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The meatball ventures beyond spaghetti

Created date

April 24th, 2012

For most people, the word meatball conjures up an image of piping hot spaghetti with red sauce and perhaps a nice glass of Chianti on the side. Flip through Rick Rodgers new cookbook, I Love Meatballs (Andrews McMeel Publishing), and it quickly becomes apparent just how versatile the humble meatball really is. Rodgers presents 50 different meatball recipes some familiar, like Swedish meatballs, others less so, like fried olive meatballs. There are meatballs inspired by the global cuisines of India, Morocco, and Thailand. There are meatballs for soup, meatballs for sandwiches, and meatballs made with a wide variety of ground meats including beef, lamb, veal, turkey, and even seafood. Despite the variety and the exotic flavors, the recipes are consistently simple and manageable enough for weeknight dinners. It s a great way to do something a little different with a pound of ground meat. The Middle Eastern-influenced grilled lamb meatballs on shepherd s salad with yogurt-tahini sauce was a big hit around my dinner table as were the grilled cheese-stuffed meatball sliders. For traditionalists, Rodgers includes a few versions of the classic spaghetti and meatballs in his well-photographed book. There are also some great tips and tricks to ensure perfect, tender meatballs every time.

Grilled cheese-stuffed meatball sliders

Makes 12 sliders, 4 servings


1 lb ground round (85% lean)

1/3 cup dried plain bread crumbs

1 large egg, beaten

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

12 (1/2-inch) cubes sharp Cheddar cheese, cut from brick cheese

12 store-bought slider buns or small Parker House rolls, split 2 leaves red leaf lettuce, torn into 12 pieces 12 dill pickle slices (optional)

Tomato ketchup


To make the meatball sliders, mix the ground round, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 4 hours. Prepare a medium-hot fire in an outdoor grill. Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the meat mixture into 12 equal meatballs. One at a time, flatten a ball slightly in your palms and completely wrap a cheese cube in the meat mixture. Transfer to a plate. Scoop out some of the crumb from each bun to make more room for the meatballs. (Save the crumbs for another use, such as using in meatball recipes.) Set the buns aside. To grill the meatballs with a basket, lightly oil the molds (a pump sprayer works best). Place the meatballs in the basket and close it. Place the basket on the cooking grate and cover. Grill the meatballs until the undersides are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the basket over and grill until the other sides are lightly browned and the meatballs are medium-rare, about 3 minutes more. Remove the meatballs from the basket. Transfer to a platter. (To grill the meatballs without the basket, lightly oil the cooking grate. Place the meatballs on the grill and cover. Grill until the undersides are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the meatballs and grill until the other sides are lightly browned and the meatballs are medium-rare, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a platter.) Place the buns on the grill and grill, turning once, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. For each slider, place a meatball on a bun bottom and top with a piece of lettuce and a pickle slice. Add a dollop of ketchup. Add the bun top and serve warm.