Spicy Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs

Mini-meatballs with just a bit of a kick are stuffed with mozzarella cheese for a hearty appetizer or comforting dinner on a cold day. 

Mini-meatballs with just a bit of a kick are stuffed with mozzarella cheese for a hearty appetizer or comforting dinner on a cold day. 

There are so many funny things about the world of food blogging. How I might have a recipe that I enjoy and return to time and time again, but it might take me years to actually blog it. That to truly do well, I should be making and posting seasonal recipes well in advance of the season, to give you, my readers, ideas and inspiration ahead of time. Makes sense but sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t due to availability of produce and general inspiration.


While so many people start off the New Year with goals like eating healthier, and cooking more at home, I can’t help but think of other things. The cold – and my cravings for comfort food. The upcoming end of football season and the parties that will accompany that weekend. 

It’s with those things in mind that I share today’s recipe. It’s one I’ve made for several years, but it’s taken forever to blog because photographing meatballs are HARD. Doesn’t matter if I try to create a pretty looking bowl or tray, I just can’t get it to work out. But I’m sharing despite the photos I don’t love because this recipe has long been a favorite of mine to serve as a hearty appetizer (as I like to do at our annual holiday party) but it would work equally well on a buffet at Game Day with some crusty bread or over pasta for a comforting dinner. 

Mini-meatballs with just a bit of a kick are stuffed with mozzarella cheese for a hearty appetizer or comforting dinner on a cold day. 

Recipe Notes:

    • Cooking Instructions: The original recipe calls for these meatballs to be deep fried and then baked. I don’t think I’ve ever done that – too much work and just not the healthiest. Instead, I either bake the meatballs until cooked throughout or allow the uncooked meatballs to cook directly in the marinara sauce. I usually serve my meatballs in marinara sauce, so that latter is my preferred method, although I have baked the meatballs and then frozen them, to be added to sauce later on. 
    • Marinara Sauce: This is the recipe I use. If I’m cooking the meatballs in the marinara sauce, I double the recipe for the sauce. 
    • Make Ahead: Meatballs can be baked ahead and frozen in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and then transferred to an airtight container for longer storage. Or, freeze in marinara sauce in an airtight container or freezer bag. Defrost in fridge for 24-48 hours before heating and serving. 
    • Serving Suggestions: I usually serve the meatballs as an appetizer at parties, or over pasta, but these would also be delicious made into a meatball sub.

Make or try this recipe? Leave me a comment and rate this recipe. Or take a pic and tag @booksncooks and #booksncooks on Instagram. 

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Mini-meatballs with just a bit of a kick are stuffed with mozzarella cheese for a hearty appetizer or comforting dinner on a cold day. 

Spicy Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs

Mini-meatballs with just a bit of a kick are stuffed with mozzarella cheese for a hearty appetizer or comforting dinner on a cold day. 

Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings 35 meatballs
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • marinara sauce (see note above)
  • cooking spray optional, used for baking meatballs
  • 2 shallots peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes in oil drained (5-6 sun-dried tomatoes)
  • 1/3 c. packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs. 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 4 oz. mozzarella pearls (about half a container)

Instructions

Prep:

  1. If baking meatballs, preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside and continue to making and forming meatballs.

  2. If cooking meatballs in marinara sauce, make sure marinara sauce is made and hot, sitting on stove set over low heat.

Make the Meatballs:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Pulse until mixture is finely chopped and starting to come together.

  2. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and with clean hands, add beef and pork. Mix together until well combined.

  3. Use a standard ice cream scoop to portion out meatball mixture. For each, gently flatten. Place a mozzarella pearl into the center of each, gently folding the meat around the cheese and forming into a meatball.

Cook the Meatballs:

  1. If baking, meatballs may be placed on prepared baking sheet, about 1/2-inch apart. Bake in preheated oven until meatballs are cooked throughout, 20-30 minutes. Serve hot, with a side of marinara sauce, or over pasta with marinara sauce. Meatballs may also be cooked and then frozen in a single layer (once frozen, transfer to an airtight container for long-term storage) for later use.

  2. If cooking the meatballs in the marinara sauce, place formed meatballs directly in the pot, gently stirring to submerge meatballs in sauce. Meatballs should cook for about 90 minutes. Stir again, and periodically, to ensure all meatballs get cooked throughout, for about 90 minutes more. Serve hot. Meatballs may be frozen in sauce for later use, if desired.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

This recipe makes about 35 meatballs. I'd plan for 2-4 meatballs per person as an appetizer (depending on what else you're serving), and about 5 meatballs as part of a main course - whether it's for sliders or to serve over pasta. 

This recipe was adapted from Giada de Laurentiis.

Mini-meatballs with just a bit of a kick are stuffed with mozzarella cheese for a hearty appetizer or comforting dinner on a cold day. 

4 thoughts on “Spicy Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs”

  1. These are right up my alley! I usually do the lighter food thing for part of January, but only because I’ve overindulged so much Christmas through New Years. By Super Bowl I’m totally ready for dishes like this 🙂

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