The term CASSEROLE refers to both a baking dish and the ingredients it contains. My husband, and others for that matter, seem to cringe at the thought of a CASSEROLE for dinner? Why?
We love meatballs, but do not like the disaster of eating a sub sandwich stuffed with an unsteady red sauce; it usually ends up all over me.
This dish works because…
Using chicken, we make the meatballs leaner and more healthy. The sauce being confined to a casserole dish, allows you to enjoy the accompaniment with each bite-sized meatball.
The bread and cheese become enhancements to the dish, making the meat the main attraction in each forkful.
Serve with a simple, side salad and you get a delicious dinner for two.
A casserole’s ingredients can include meat, vegetables, beans, rice and anything else the cook desires. Often a topping such as cheese or breadcrumbs is added for texture and flavor.
Every kitchen should be equipped with both a 2-quart and 3-quart casserole dish, preferably with lids; however, aluminum foil can work in a pinch.
I own plenty of casserole dishes; unfortunately, I do not have individual portion dishes. Therefore, I prepared the Chicken Meatball Sub Casserole recipe in one larger dish, dividing it into individual portions before serving.
Joy of Cooking declares our preconceived thought of a casserole, as described above is actually a “mock casserole.”
“Mock Casserole – a mixture of several foods, once of which may be a pasta or rice in a sauce. The mixture is often precooked or consists of a combination of precooked and quick-cooking food; and it is served in the baking dish in which it was heated.” –Joy of Cooking
Joy of Cooking declares TRUE CASSEROLING, is placing a tight-fitting lid on the baking dish. “Generous quantities of butter, fat or oil are added, and sometimes a small amount of stock. The stock, plus juices from the food, condenses on the lid and supplies a self-basting effect. A very long, low-temperature cook takes place, barely a simmer, creating a delicious residue; the residue is degreased and deglazed, which forms a sauce for the dish. This is also called à l’étouffée.” (Joy of Cooking, Rombauer, 1931)
Chicken Meatball Sub Casserole
Topped with a baguette slice, or two, and covered in melted, gooey provolone cheese, makes for a hearty, comforting meal.
- 8 oz. ground chicken
- 1/4 cup grated onion & 1/2 cup grated onion - divided
- 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 Tbsp. parsley
- 1 Tbsp. basil
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 can, 14.5 oz crushed tomatoes
- 2 - 4 slices from a French bread baguett
- 4 - 6 slices provolone cheese
- Salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp & 1 Tbsp. olive oil - divided
- Preheat oven to 400º
- Spray a 3 - 4 cup shallow baking dish with cooking spray.
TO MAKE THE MEATBALLS
- In a large bowl combine the chicken, 1/4 cup grated onion, all the bread crumbs, all the parsley, basil and the egg.
- Lightly season with salt and pepper.
- Use a small meatball scoop. Scoop mixture into separate meatballs. Should be about 18-20 meatballs.
- Place meatballs on a baking sheet which has been covered in parchment paper for easy clean up.
- Freeze meatballs for about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from freezer and heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet.
- Cook meatballs over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes per side, just till brown.
- Transfer meatballs to a plate.
- Pour our all but 1 Tbsp of grease. Place skillet back on medium-high heat.
TO MAKE THE SAUCE
- Add to hot skillet, remaining 1/2 cup grated onion, fresh garlic and tomato paste.
- Stir, heat for about 1 minute until combined.
- Stir in crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper.
- Place meatballs in bottom of shallow baking dish.
- Pour heated sauce over meatballs making one even level of food in the dish.
- Brush both sides of sliced baguette bread with a little olive oil.
- Place baking dish at one end of sheet pan. Place sliced bread on baking sheet.
- Bake for 7 minutes. Flip bread and bake 8 minutes more.
- Remove from oven.
- Place bread on top of meatballs in baking dish.
- Top the bread with the provolone cheese, overlapping cheese, if necessary.
- Set broiler to HIGH and cook until cheese melts. Watch closely should only take 4-5 minutes.
- Using knife or spatula, separate casserole into two halves; making sure 2 slices of bread are in each portion.
- Divide between two plates. Drizzle over any additional sauce left in the baking dish. Serve.
Recipe has been modified from originally appearing in October 2014 issue of Cuisine for Two