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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Meatballs stuffed with mozzarella

This is my third attempt at posting this.  I have fallen asleep twice while typing.  Maybe this time I will actually complete the post.

So, last night we had some amazing spaghetti and meatballs.  Bailey absolutely loves spaghetti and meatballs.  I've never seen her eat so much.  She just gobbles it down!  I actually make some little pasta shapes (such as the small salad shells) for her so I don't have to worry about cutting the pasta up for her.  I just mix in some sauce and chop up a meatball or two and then spread it on the high chair tray for her to feed herself.  She ate a ton of it last night.  In fact, she ate everything I gave her and then searched her seat for more pasta when we got her out of the chair.

About a year ago I discovered my favorite blog: Annie's Eats.  When I joined Pinterest the first pin I made was a recipe from this blog.  I actually ignored Pinterest for the next three months while I worked my way through some of Annie's recipes.  I follow this blog religiously and I use her dessert recipes almost exclusively.  When Aaron's mom asked for a blackberry cobbler I just went to the blog and searched for it and sure enough she had a delicious recipe for Blackberry Cobbler!  My mom asked for an apple pie so I made the Star-Spangled Apple Pie, and no kidding guys, this thing looked like it came from a bakery it was so pretty.  I heard it was delicious too but I didn't get to taste it because my mom gave it to a co-worker as a gift.  She even has a Pie Crust tutorial that makes the best pie dough I've ever tasted!

Anyway, sometime last February I was looking for a recipe for meatballs.  I had tried the provolone stuffed meatballs at Applebee's and they were so amazing that I was going to try to make them with a regular meatball recipe.  Luckily, Annie had a recipe for this Spaghetti with Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs and it were exactly what I was looking for!

I didn't really change the recipe much.  I am not a big fan of bland sauce so I did spice up the sauce a bit, but otherwise it's almost exactly the same.  We only eat about half of the meatballs so I freeze the other half raw and just thaw them out the next time we have spaghetti and meatballs scheduled.  You do have to make the full sauce recipe both times, but it saves us lots of money and saves me time since I don't have to make the meatballs twice.

As far as leftovers, I don't much care for anything reheated in the microwave.  I eat most of the leftovers around here (or share them with Bailey for lunch most days) so I reheat them on the stove in a small saucepan.  Sometimes I serve them over the leftover pasta, but I love meatball sandwiches.  We just take the meatballs out of the sauce and slice them up.  Butter two slices of bread on one side.  Layer them like a grilled cheese in a skillet over medium heat.  Put the bread butter-side down, then some meatball slices, a little sauce, a couple of slices of mozzarella cheese, and the other slice of bread butter-side up.  Cook about 3-5 minutes on each side.  They're really good with a little garlic powder sprinkled over the butter too!

This may sound like a lot of work but trust me, they aren't really as difficult as they sound and the work is well worth it.  Plus, they're great for company because the cheese inside makes them look super fancy.

Meatballs Stuffed with Mozzarella

1 lb cooked pasta

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 28 oz cans tomato sauce
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper

4 oz mozzarella, cut into 16 cubes
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I like to use the roasted garlic bread crumbs)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp parsley
1 lb lean ground beef (or turkey would work too)
salt and pepper

In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds.  Add the tomato sauce and all of the spices and bring to a simmer (covered, to avoid it popping and burning you).

In a large mixing bowl combine the milk and bread crumbs and let sit 2 minutes.  Mix together with a fork and add the parmesan, egg, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper.  Mix until combined.  Add the ground beef and mix with your hands until combined.  Divided evenly into 16 pieces.  Take 1 cube of mozzarella and 1 piece of the meat mixture and form a ball of meat mixture around the cube of mozzarella.  Be sure to seal it as well as possible so the cheese doesn't ooze out into the sauce as the meatballs cook.  Continue until all of the meatballs are formed.

Add the meatballs to the simmering sauce, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes.  Serve hot, over pasta.

If you are freezing a portion of the meatballs, line a small baking sheet or flat plate with wax paper.  Place the meatballs on the baking sheet at least 1/2 inch apart.  Place in the freezer for about an hour, or until they are frozen enough to transfer to a freezer bag without them sticking together.  Keep in the freezer for up to 3-4 months.  To cook thaw overnight, add to sauce and cook 25-30 minutes on medium heat.

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