We tried all-sausage meatballs but found them heavy and dense – adding ground pork keeps them light but still extremely flavorful. Wilting the escarole at the end adds a texture and freshness that you won't get from spinach or a less-sturdy green. If you really want to up the umami factor you can always toss a Parmesan rind into the broth as it simmers, but we didn't miss it when made without.
Combine the thyme, bay, oregano and peppercorns in a 10-inch square of cheesecloth and bring the corners together to create a parcel. Tie it closed with kitchen twine.
Stir the panko, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Stir in the cream, egg and half the grated garlic until completely combined.
Combine the ground pork and sausage in a large bowl. Pull the ground meat apart with two forks as if you were shredding pulled pork, breaking up the clumps and incorporating the meat without compacting it until thoroughly mixed and no clumps remain.
Add the breadcrumb mixture to the meat and use the same pulling technique to mix until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Scoop out portions of the meat mixture with a 1-ounce ice cream scoop (or use two heaping tablespoons). Roll the meat gently between your hands into balls. Arrange the balls on a rimmed baking sheet. You should have about 24 meatballs.
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and cook, turning and rolling occasionally, until they are lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove to a plate; the meatballs will not be cooked through, just browned on the outside. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the chicken skin-side down. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and add the onions, carrots, celery, remaining grated garlic. Season the chicken and vegetables with 1 tablespoon kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up the browned bits, until the vegetables have softened slightly, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the wine, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until it's almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 8 cups water and the cheesecloth parcel and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken to a plate and let cool slightly. Shred the chicken with two forks, discarding the skin and bones.
Meanwhile, add the meatballs and pasta to the broth and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the sachet. Stir in the escarole and shredded chicken and continue cooking until the escarole is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Serve topped with parsley and grated Parmesan.
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