Who doesn’t like finding a hidden treat when a first bite is taken? There certainly is a kid inside all of us. When our children were younger, it was always fun to watch their enjoyment as they took their first bites of cheese-stuffed meatballs, because they knew what was inside (a.k.a. a parenting trick to get kids to eat their food!).
Of course, the cheese can be left out for just a regular meatball …without the fun.
To make a great dinner of meatballs and marinara sauce …and, of course, pasta, I prefer to brown the meatballs in a sauté pan, and then let them finish cooking in the gently simmering marinara sauce. In this way, they do not dry out, and any cheese that may want to sneak out gets incorporated into the sauce for more delicious flavour. Speaking of moist and delicious meatballs, a combination of ground beef and pork works well. On occasion, I use mild Italian sausage meat instead of the ground pork.
Provolone is my cheese of choice because it holds its shape and tends to stay inside the meatball better than some other cheeses. Mozzarella cheese can also be substituted
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes
Yield: 25 meatballs – 5 or 6 servings
1/3 cup (85 mL) heavy cream or whole milk
1/3 cup (85 mL) panko bread bread crumbs
1 small onion, fine dice
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large egg
1 tablespoon (15 mL) Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon (15 mL) Worcestershire Sauce
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon (15 mL) Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Kosher salt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
12 ounces – ¾ pound (350 g) lean ground sirloin
12 ounces – ¾ pound (350 g) lean ground pork
4 ounces (130 g) provolone cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes
Olive oil for sautéing
Marinara Sauce (recipe follows), heated to a low simmer
Your favourite pasta
Garnish: Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and chopped parsley
- In a large bowl, combine the cream/milk and the panko crumbs. Stir together and set aside while other ingredients are prepared.
- Heat some olive oil and/or butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Saute onions just until they are translucent and fragrant. Stir in minced garlic.
- To the soaked panko crumbs, add the egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, seasonings, and Parmesan cheese. Stir in the cooked onions and garlic. Mix well.
- Gently mix in the ground sirloin and ground pork just until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not over-mix, as this will make the meatballs tough.
- Using about 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of meat, form a ball (golf ball size). Press a cube of cheese into the ball and fully enclose it within the ball.
- Heat some olive oil in a large sauté pan. Saute the meatballs, a few at a time, for about 8-10 minutes, until nicely browned on all sides (yes, I know …meatballs don’t have sides). Place the browned meatballs into the simmering marinara sauce – they will complete cooking in the sauce (reaching an internal temperature of at least 160oF). If any cheese seeps out, the sauce will catch it.
- Continue until all meatballs have been sautéed and placed in the sauce, and have reached the correct temperature.
- Serve over your favourite pasta, topped with freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano Cheese.
Quality of tomatoes will influence the quality of the final product. Don’t forget to finish with the vinegar at the end!
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Yield: about 6 cups (1.5 litres)
30 mL (2 tablespoons) olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons (30 mL) tomato paste
½ cup (125 mL) dry red wine
1 large can (796 mL /28 fl oz) crushed tomatoes
1 large can (796 mL/28 fl oz) diced tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), undrained
1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried oregano or 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon (15 mL) sugar
2-3 tablespoons (30-45 mL) finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon (15 mL) Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons (15-30 mL) balsamic vinegar
- Heat oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven. Add onion and sauté until fragrant and soft. Add garlic and heat through.
- Add the tomato paste and heat to caramelize the paste.
- Increase heat, and add wine. Stir, and reduce the wine …about 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes, oregano, parsley, other seasonings, and the sugar.
- Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. After heat has been turned off, stir in the balsamic vinegar.