A few weeks ago I was visiting New York City and a friend suggested we visit The Meatball Shop. I was excited because The Meatball Shop was in Brooklyn, which meant I could escape from the borough-of-tall-buildings (aka Manhattan) to the borough-that-reminds-me-of-Chicago (aka Brooklyn). Not only did I enjoy the getaway, but I ate the most incredible meatball pesto sandwich. The meatballs were juicy and bursting with flavour and the pesto was creamy yet fresh. It was obvious that every component in the sandwich was made with fresh, well-sourced ingredients—The Meatball Shop buys mozzarella from Calabro and produce from J. Glebocki Farm / Sheldon Farms. While the shop serves only meatballs it doesn’t just serve sandwiches; they serve meatballs ‘naked’, on top of a salad, or as sliders. The meatball options range from spicy pork to buffalo chicken and the sauces include Parmesan cream, pesto, and spicy meat sauce.
While The Meatball Shop is affordable for dining out in New York City, I knew my wallet would be in trouble if they opened shop in Chicago. So instead of trying to persuade the owners to open here, I decided to make a more affordable version of the chicken meatballs myself. I generally struggle when trying to recreate restaurant dishes at home; I can’t capture the ‘wow factor’ that made the dish so amazing at the restaurant. Luckily, this recipe was a shining exception.
The white wine in the recipe gives way to juicy balls while highlighting the natural flavor of the meat, the fennel provides a nice kick, and the egg allows them to be easily molded into perfect spheres. The version served at The Meatball Shop calls for ground chicken thighs, but the grocery store near my apartment was out of ground chicken so I opted for ground dark turkey—a cheap and satisfactory substitute. To save money I also made breadcrumbs using old bread that came with a cup of soup I purchased the previous week; the homemade breadcrumbs made the meatballs more tender than store-bought bread crumbs.
The first time I ate the meatballs I made a sandwich with pesto and mozzarella. Although delicious, I felt that the bread covered up some of the wonderful meatball flavor so I devoured the rest of the meatballs ‘naked’ with a side of pesto dipping sauce.
Alex Milling is a recent graduate of Northwestern University and cannot wait to try another meatball shop recipe.
Adapted from a recipe by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow
Total Cost: $6.76
Cost per Serving: $1.69
1 pound ground dark turkey – $2.99
1/2 tablespoon salt – in-stock
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, ground – in-stock
1/2 teaspoon black pepper – in-stock
1/8 cup white wine – $0.99
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped – $1.79
1/4 cup breadcrumbs – in-stock
1 egg – $0.17
2 tablespoons olive oil – in-stock
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cover sheet with olive oil.
Combine turkey, salt, fennel, pepper, wine, parsley, bread crumbs, and egg in a large bowl. Mix with hands until well combined. With hands mold into round, golf ball-size meatballs and place on baking sheet.
Drizzle remaining olive oil over meatballs and roast about 14 minutes. Let cool for five minutes and then remove from tray and enjoy.