Just a little something for the weekend — these meatball sliders can be prepared ahead of time on the stovetop and could feed a crowd while you fire up the grill and get sides and salads ready. The meatballs are super soft and moist on the inside so they’re easy to scrunch down in a sandwich roll. I like them smothered in marinara sauce and garnished with mozzarella and extra fresh basil leaves. I hope the crowd at Fiesta Friday enjoys them. Happy weekend, everyone!
Meatball Sliders with Basil Marinara
To feed a crowd, the recipe is easily doubled or tripled
For the meatballs:
- 1/4 kg. (roughly 1/2 lb.) mixed ground beef & pork
- 1 slice white sandwich bread, crusts removed and torn by hand into pieces
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt & 3/4 tsp. ground pepper (or to taste)
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. dried marjoram (this is my new favorite go-to Italian herb for its mildness; you can substitute oregano for a stronger flavor)
- pinch of cayenne
- 1 egg
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbs. (more or less) bread crumbs
- olive oil for browning
For basil marinara:
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 can pureed tomatoes
- dried marjoram
- splash of red wine (optional)
- salt & pepper
- 1 bunch fresh basil, chopped or torn
- 12 small rolls (I used mini German pretzel rolls)
- shredded mozzarella cheese
- more fresh basil leaves
- In a small bowl, soak the pieces of torn bread in the milk, gently stirring to coat the pieces evenly. In a large bowl, combine the mixed ground meat, salt & pepper, onion powder, marjoram, cayenne, egg, parmesan, and the soaked bread pieces and with clean hands just gently mix together until incorporated (don’t overwork or they will be too firm). Add a little bread crumbs to the mixture until it is just thick enough to form meatballs. Form them into smaller-than-golfball-size meatballs (I made 14; that’s enough to have one for tasting/checking doneness and one for crumbling into the sauce if you’d like). Set the meatballs onto a parchment-paper lined baking sheet as you go, then cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the basil marinara sauce: In a saucepan, cook the minced garlic briefly in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the tomatoes (both diced and pureed) , marjoram, wine if using, and bring to a simmer. After 10 minutes, taste and add salt & pepper and any additional marjoram until seasoning is to your preference. Let simmer on low until it reaches a good thickness, then add the fresh basil.
- When meatballs are chilled and firmed up, heat some olive oil in a skillet and cook them in two batches so as not to overcrowd until browned on all sides (2-3 minutes on each side, turning 3 or 4 times). When browned, transfer them to the marinara sauce and cook covered on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until fully cooked through the center (test one for doneness). Keep checking the thickness of the sauce, and add a touch of water if it’s thickening too much. Taste the sauce when done and adjust seasoning again if necessary.
- When ready to eat, assemble the sliders using sandwich rolls (lightly toasted if you prefer), spooning extra marinara sauce over them and garnishing with mozzarella and more fresh basil.