Cheese Stuffed Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce
Easy, cheesy stuffed meatballs in a homemade tomato sauce. Serve these as a meal for spaghetti and meatball night or as an appetizer for your next party!
Ending the week on a cheesy note!
What’s going on this weekend? Are you doing any major shopping? Are you traveling? Oh gosh, I hope not! I can’t even imagine how bad the airports must be right now. And we’re so close to the holidays already. Is it me or once you pass Thanksgiving it’s all goes by in a blur? Especially this year, when i’m trying to hold on to the last few days of my twenties. ?
Moving along. Anees and I are hosting a few friends this weekend and guess what I’m setting up? A hot chocolate bar! The first of many this holiday season I hope. But really, how cute would that be for a New Years get together? I hit the big 3-0 (read: 2-0) on the 20th. So this year I want a super low key NYE. It’s really a no brainer – a second hot chocolate bar is soon to follow.
And along with that hot chocolate bar, I want these cheese stuffed meatballs on the menu. Because I kid you not, these are literally the best meatballs i’ve ever made or had. Who can deny that a gooey, cheesy meatball is the epitome of good comfort food. But what makes this a little better is that they’re braised in a homemade tomato sauce thats fresh and bright. So good that if I had an Italian grandmother, i’m pretty sure she’d be proud of me. And incase you are hosting a big NYE party, these meatballs would hold perfectly in a slow cooker on the warm setting! And when the Super Bowl comes around, these are gonna be a hit for sure!
GIMME ALL THE CHEESY MEATBALLS.
Meatballs, like a good Sunday sauce are an end of the week affair. I made these stuffed meatballs one rainy Sunday afternoon and they were a big hit. When is comfort food not around here? These are perfect because I can serve them over spaghetti for Sunday night supper and when i’m single on the weekdays they’re great in meatball sandwiches or with garlic bread and a side salad. Really, is there a wrong way to eat a meatball?
I think not.
The first step is to combine your meatball mixture. You’ll need panko, parmesan, a little milk, an egg, of course garlic, and some seasonings. Yes to parmesan INSIDE the meatball. I like to use grated garlic in my meatball recipes. Minced garlic is great in a lot of recipes, you know i’m totally a fan. But for meatballs, I like to grate the garlic because it just blenders right into the meat. Also, the key to making exceptional meatballs is to use *just* enough binding to hold the meatballs together. I use ground beef for my stuffed meatballs but you can easily swap it out for lean ground turkey or chicken for a healthier option.
Here’s a little tip for you. Add all the ingredients for the meatballs except the actual ground beef to a bowl and mix first. This way, you get better flavor distribution without overworking the ground beef. If you add everything in along with the meat, chances are you’ll either end up overworking the meat or not mixing it enough! Do yourself a favor and use this little tip. You’ll get perfectly tender meatballs every single time.
Once the meat is mixed, we’ll divide the mixture into portions. I got about 13 meatballs out of it this time but usually it’s anywhere between 13-16. Flatten out the meat almost like you’re making hamburger patties, place a cube of cheese in the center and then fold up the sides. Roll the meatballs between your palms gently until it’s a smooth ball.
For the cheese, I like to use anything that melts well – my favorites – provolone or mozzarella. I live for stringy cheese action.
The next thing is to brown the stuffed meatballs before allowing it to braise in our homemade tomato sauce. Trust me, it makes a world of a difference. Also, if you were to add the meatballs directly to the sauce, you run the risk of them falling apart. Leaving you with a bolognese rather than stuffed meatballs. Browning them in a skillet really helps sear the outside before you let them braise in that tomatoey goodness.
The homemade tomato sauce is really simple. Have you had a chance to make my mozzarella chicken yet? If you have, you’ll notice the sauce is really similar to that one.
We start by heating up the garlic in the leftover oil from the meatballs. Keep stirring the garlic for 30 seconds until it’s fragrant. Make sure it doesn’t burn. Otherwise you’ll have to toss it out and start over! Unfortunately, there’s no remedy for burnt garlic. Add the onions next and let them sweat for 2 minutes. Then add all the remaining ingredients – red pepper flakes, crushed tomatoes, pesto, salt, and a little water. And let is just start bubbling before popping in the meatballs. Let it go low and slow for 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs cook through.
A note about the tomatoes. Though you can use regular crushed tomatoes, if you can get your hands on Italian plum crushed tomatoes, use those. The tomatoes really make a world of a difference, especially when you’re making meatballs in marinara! The flavors are just out-of-this-world.
And that’s it! Serve it on a bed of spaghetti if that’s how you like stuffed meatballs. Or out of a slow cooker covered in all this saucy goodness if you’re serving it to a crowd during a football game or holiday party!
Really, like I said.
There’s no WRONG way to eat these stuffed meatballs.
- ¾ cup panko
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound ground beef
- 4-5 ounces mozzarella or provolone cut into small cubes (13-16 cubes)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Homemade Tomato Sauce:
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- ½ cup chopped onions
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup water or chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the panko, egg, parmesan, parsley, milk, grated garlic, italian seasoning, onion powder, salt, and pepper until it resembles a coarse breading. Add the the ground beef and mix until just combined. Do not overwork the meat as this will result it drier meatballs. Roll into desired size balls. Flatten, add a small cube of cheese to the center and wrap the meat around the cheese. Roll between palms to smooth them out. Place on a clean plate.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.. Add 6-8 meatballs to the skillet and let them cook for about 7-9 minutes total, flipping as needed to brown all sides evenly. Repeat with the second batch. Remove the cooked meatballs to a plate.
Homemade Tomato Sauce:
- To the remaining oil in the skillet, add the minced garlic and continuously stir to cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the onions and let them sweat for 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, water, pesto, and salt. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer. Add the meatballs back into the skillet and cover them wit the sauce. Cover the skillet with a lid and lower the heat. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until it thickens and the meatballs cook through.
- Serve warm on a bed of pasta or if you're serving this as an appetizer for a party, transfer to a slow cooker and keep on the warm setting.
- You can swap the beef for chicken or turkey if you'd like.