When I was growing up, my dad made killer meatballs and gravy. (He still does.) But the first time I made them for the hubby, he said, "Um, these aren't meatballs."
I said, "Of course they are. These are quite obviously balls of meat."
The hubby said, "No, these are hamburger balls. There's a difference. Meatballs have other stuff in them. That's what makes them MEATballs. These are good. But they're hamburger balls."
And thus began my education of all things meatballs. I've discovered that I'm still not a huge fan of fillers in my meat. So I try to keep things basic. (Feel free to substitute your favorite meatball recipe.) And I also don't like huge meatballs, because it's like someone plopped half a meatloaf on my pasta.
But one night I had a dream that I was eating this perfect plate of pasta that had these wonderful, mini meatballs, and the pasta was also tossed with the tinest bocconcini you ever did see. (And yes, I know I'm weird. I dream in food.) I woke up from this dream and thought, "Oh my god, I have to make that." And it seemed like fate when, instead of bocconcini, I found a package of fresh mozzarella pearls.
Of course, the recipe is my dream isn't terribly practical. It's difficult to serve a plate of steaming pasta without melting the cheese into a gooey mess. So I figured I'd stuff the meatballs with the cheese. The hubby and I both really liked this dish. He wanted the leftovers in a meatball sub, instead of with pasta. (I think these would be splendid as an appetizer, and dipped in roasted red pepper sauce.)
Spaghetti and Stuffed Mini Meatballs
1 lb. lean ground beef
Salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt
1/3 c. Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
6 oz. fresh mozzarella
1 tsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 26-oz. jar pasta sauce
8 oz. pasta
1. Cut mozzarella into small pieces. Or save yourself some time and buy some mozzarella pearls, if you can find them.
2. In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, seasonings, breadcrumbs, and eggs. Mix with your hands until ingredients are combined.
3. Use a melon-baller to scoop the meat. Flatten and shape around cheese, and then lightly roll to form the meatballs.
I don't have a photo of this. I only have two hands. But I ended up with ... maybe four or five dozen mini meatballs. They were very cute.
4. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet.
Don't worry if the cheese starts to ooze out of some of the meatballs. Such is the nature of things stuffed with cheese. It adds extra flavor to the sauce.
5. Brown remaining meatballs and remove from pan. Drain fat, and then add both meatballs and sauce to pan. Cover and cook sauce and meatballs over medium heat.
6. Cook pasta according to package directions. This should allow the sauce to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
7. Drain pasta and serve with sauce and meatballs.