These succulent mozzarella stuffed meatballs have a crispy coating topped with a simple marinara sauce and a sprinkle of fresh basil. They're the perfect two-bite appetizer to pass around during the holiday season, or anytime you have a special gathering!
Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs, a Delectable Two-Bite Treat
There's something magical about festive gatherings that really encourages us to truly indulge in good food with utter abandon.
Perhaps it's the spirit of merriment and playfulness that prompts us to take so much wonderful pleasure in a tasty spread, placing a little of this and a little of that onto our plates, piling everything deliciously high.
Whatever it is, I absolutely adore it, and find it gloriously present during the holiday season, which is one of the reasons I love this time of year so very much!
Lately, I find myself going through my mental rolodex of favorite recipes fit for special occasions, and I'm getting excited to whip up pretty and colorful little dishes that just seem to taste best when we're celebrating a little.
These mozzarella stuffed meatballs are exactly such as recipe, perfect for passing around and savoring in two bites!
Beef meatballs are stuffed with fresh, creamy mozzarella, then coated in a flavorful mixture for extra crispiness before being browned then baked, and finally topped with fresh, zesty marinara and a sprinkle of basil.
This succulent mozzarella stuffed meatball recipe has all the festive colors of the holidays—lots of red and green—making it a terrific and scrumptious option to prepare and pass around to tantalize everyone's appetite this time of year.
All you have to do is stick some toothpicks in these two-bite treats, and watch them disappear!
How to Make Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs Kissed with Italian Flavors
Preparing a juicy and savory mozzarella stuffed meatballs recipe is not only easy, but fun as well!
It's all about putting together a flavorful meatball mixture to begin with, one that has lots of Italian flair from a hint of parmesan cheese, fresh and dried Italian herbs, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a good kick of garlic.
The other Italian flavors come from the finishing topper of zesty, homemade marinara sauce and a little flourish of julienned fresh basil for irresistible flavor!
Here's a glance at my mozzarella stuffed meatball recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe further down...)
- First, I combine all my ingredients for the beef meatball mixture, then portion out ¾ ounce portions (roughly 32 meatballs).
- Each portion is then flattened into a teeny burger patty shape, and a pea-size piece of fresh mozzarella cheese is placed in the center; then, the meat is formed over top of that, and gently rolled into a meatball with the mozzarella stuffed in the middle.
- The meatballs are chilled, and while they are chilling, I prepare my homemade marinara (you can also certainly use store-bought to save on time).
- Next, I coat the chilled meatballs in a mixture of parmesan and panko for crispiness, quickly brown them in a pan, then bake until cooked through and the cheese melted.
- To finish, each mozzarella stuffed meatball is topped with a touch of marinara, a sprinkle of basil, and fitted with a toothpick for easy pick-up!
Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: 32 meatballs
Nutrition Info: 91 calories per meatball
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Mozzarella Stuffed Meatball Ingredients:
- 1 to 1 ¼ cups fresh breadcrumbs (about one 2 to 3 ounce french roll, processed)
- 4 tablespoons milk, or half & half
- 1 pound ground beef (85/15 ratio)
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup grated parmesan, divided use
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 8 mini fresh mozzarella balls (or about 3 ounces of a larger, fresh mozzarella ball), quartered to make 32 pea-sized pieces
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Olive oil
- ¼ cup basil leaves, finely julienned
Simple Marinara Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 (14 ounce) can organic crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- To a large bowl, add the breadcrumbs and the milk (or half & half), and combine to moisten; next, add in the ground beef, the egg, ½ cup of the parmesan, and the remainder of the ingredients up to and including the chopped parsley.
- Using your hands, combine all of the ingredients until well mixed; next, scoop out about 32, ¾ ounce portions.
- Take each of those portions, and flatten them out on the palm of your hand (like a mini burger patty), and lay one piece of the pea-sized mozzarella in the center; then, fold the meat over the mozzarella piece, and gently roll between your palms to create the meatballs.
- Chill the meatballs for about 20-30 minutes.
- While your meatballs chill, prepare your simple marinara sauce, if making: to a small saucepan, add all of the sauce ingredients, and whisk to blend.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat, and once the sauce begins to simmer, reduce to low and allow it to gently simmer, uncovered and undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
- Serve while warm, or if preparing ahead, allow to cool and keep covered in fridge until ready to use.
- Once the meatballs are chilled, preheat your oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan with the panko breadcrumbs, and roll each meatball in the mixture.
- Place a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and drizzle in a little of the oil; working in batches, add some of the meatballs into the pan, and allow them to brown, turning them on all sides, for about 2-3 minutes; then, place the browned meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat the process with the rest of the meatballs.
- Once all are browned and on the baking sheet, bake the meatballs for 10 minutes until the cheese is gooey, and the meatballs are cooked through.
- Top with a dollop of marinara sauce and a sprinkle of julienned basil, and serve with toothpicks.
Tips & Tidbits for my Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs:
- Lean but juicy beef: I've found that a ratio of 85/15 lean to fat ground beef is perfect for these meatballs. There's just enough fat so that the meatballs are tender and juicy rather than tough and a bit dry, yet also not greasy. Organic, grass-fed beef is the best quality here, if you can use that.
- Tiny little fresh mozzarella pearls: If you can find the “ciliegine” mozzarella, then opt for those. These are the smallest fresh mozzarella balls, and when quartered, create the perfect pea-size piece of mozzarella to stuff the meatballs with. Otherwise, you'll need about 3 ounces of fresh mozzarella (the kind packed in brine), and just cut that down to smaller size needed.
- Prepare ahead for easy mozzarella stuffed meatballs: To make these a day or two ahead of time, simply prepare the meatball mixture, stuff the portions with mozzarella, roll into meatballs, and coat in the panko/parmesan coating; next, place onto a small baking sheet or tray, wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until ready to make. Then, quickly brown in a pan and finish by baking in the oven (as directed), garnish, and serve.
- Homemade marinara, or store-bought: My recipe below for simple marinara is super quick to prepare (10 minutes!) and very flavorful, but feel free to use your own favorite marinara if you prefer.
- Serve with toothpicks for easy pickup: To make it easier for folks to pick up, simply stick a toothpick in the center of each meatball once you have them on your serving platter.
Hungry for more delicious meatball recipes? Check out these Crispy Chicken Meatballs, this Minestrone Soup with Meatballs, this Albondigas Soup, these Swedish Meatballs, this Rigatoni Meatball Soup, or this Italian Meatball Sandwich!
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2014, and has been updated with even more love!