Italian Chicken Meatballs

Chicken meatballs need several things to succeed—good flavor, a bit of fat, “just barely done” cooking, and enough sauce to add another layer of flavor.

Italian Chicken Meatballs
6 servings of 3 meatballs each // 411 calories, 10 net carbs

6 cloves garlic
1 large pasture-raised egg
1 pound pasture-raised skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 tablespoons pesto
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper (10 cranks of a pepper mill)

1 medium onion, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced lengthwise (optional)
20 ounces marinara sauce
6 tablespoons pesto
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (or Gruyère)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Chicken Meatballs: In a food processor, pulse garlic cloves until minced. Add the egg and pulse well. Next, add the chicken, Gruyère, Parmesan, mustard powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and pesto. Process until everything is coarsely ground. Season with salt and pepper. Form into 16 ping pong ball-sized meatballs, then place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in freezer for 10 minutes. Remove from freezer and bake at 400 degrees until just cooked through, 7-9 minutes.

Pesto-Marinara Sauce: If using the onions, cook them in olive oil in a heavy pot over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onion slices are very soft and deep golden brown, about 30-45 minutes.

Add the marinara sauce and pesto. Cook another 10 minutes over low heat. Add meatballs to skillet of sauce and sprinkle with Gruyère. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until meatballs are warmed through and cheese is melty, about 5 minutes. Insert an instant-read thermometer into a meatball to make sure the interior temperature is 165 degrees.

Serve warm, garnished with thyme. Serve with a warm green bean salad and zero-carb shirataki noodles or zucchini “noodles” or mashed cauliflower.