I live for the weekends! Especially weekends with good friends, good food, and plenty of time outdoors. Chicago is in the prime of autumn right now. The leaves have reached their peak colors, so a long walk around the neighborhood was on the agenda yesterday. It almost felt like we were walking through a watercolor painting. Absolutely stunning.
After we got home, sporting windburned cheeks and towing an exhausted puppy, I got to work on Sunday night dinner. Sunday night dinners always make me happy. I can take my time, prep all the ingredients before I start cooking (my ideal way to cook), sip a glass of wine, and enjoy what I love … preparing a healthy and comforting meal for my family and friends.
I’m not usually one to make foods in “mini” form. I typically opt for a family style dining experience. Going against that idea, I decided to have these Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins make an appearance in my kitchen. This recipe is ideal to make ahead (directions below), and great for entertaining. I was pleasantly surprised by these little muffins of cheesy meaty goodness. They were flavorful, perfectly moist, and had a great crunch from the panko breadcrumbs. Another perk… built in portion control. Make these for your next party, or laid back Sunday night dinner. Serve with a nice salad, a fresh veg, and a glass of red wine. Great meal to take in the peak of fall.
- 2 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/2 white onion, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely graded, divided
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 pound ground chicken breast
- 1 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, torn
- salt and pepper, to taste
- crushed red pepper flakes, a pinch
- 6 1-inch cubes of mozzarella (1 oz each), cut from a block
- 2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
- Additional parmesan cheese and herbs for topping
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, and 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Using your fingers, combine the ingredients until well incorporated. Set mixture aside and reserve.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat, add onion, red bell pepper, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl combine egg, cooled vegetable mixture, chicken, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes. Mix ingredients until well incorporated.
Prepare a muffin pan (I used a 6 cup regular size muffin pan) by spraying it with non stick vegetable spray.
Divide the chicken mixture into the 6 muffin cups (roughly 1 cup of mixture per cup). Nestle a mozzarella cube into the center of each muffin cup, pat the chicken mixture over the mozzarella so it is completely covered.
Top each muffin with panko mixture. Try to get as much panko as you can onto each muffin. (Note: I had about a 1/4 cup the panko mixture leftover that wouldn’t fit onto the muffins.)
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the outside of each muffin to release it from the pan.
Serve with warm marinara sauce and additional parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.
Servings: 3-6 (Serving size: 1-2 muffins) Note: I was satisfied with 1 muffin served along side a hearty salad. The men in my life however will eat 2 muffins, so double the recipe if serving a crowd.
Make ahead instructions: Hold off on making panko mixture until you plan to bake the muffins. Prepare muffins as directed, up until “top each muffin with panko mixture.” Store in your refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 day in advance. Just before baking, preheat oven, bring muffins to room temperature, prepare panko mixture, top muffins with panko mixture, and bake as directed.