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It's been well over 50 years since all things parmigiana made their way onto the menus of Italian restaurants in the United States. Back in the day, you could find crispy, breaded veal or chicken cutlets or thick slabs of eggplant covered in tomato sauce and melted mozza, served alongside a pile of spaghetti, in even the ritziest red-sauce establishments.

Today, you're more likely to find it in between a crusty roll at your favorite Italian deli or pizzeria.

Its change of venue hasn't lessened my esteem for it, though. I love almost anything parm, and for that reason, I often find different ways to bring all of its elements — crispy breading, tomato sauce and melted cheese — together.

While the dishes, like this week's Chicken Parmesan Meatballs, may look a little different from its Italian American inspiration, the flavors and textures are the same.

Chicken parm meatballs are a union of two extremely versatile dishes. You can serve both chicken Parmesan and meatballs by themselves, in a sandwich or on top of pasta. For this reason, they are a good thing to have on hand, which is why I developed this recipe to be ultra-friendly for freezing.

It all starts with a meatball that's both flavorful and juicy, two words not often associated with chicken meatballs. To make that happen, I start by soaking breadcrumbs in milk, which binds the ground meat together and holds in the moisture. A generous amount of spices and herbs are added before combining it all with the ground meat.

Next comes the breading. In this case, I'm using panko, which I pre-brown in a hot skillet with a drizzling of olive oil. I do this step often because it makes the crumbs extra crunchy and gives whatever they are coating an even browning. And since I've already "fried" the crumbs, once I've used them to coat the meatballs, I can just pop them into the oven to cook. No need to sauté them to get the critical crispy crust.

If you're looking for a Super Bowl appetizer, these are terrific served with a bowl of extra marinara for dipping, or inside a small bun as a slider. They're also perfect for a hot sandwich or on top of marinara-sauced pasta.

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

Makes 30 meatballs.

Delicious and versatile, these easy-to-make meatballs, crunchy on the outside and juicy and flavorful on the inside, can be served alone, on pasta or in a sandwich or slider. This recipe makes a big batch, but they freeze beautifully. From Meredith Deeds.

• 2 c. panko breadcrumbs, divided

• 1/2 c. milk

• 2 tbsp. olive oil

• 1 egg

• 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

• 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil, plus more for serving

• 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

• 1 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

• 2 lb. ground chicken

• 2 c. homemade or store-bought marinara sauce, warmed

• 3/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 large, rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup of the breadcrumbs with the milk. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs are deeply golden, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Set aside.

To the milk-soaked breadcrumbs, add the egg, Parmesan cheese, basil, garlic powder, salt, oregano, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir to thoroughly combine. Add the chicken and, using your hands, mix all ingredients until well incorporated.

Shape mixture into 30 meatballs (a generous 2 tablespoons each). Roll each meatball in the browned panko crumbs and place on baking sheets. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating trays from front to back and top to bottom halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 165 degrees. Remove from oven and spoon about a teaspoon of sauce over the top of each meatball. Top each with a little mozzarella. Return to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Place on serving platter and garnish with chopped basil and grated Parmesan. Serve with more warm marinara sauce for dipping.

To make ahead: Uncooked, breaded meatballs can be frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet for 2 hours. Transfer to a zip-top freezer bag. Meatballs can be kept frozen for up to 2 months. Meatballs can be cooked directly from the freezer according to directions, adding 4 to 7 minutes to cooking time.

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at Follow her on Instagram ­at @meredithdeeds.