I love a traditional meal like spaghetti and meatballs, but sometimes you need something a little different. One of my favorite things in the world to eat is cheese. I remember when my mom would come in with bags of groceries the first thing I would search for was fresh American cheese from the deli counter, I would dig in right away. I still do this today. Since then my love for cheese has grown even more and I have expanded my horizons beyond American. So of course when I saw a cheese stuffed meatball in my cookbook I was sold.
I knew this recipe was going to be the perfect addition to a traditional meatball. Inside the meatball is a small cube of mozzarella that melts perfectly while they roast in the oven. The meatball recipe was one of the most flavorful I have ever tried, the fresh parsley and grated garlic add a nice touch. I adapted the recipe a little bit from the original. Instead of breadcrumbs it called for stale white bread cut into chunks that you soak in milk. I was not going to waste my hard earned money on an entire loaf of white bread for a few slices so I subbed in some breadcrumbs. The tomato-pesto sauce didn’t take long to make, and was delicious, but you can always sub in your favorite sauce here as a time saver. The star in the recipe is definitely the meatball. When I eat Italian, I long for my time I spent abroad in Italy and all the delicious food I ate while I was there. One day I will get back there!
Stuffed Meatballs with Tomato-Pesto Sauce
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray
What you’ll need:
1 lb. ground meat or meatloaf mix
3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
A generous handful of fresh flat-leaf Parsley leaves, chopped, plus 1/2 cup leaves
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1/2 lb. mozzarella, cut into cubes
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
1 (28 oz) can plum tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
What you’ll do:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, add ground meat, breadcrumbs, 2 of the garlic cloves (minced or grated), chopped parsley, a handful of grated cheese, egg, and salt & pepper. Take a handful of the meatloaf mix and flatten it in the palm of your hand, nestle a mozzarella ball into the center, and roll the meat around it. Transfer the meatballs to a rimmed baking sheet as you roll them. Coat balls with 2 tbsp. olive oil and roast until firm and brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. About 10 minutes before the meatballs are done, pour the canned tomatoes into a skillet and mash them with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium to medium-high heat until they thicken.
In a food processor, pile basil leaves, 1/2 cup parsley leaves, lemon zest, remaining minced garlic clove, salt & pepper, and stock. With the processor on, stream in 1/4 cup of olive oil until a thick paste forms. When ready to serve fold the pesto into the thickened tomatoes. Ladle sauce into bowls or over pasta, top with meatballs and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.