Being an Italian girl, I know how to make a mean meatball! It also happens to be my favorite comfort food. I learned a lot about cooking meatballs from watching my Grandpa make them my entire life. Now I love to take those techniques to invent fun, and new, meatball creations.
This past weekend I watched all of the huge college bowl games, and it inspired me to come up with a meatball recipe that would be great as an appetizer as well as a meal. These Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs are perfect with pasta, on a bun as a meatball sandwich (or on mini buns to make sliders), or even to have on their own!
The spicy meatballs are stuffed with smoky mozzarella cheese. I like to serve them in a fresh tomato sauce that adds a bright, acidic component, which cuts through the savory flavor of the meat. These can be served on their own as a meatball appetizer, because these tiny bites have a great creamy, and smoky, bite of cheese on the inside.
If you want to turn these into a meal, it is as easy as boiling up some pasta! I also like to serve them as appetizers on mini slider buns, or as a meal on full sub sandwich buns. It all depends on how hungry you are!
This recipe makes enough for a crowd! You should get about 60 tablespoon-size meatballs. So, they are a great item to make for the big football games that are coming up, like the Super Bowl! I like to keep these meatballs warm in a slow cooker during a party, so that when guests want one, they are warm and ready to go! I love to serve something warm at a party, especially during the cold winter months, because it adds a hearty, and cozy touch. Everyone loves comfort food!
How to make perfect Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs with Tomato Sauce
*Have a light hand! Overworking the meatball mixture will create meatballs that are dense as opposed to light and airy. Only mix until everything is just incorporated. I like to use a fork to break everything up, and then I use my hands to finish the mixing.
*Use room temperature ingredients. This helps everything mix together evenly.
*Milk/cream is key! Don’t skip this step! I know it sounds weird, but it makes the meatballs tender and rich. I recommend using half and half, but you could also use cream. If you want to use milk instead, use whole milk. 2% is…ok…and skim is not recommended. Sorry! I didn’t say these were low fat!
*Use a cookie scoop, or measuring spoon, to scoop out the meatballs. You want them to be uniform size so that they cook evenly.
*Cook the meatballs in the sauce for a bit before serving. The flavors will marry, and taste amazing together!
*If serving these at a party, keep them warm in a slow cooker, or something similar. This assures that they are served to your guests warm. No one wants a cold meatball. Unless you are eating them as leftovers, then cold meatballs are amazing!
Minced garlic should look like these itty bitty pieces! They cook quickly, so be careful they don’t get brown.
Fresh parsley adds a really bright, herbaceous flavor that lightens up all the savory ingredients in the meatballs.
I love using these cookie scoops to measure out the meatballs. It allows for even baking.
I mean… how good do these look!?!
I know this picture looks random, but this is what the smashed clove of garlic looks like when flavoring the olive oil! Doing this step adds a bit of garlic taste. Since the meatballs already have plenty of garlic in them, there only needs to be a touch in the sauce.
- 1lb beef
- 1lb pork
- 1 onion; finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 garlic cloves; minced
- ¾ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- ⅔ cup plain breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs; room temperature
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup half and half (all cream or all whole milk works as well); room temperature
- 6 oz smoked mozzerella; regular can be used as well, but I recommend smoked
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- fresh parsley and fresh basil for finishing
- 1 whole garlic clove; smashed
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
- *Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
- *Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add in the onion with a sprinkle of salt, and cook until softened
- *Add in the minced garlic, dried rosemary, basil, thyme, and red pepper flakes; cook for another 30 seconds, or until fragrant, being sure NOT to brown the garlic
- *Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool
- *In another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, and parmesan cheese
- *Add them to the cooled onion mixture; then stir in the ketchup, half and half, salt, and pepper
- *Stir in the meat; start by breaking it up with a fork, then use your hands to combine the mixture until everything is evenly mixed, being careful not to over-mix
- *Use a small scoop, or tablespoon measuring spoon, to scoop out 1 tablespoon size meatball onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil; this will make about 60 small meatballs, so you will need 2-3 baking sheets depending on their size
- *Once all of the mixture is scooped, cut the mozzarella into small cubes; small enough to fit inside the scooped meatballs
- *Pick up one meatball and use your finger to poke a hole in the center of the meatball; place the cube of smoked mozzarella on the hole; cover and roll the meatball into a round shape; place the stuffed meatball back onto the baking sheet lined with aluminum foil
- *Bake the meatballs at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through
- *Meanwhile, make the sauce; place ¼ cup of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat
- *Place the smashed garlic clove (skin removed), unto the pot and allow to cook for a couple minutes until fragrant, moving it around with a wooden spoon, making sure it doesn’t brown
- *Pour in the ½ cup of dry white wine, it will bubble up; then remove the garlic clove
- *Add in the crushed tomatoes and the diced tomatoes, along with the dried basil, rosemary, and oregano; stir to combine
- *Stir in the red pepper flakes if using
- *Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about an hour
- *Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook together for about 20 minutes
- *If you are making these ahead of time, allow the mixture to cool at this point and simply reheat when ready to serve; If using a slow cooker to serve, you can reheat them in the slow cooker over high heat for about an hour, making sure to stir them every so often until heated through, then turn the heat to warm.
- *Serve as is, over pasta, or on a bun! Right before serving top the meatballs with chopped fresh basil and/or parsley