Friday, October 18, 2013

Meatball Sliders

The idea for these meatball sliders isn't all that original; I've seen versions of them all over the place. This version, though, is pretty darn delicious, if I do say so myself. After a sear in the skillet, homemade meatballs finish cooking in marinara sauce before being placed on garlic bread-style slider buns and topped with gooey mozzarella cheese. They're simple and delicious and, judging by my family's reaction to them, will be a go-to meal for us going forward. 

I mentioned earlier this week that I've been doing more batch cooking lately, and these meatball sliders are another great example of that. I used two pounds of meat to make the meatballs (a pound of ground beef and a pound of Italian sausage), and I simmered them in two jars of marinara sauce. Since I only needed 12 meatballs for the sliders, I reserved the remaining meatballs and sauce for another perennial family favorite: spaghetti and meatballs. But, going forward, I may freeze the rest in batches of 12 so I can use them for these sliders over and over again. You'll understand why when you try them.

The recipe below calls for freshly-ground Italian-style breadcrumbs. I make these by toasting 2 slices of wheat bread and pulsing them in the food processor with Italian seasoning and garlic powder to taste (I never measure this stuff). I like using freshly-ground breadcrumbs because they're fluffier than store-bought and give the meatballs a better texture, but of course store-bought breadcrumbs are fine.

Meatball Sliders

For the meatballs:

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground Italian sausage
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup freshly-ground Italian-style breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Olive oil
2 jars of your favorite marinara sauce
6 slices sliced mozzarella cheese, quartered

For the garlic bread-style slider buns:

4 tablespoons softened butter
Italian seasoning to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
12 slider buns

1. To make the meatballs, add the ground beef and Italian sausage to a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat; add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until translucent. Stir in the garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Let the onion and garlic mixture cool slightly off the heat, then add it to the bowl with the meat. Season the meat with additional salt and pepper and add the breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, eggs, milk, and parmesan cheese. Use your hands to gently combine the ingredients, but don't overmix them.

2. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Roll the meat mixture into balls, slightly smaller than a golf ball. Cook in batches until browned on all sides.

3. Meanwhile, in a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the marinara sauce over medium heat. As the meatballs finish searing on all sides, transfer them to the marinara, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover the pot to allow the meatballs to gently finish cooking through. Reserve all but 12 of the meatballs with their sauce for later use.

4. To make the slider buns, stir together the butter, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and cheese. Place the slider buns cut-side-up on a baking sheet. Spread some of the butter mixture onto the top and bottom of each bun. Broil until browned and crispy.

5. Place one meatball on the bottom of each slider bun. Top each with half a slice of mozzarella cheese (2 quarters). Return the bottom buns only to the oven and broil on low until cheese is melted. Top each with one of the reserved bun tops. If you have some fresh basil, throw it on there, because that would be delicious.

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