Pull up a chair and let’s unwind, shall we? And how ’bout we do it over mini nibbles, a glass of wine, wonderful company and good conversation?
I was introduced to meatballs paired with peperonata just a few weeks ago while visiting Chels in California. Right after Thanksgiving Dom attended a conference in San Diego; I went along, and together, we got to extend our holiday celebration with Miss Chelsea. Now that she’s living on the west coast, we plan to take advantage of any opportunity we have to spend time with her.
During our final evening, we enjoyed a beautiful dinner in Santa Barbara. In typical fashion, we ordered a couple appetizers to share, and I (no surprise) ordered the meatballs. So predictable.
While nibbling away I got to thinking that this dish would make a nice appetizer for the holidays.
Though meatballs are oh so perfect on their own…or swimming in marinara…or rolled in a crust of bread – there’s something special about luscious little meatballs cradled in a stew made of bright bell peppers, sweet onions and tender tomatoes that makes my heart skip a tiny beat.
The flavors that make up peperonata are intense, and the technique for making it, simple. I’m planning to prepare a double batch over the weekend and refrigerating until Christmas Eve. A lovely thing about peperonata is that the longer it sits, the deeper its flavor becomes, making it a nice choice for a dish that can be made ahead of time. We have everybody who’s in town coming over this year and I’m excited to share this dish with them.
Peperonata can be served wherever you might dish up tomato sauce or maybe even beyond. It’s easy to be creative with a dish that’s so versatile. We’re pairing it with chicken meatballs today but I could imagine it over chicken breast, under scrambled eggs, mixed with fried potatoes or aloft spicy cappicola on a crusty ciabatta roll. The possibilities are endless.
I don’t normally make chicken meatballs but the idea to do something a little different appealed to me. I used my recipe for meatballs but added a little more cheese. The chicken brings a nice light flavor, however, if you’re partial to a traditional beef-y meatball – that would be gorgeous (tasting), too.
I know I’m making a case for this dish as an appetizer, but it would also make for a charming dinner. A crisp side salad, a buttered Italian roll, a glass of vino, a little Sinatra – lovely…
Have a great weekend, my friends!
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 1 sweet onion, sliced thin
- 1 large garlic clove, sliced
- 4 bell peppers, cut into strips
- 2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 - 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 2 lbs. ground chicken
- ¾ cup grated Romano cheese
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- For the peperonata, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil.
- Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir in the bell peppers and cook until just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and cook until the peppers are tender and the sauce thickens, about 25 minutes more.
- Add in the vinegar and red pepper flakes and stir.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with parsley.
- Set aside.
- In the meantime, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs in a large mixing bowl.
- Shape the mixture into small rounds and place them on a very lightly oiled baking sheet.
- Bake for roughly 20 minutes.
- Serve meatballs with the peperonata and sliced Italian bread.