchup, they became almost unnoticeable. 

Our meal was miraculously quiet for once with just an occasional request for more ketchup or water.  They both ate an impressive amount.  After the meal, my husband turned to me and asked me to please write down the recipe immediately before I forget it because those chicken balls should go back to our table very soon again.  A nice, quiet family dinner without any complaints from both camps is unheard of in our house.  

If you have little ones like mine, give this a try.  Chicken and spinach have mild flavors so adding the parmigiano reggiano, which both kids love, gave it a big boost in taste.  I wanted to cook them in the oven at the beginning but I thought frying them in extra virgin olive oil can give more taste because that is what I am after.  I will cook some in the oven next time to check the difference.  

Chicken, Spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano Balls With Sautéed Tomatoes

Makes around 40 balls 
  • 500 grams ground white chicken meat
  • 50 grams Parmesan, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 150 grams spinach, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw first then squeeze to send away excess water), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain breadcrumbs (put up the amount if the balls don't hold up the shape) + more for shaping the balls
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 150 grams cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • Fresh basil leaves
    1. In a large bowl, mix the ground chicken, Parmesan, spinach, egg, 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Mix well until it is compact.
    2. Shape little balls with the mixture then coat them with breadcrumbs. Set aside.
    3. In a saucepan, over medium heat, sautè the tomatoes in olive oil for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves at the end of cooking then set aside.
    4. Over medium - high heat, in big shallow saucepan with olive oil, fry the chicken balls until all sides are golden brown. You can also deep fry them in a deep fryer with a lot of oil like peanut or sunflower.
    5. When they are cooked, transfer them to a plate with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
    6. Serve the chicken balls together with the tomatoes.